Encroachments on forest land as seen especially in Gorakund area.
Encroachments on forest land as seen especially in Gorakund area.
Photo shared by complainant advocate Abhijeet Pandey.

Indore: Even after 2.5 months, Forest department has not removed encroachments of over 12 acre on Mhow-Mandleshwar road. The department has suspended forest ranger Mahesh Ahirwar for negligence and irresponsible behaviour allowing 12 hectares of forest land on the route.

However, the encroachment stands and no action has been taken to remove them giving an opportunity to encroachers to permanently claim ownership of the land later.

Another complaint was filed regarding the encroached land by legal activist Abhijeet Pandey to divisional forest officer (DFO) Indore.

Complaint raised 3 months back

Pandey raised a complaint in this regard with various photographs showing forest land is being used for crops leaving no space for nature to bloom in June first week. As per his complaint, “Forest protected land on Mhow – Mandleshwar road is being used for cultivation of crops and the regional forest rangers are not taking any action in this regard.”

Pandey added that despite complaints to forest officials, no one has taken an action in protecting the forest land as it continues to remain encroached.

Major encroachments are in the forest area near Gorakund, Jam Gate, Choral Dam, and Mhow-Mandleshwar route. The encroachment has resulted in the loss to natural forest cover and change in the fertility of soil.

12 marked spots of Encroachment

Sharing details about the encroachments, Pandey said, “There are 12 such marked spots of the forest department, where land has already been cleared and prepared for cultivation.” The land might have even been cultivated earlier as well.

“Now, the farmers are preparing the land for next harvest,” Pandey said. He added that each of the 12 spots has at least 5 to 10 hectares area each.

“There are many areas, where an entire hill protected under forest area has been cut down and used by farmers for cultivation,” Pandey said. He explained that the 12 identified spots are already marked by forest and yet they allowed encroachment.

“There are over 100 such spots on Mhow – Mandleshwar road which comes under forest land and is encroached, but since they don’t have forest marking points it would be very difficult to prove,” Pandey said.

What did the Forest Official say?

“It will take time to further investigate the matter. We cannot say when we will remove the encroachments.”

- AK Awasthi, Sub divisional officer

“I have been given this charge from Aug 10 and I will soon personally go and check the encroachments now. Though officials often claim that encroachments have been removed, based on evidence shared, it is questionable.”

- TR Hatila, Ranger in-charge

“Investigation is still going on about the encroachments.”

- Devkaran Kadam, Deputy ranger

Largest area encroached in MP

The largest area encroached is in Madhya Pradesh with about 5347.17 square km, or nearly 7% of 7,7414 square km of forests being occupied by squatters; followed by Assam (11.28%) and Odisha (1.5%), according to official figures, given in reply to a query under Right to Information (RTI) Act filed by legal activist Akash Vashisht recently.

Nearly 2%, or 13,000 square km, of India’s total forest area is occupied by encroachers, the environment ministry has said in reply to the query filed. India’s total forest cover is 708,273 square km.

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