As Punjab has de-notified the 5,376 acres of land that was acquired for the SYL canal and returned it to its original owners free of cost, the forest department is worried about the saplings planted by it during the past one month and old trees, which number in lakhs.
As many as 10,000 trees were planted on the land in and around the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) canal in the district in last one month against the 2,039 plundered in March.
Around 25-km stretch of the SYL canal falls in the district and thousands of trees were axed on March 16 and 17 after the state government announced to return the land to owners. Though the Supreme Court immediately asked the governments to maintain status quo and helped stop the plunder of trees. Now again the state government has announced to give the land to owners.
“According to the central forest Act, the possession of land remains with the forest department for the purpose of management and if anyone wants to take the land back, he is bound to seek permission of the forest department. However, we have not received any order about the return of the land to owners,” said Tejinder Singh, district forest officer, Mohali, who holds additional charge of Bassi Pathana and Khamano block of Fatehgarh Sahib district.
Further, clarifying the department’s claim on land, Singh said that the canal land could be divided in three parts: main channel (where water flows), a service lane and the surrounding area. “If they take the land back, they can do whatever they want with the channel and service lane, but the forest in the surrounding area cannot be cleared,” he added. “The owner must ensure that trees are not cut and the forest area remains as it is,” he added. “The central forest Act needs to followed first.”
The surrounding land, which the forest department is claiming to be in its possession, was acquired from farmers only. “After excluding the channel and the service lane from the acquired land, the remaining land was used for planting trees and is in our possession,” Singh informed. Now, the question is whose land is this? Will it go to farmers or remain with the forest department?
Meanwhile, district revenue officer Kiranjit Singh Tiwana confirmed on Thursday evening that they had received orders to start the process of returning the land to owners. However, it will take them to task as they have incomplete records.