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Green dacoits: Encroachers eat into NIBM reserved forest yet again

pune Updated: Feb 02, 2018 20:52 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Green dacoits,Forest

A food stall in what is a reserved forest area in NIBM. Residents claim stalls like these return even after action is taken against them.(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)

In a classic tale of a city eating into a forest, the 200-acre National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM) reserved forest land is fast becoming an encroachers’ paradise, with a large number of breaches observed all around the forest.

Concerned residents of the area maintain that the forest department lacks the necessary skills, manpower, will and motivation to preserve the “green lungs” of the NIBM area.

On a spot visit, HT found the vast stretch of forest land susceptible to large scale encroachment, as walls had broken down. Stalls were functioning with impunity, people used the area for urinating, anti-social elements indulged in consuming alcohol on the premises and hand carts and two-wheelers found vast parking areas easy to access.

The deputy conservator of forest (DCF) Rangnath Naikade did not respond to HT despite several attempts.

The forest is slowly dying an artificial death due to negligence of concerned authorities, is the common refrain from concerned residents.

Sebastian D’Souza , a resident of Undri, says that the base of the hillocks which carry the forest overhead has become extremely weak. “The geographical topography of the forest area has been damaged by human activity and will result in huge environmental disasters in the years to come. The fragile ecosystem of the area is on the verge of extinction and the forest department is very casual about such a rich natural resource,” he alleged.

Sanjay Gupta, a resident of Sunshree Apartments, adds, “The forest authorities don’t bother to conserve the rich heritage of the biodiversity. The citizens must demand an audit of their work. What are they doing with the tax payer’s money? Forest department officials are very negligent about breaches and encroachers and there seems to be a tacit understanding between them and the encroachers for earning political goodwill,” he alleged.

A resident who stays in Brahma Majestic society said the illegality is happening in front of the eyes of the forest department, but no action was being taken.

Defending a forest

The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has stated that Pune’s reserve forests are under threat from government officials, with the 200-acre NIBM forest area prominently mentioned.

SC had ordered the appointment of the CEC on Nov 23, 2007 after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by city-based Nagrik Chetna Manch against the alleged allotment of reserve forest land in Pune district to private persons and its use for construction of multistoried buildings in violation of the provisions of the Forest Conservation (FC) Act , 1980 and orders of the Supreme Court .

CEC, whose report indicted the then divisional commissioner, district collector and deputy conservator of forests in Pune, stated : “By misrepresenting and concealing the factual and legal position, the then district collector and the then divisional commissioner actively connived in the illegal allotment of the forest land and its use for the construction of buildings for the personal gain of developers.”

The CEC recommended that the allotment of the reserved forest land at Kondhwa Budruk for agricultural purpose and subsequent permission given for sale to developers should be cancelled and the area be restored as a forest.

NIBM Road Residents Forum (NRRF) had been raising the problem of chopping of hillocks and loss of green cover for some time. The National Green Tribubal (NGT) has also issued significant rulings on builders trying to disturb the ecological balance in the area.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 22:38 IST