Indore: Taking benefit of lockdown, farmers have encroached forest land and started utilising it by chopping off trees and using the area for farming. The trouble amplifies as the number of encroachments are going up due to fake news and rumours about getting possible compensation.
As all the forest officials resume their duties and are back on the field from Monday, these encroachments were spotted and discussed on the first day of the unlock. Talking about the issues, district forest officer TS Suliya said, “Recently, it has come to our notice that several forest areas are being used by farmers to grow crops.”
A legal activist Abhijeet 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. 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 the regards.”
Pandey added that despite his complaints to forest officials, no one has taken an action in protecting the forest land. “I received his verbal complaint about the matter yesterday for the first time and we discussed the matter today,” Suliya said.
Further, Suliya along with other forest officers visited forest protected area in Gorakund. “We are identifying all such areas and working on removing encroachments peacefully,” he said.
Forest areas with possible encroachments
Major encroachments as spotted till now are in the forest areas near Gorakund, Jam Gate, Choral Dam, and Mhow-Mandleshwar route. The encroachment has resulted in a loss to natural forest cover and change in fertility of soil. The exact size of the encroached land is yet to be ascertained.
“On Mhow-Mandleshwar route, there are about 25 such brackets of 10,000 square feet, which have been occupied for farming by residents,” Pandey said. He added that even with an optimistic view, over 2.5 acre forest land is being used for farming on this route.
There are many more such routes, where encroachments are being reported.
Rumours: Encroach to earn!
Unlike popular belief that poor farmers with no land are encroaching the forest, in reality encroachments were getting a fillip by trending rumours. “When we visited the forest area, it was found that many of the farmers believe that they can earn big bucks and even get ownership of the land if they start cultivating on forest land,” Suliya said.
He added that encroaching forest land is a way to earn compensations and even free land for many of the farmers, who have chosen to occupy forest land.
Largest area encroached in MP
The largest area encroached on 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 the ministry. This was found 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 envir