The issue dates back to January 1997 when the Goa government set up the Sawant Committee following the directions of the Supreme Court which had directed that private lands that met the criteria of forests be declared as such and be protected.(HT Photot)
The issue dates back to January 1997 when the Goa government set up the Sawant Committee following the directions of the Supreme Court which had directed that private lands that met the criteria of forests be declared as such and be protected.(HT Photot)

NGT orders 46.11 sq km to be notified as private forest in Goa

Hindustan Times, Panaji | By Gerard de Souza
UPDATED ON AUG 20, 2020 12:11 PM IST

The Goa Foundation had filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal alleging that the state was dragging its feet on demarcating private forests in the state according to the directives of the Supreme Court.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Goa government to finally notify an area of 46.11 square kilometres as ‘private forest’, bringing to close a more than two-decade old issue in which various committees were set up seeking to include or exclude plots as private forests in Goa.

In an order issued on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation, the NGT bench of Justice Sheo Kumar Singh and Satyawan Singh Garbyal, expert member, directed that the “41.20 sq km area demarcated by Forest Department and 4.91 sq km identified by the Sharma Committee totalling 46.11 sq km be confirmed and accepted as private forest.”

“The Chief Secretary of State Government of Goa is directed to notify the same and make suitable entries in the Revenue records in accordance with rules immediately as soon as possible,” the NGT said.

Privately held lands that have a tree canopy/crown density of 0.4 and above, are spread across 5 ha or more and are contiguous with or near to existing protected forests and have more than 75% of the trees of forest species are to be earmarked as private forests, read the order.

The issue dates back to January 1997 when the Goa government set up the Sawant Committee comprising forest officials and other experts, pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court which had directed that private lands that met the criteria of forests be declared as such and be protected.

The apex court had directed each state government constitute an expert committee to Identify areas which are “forests”, irrespective of whether they are so notified, recognised or classified under any law, and irrespective of the ownership of the land of such forest; identify areas which were earlier forest but stand degraded, denuded or cleared; and Identify areas covered by plantation trees belonging to the government and those belonging to private persons.”

Goa’s Sawant committee submitted its report in 1999. However, next year, the state government, allegedly under pressure from “certain lobbies and vested interests”, set up the Karapurkar committee, a decision which was challenged in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court restrained the Karapurkar Committee or any other person or agency from interfering with the Sawant Committee’s report, but could add to the area if it thought fit.

A total of 67 sq km was identified by both these committees.

However noting that the total 67 square km of land so identified was an “approximation” carried out without “actual ground verification to determine the extent of private forests”, the Goa bench of Bombay High Court directed the state government to demarcate the non-forest areas from forest areas on the basis of Sawant and Karapurkar Committee reports.

The Goa Forest Department then carried out the exercise of demarcation after ground verification and after five years, the final report of demarcation was submitted to the High Court in 2008.

As per this demarcation report, the actual surveyed and demarcated private forest area came out to be 41.20 sq km. This report, too, was challenged in the High Court which prompted the state government to set up another committee known as the Sharma Review committee which filed its report recently.

The Sharma committee found that an additional area of 4.91 sq km has been found to be qualifying all three private forest criteria.

“Therefore out of total 67.12 sq km referred area by Sawant and Karapurkar Committee, the Review Committee has identified an area of 46.11 sq km as private forest of Goa,” the report stated.

The NGT directed that this 46.11 sq km be finally recognized and notified as private forests in Goa. A report of yet another committee set up by the Goa government called the D’Souza committee was rejected by the NGT.

“On perusal of a report of the various Committees i.e, Sawant Committee, Karapurkar Committee, Private Forest Review Committee and Joint Secretary (Revenue) Committee and after the submissions made by the parties at both sides we are of the considered opinion that total of 46.11 sq kms i.e., (41.20 sq km of the forest area demarcated by the Forest Department out of 67.12 sq km identified by Sawant Committee and Karapurkar Committee + 4.91 sq km private forest area identified by the Review Committee) is the private forest area in the State of Goa,” the NGT ruled.

The Goa Foundation had filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal alleging that the state was dragging its feet on demarcating private forests in the state according to the directives of the Supreme Court.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP