Remove all encroachments around Corbett within 24 hours: HC tells govt
The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday directed the government to forcibly remove within 24 hours the encroachments by hotel and resort owners on revenue and forest land around Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) in Nainital and Almora districts.
A division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh also directed the government to file FIRs against the encroachers as well as the state officials who were posted in these two districts during the period when encroachments came up.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Mayank Mainali, chairperson of the Ramnagar based NGO, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vika Sanstha, in 2012. The petitioner had raised concern construction of hotels, resorts and other properties around CTR, his counsel CK Sharma said.
Sharma said the court had earlier asked the hotel and resort owners to remove the encroachments on their own, but only four to five of them agreed to do so. “The court has now directed the authorities concerned to remove the encroachments by those who are not ready to do that on their own.”
Hearing the PIL on June 14, the HC constituted a four-member committee to check encroachments around CTR. The committee, comprising senior advocate BC Pandey, Shobit, Anjali Bhargav and Mahavir Singh Tyagi, was asked to check the land documents in the possession of the hoteliers and then physically verify the same on the ground level. The committee submitted its report in the court on Monday, said Sharma.
Anjali Bhargav said they have submitted a list of 43 encroachments of forest and revenue land by the hotel and resort owners. “The HC’s decision is very significant and will stop the trend of encroachments near the protected areas,” she said
Earlier, on June 1, chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh had in an affidavit submitted that 44 resort owners around Corbett had encroached revenue and forest land in Nainital and Almora districts. The affidavit also listed the action taken by the authorities like eviction and lodging of the cases against the encroachers.
Of the 44 resorts, 30 have encroached upon the revenue land while 14 have illegally occupied the forest land, including the catchment of the Kosi river, the petitioner said, adding that following his PIL, cases pertaining to encroachment of land were filed against 13 resort owners in the HC and, in case of others, in the court of the sub-divisional magistrate concerned.
The chief secretary had filed the affidavit in pursuance to a HC order on February 17 directing the state government to list the number of resorts in the vicinity of Corbett that had encroached upon the land and riverbed and were violating various norms and steps taken so far to remove them.
Located in Nainital district, Corbett is one of the oldest national parks in India and has played a key role in Project Tiger initiation. This protected Himalayan habitat houses rich biodiversity including around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species, 33 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians and so on.