Elephants at Uttarakhand’s Corbett Tiger Reserve will soon be able to roam free around the Ramganga river in the Kalagarh buffer zone area.
Acting on National Green Tribunal (NGT) advice, Uttarakhand government has decided to raze a residential colony that is blocking the way of the elephants and other animals. There are more than 1,100 illegal occupants in the colony that came up in the 1960s during the construction of the Ramganga hydroelectric power project.
Officials say 1,137 people have encroached upon the reserve but only 213 are entitled to rehabilitation as they don’t have any immovable property. And 751 people, who failed to submit an affidavit, are not entitled.
Uttarakhand chief secretary Shatrughan Singh called on Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Deepak Singhal in Lucknow on Monday to sort out the issue of the encroachment. It is learnt that the UP irrigation department still has control over several properties in Uttarakhand and Kalagarh, where the colony was constructed, is one of them.
Uttarakhand has demanded Rs 48 crore from UP for the rehabilitation since Uttarakhand is a special category state and it does not have enough funds for the relocation of people.
“The encroachments happened due to the lacklustre attitude of the UP irrigation department, therefore it should bear the cost,” Sinha told his UP counterpart.
The UP chief secretary added that he will seek help from the Union forest and environment ministry.
The issue of encroachments dates back to 1965 when Corbett authorities agreed on giving 9,518.6 hectares of land to theUP irrigation department for the construction of Ramganga hydropower project.
As per the agreement, the department was supposed to return the unused land to Corbett. But it did not happen and around 375 hectares land was illegally encroached upon by the individuals and organisation.
In 1999, NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) moved the Allahabad high court challenging the encroachments.
The Supreme Court in 2013 while hearing a petition filed by WPSI directed the Uttarakhand government to clear the encroachments within six months. Following the order, 344.49 hectares of land was returned to the forest department but 31.78 hectares is still with encroachers.
The matter later went to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) that advises the apex court on issues related to forests. The CEC submitted its recommendations to the court and the latter asked the NGT to look into it.
The NGT is currently monitoring the matter.