SC told forest surveys to point out encroachments may take 16 years

The need for an FSI survey arose after a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra on February 13 this year ordered the eviction of Forest Dwelling Tribals and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers whose claims to forest land were rejected.
FSI was asked to “make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible.”(HT File)
FSI was asked to “make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible.”(HT File)
Updated on Aug 07, 2019 08:46 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByBhadra Sinha

The Forest Survey of India said in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that with its current staff strength and existing infrastructure, it could take 16 years to complete the satellite survey of the forests to point out encroachments on forest land, a task that has been entrusted to it by the apex court.

The case deals with the rights of forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act. The court’s objective would appear to be to use the satellite imagery to assess the destruction of forests and encroachments on land where the state have rejected claims of forest dwellers. The petitioners in the case want everyone whose rights have been rejected to be treated as encroachers.

FSI made the submission before the top court in the form of an affidavit in which it also placed on record the survey it has done so far in compliance of the top court’s February 13 and 28 orders. It said that it will need additional infrastructure and staff, costing Rs 48 crore, to complete its task in the next five to six years. It also pointed out that it currently has only 20 analysts.

The need for an FSI survey arose after a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra on February 13 this year ordered the eviction of Forest Dwelling Tribals and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers whose claims to forest land were rejected. After an outcry that this would lead to the eviction of millions, the court stayed the order on February 28 . The bench then asked states to file affidavits explaining how the claims were processed. And FSI was asked to “make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible.”

FSI said on Tuesday that despite reminders to the states it has received data only from four – Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Odisa. Data of only two, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand, has been analysed, it added. In its study of over 6200 rejected polygons (a land parcel on which a claim has been made), covering 7100 hectares of land area, indications of encroachment were found in 3,587 polygons, it added.

EXPERT COMMENT

Though the bench led by Justice Mishra took up the matter on Tuesday it did not peruse the FSI affidavit after additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni, on behalf of the body, said all states have not provided data to his client. The bench fixed August 31 as the deadline for the states and said in case of a failure to comply with the order, their chief secretaries will have to appear in court.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021