The Gautam Budh Nagar administration said in an RTI reply that around 60 acres of forest land in the district has been encroached upon.
The Gautam Budh Nagar forest department said there are many factors, such as ongoing litigation and non-availability of adequate police force, due to which the land could not be freed.
Of the total area, 40 acres falls in protected forest area and the rest under non-protected forest area. Protected forest cover enjoys greater protection under law.
Only 7% of the land in the district is reserved as forest, as against the requirement of 33% .
Environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, who had sought the details of land encroached upon in his RTI request, said more than 60 acres has been encroached upon and could not be freed due to official apathy.
“After a huge effort, now they have admitted in reply to the RTI application that around 60 acres belonging to the forest department has been encroached upon. But to my knowledge, hundreds of acres of forest land has been encroached upon because officials are not serious about protecting forest land,” said Tongad.
The land in question is located in Greater Noida’s Mubarakpur, Gulistanpur, Agra Canal and Murshadpur areas. In the RTI, the forest department said they have lodged a total of 18 cases against individuals, including farmers, and private agencies accused of encroachment.
Tongad said he sought a reply on the status of the land because the district’s forest cover is the remaining oxygen bank in Noida and Greater Noida that are emerging as concrete jungles amid decreasing green cover.
“The government is busy allotting land to builders for housing, but it is not serious about protecting forests and increasing green cover. If this is not stopped, air pollution will aggravate,” he added.
The forest department said that freeing the land is not easy.
“To protect the forest cover, we have planned to carry out dense plantation in the area in Agra canal range in the times to come. In the Gulistanpur encroachment issue, a court case is still pending. We will free our forest area in other areas as and when we get adequate police force. We are doing our best to reclaim our land,” said NC Upadhyay, range officer, forest department, Gautam Budh Nagar.