The Supreme Court has asked Uttarakhand government to return within six months the land illegally occupied by about 784 families inside Corbett National Park to the state forest department.
The land was temporarily given to the irrigation department in 1966 for use during the construction of Ramganga Hydel Project in then undivided Uttar Pradesh.
Once complete, the land was to be returned to the forest department and it had been agree all structures for housing the workers and staff will be made of mud for easy demolition.
But over the years, outsiders occupied these structures, when the workers and staff left after the dam's construction.
Currently, 784 families live in the New Kalagarh Irrigation Colony on the southern boundary of the tiger reserve. After the apex court ruling, they face eviction.
"This is a great victory for Corbett wildlife," said Ashok Kumar, the petitioner and vice-chairman Wildlife Trust of India.
Allahabad high court in August 1999 ruled on Kumar's petition that all encroachments shall be removed by December 15 the same year. But implementation of the judgment got stalled when the dam went to UP and the colony fell on Uttarakhand side during the state's creation.
In 2003, the SC's Central Empowered Committee (CEC) heard an application on the issue and ordered a site inspection.
By April 2004, the CEC produced a list of recommendations, based on an assessment by the Bombay Natural History Society, which primarily argued for the removal of all encroachments within three months.
It also recommended shifting all non-essential facilities such as the Engineer's Academy and other structures out of the Reserve area within six months, demolition of all walls, fencing, garden furniture to ease movement of animals and the relocation of all non-essential operational staff to the legal colony outside the national park within six months as well.