Deputy conservator of forests, Pune, Ranganath Naikade, has been spearheading strong and massive anti-encroachment drives on reserved forest land areas across the city. He spoke to Nadeem Inamdar from Hindustan times about how the forest department is going to shape the future of the residents and protect the rich and varied forest heritage for the future generation. Following are the excepts from the interview.Can you tell us about how much forest land has been lost to encroachment till date?According to our Survey, the Pune forest region has 1.05 lakh acres of forest land under its jurisdiction. But over the years, we have found a shortage of around 30,000 acres of forest land, which needs to be restored back to the forest department from encroachers and other entities.The forest department is the legal custodian of all the forest lands and those forest lands given to revenue department previously are also being taken back and restored as reserved forest areas according to the directives of environment ministry.Was forest land ever given to individuals ?The government had given forest land to freedom fighters, poor farmers and widows only for the purpose of fuel and fodder. It was also given as a grazing settlement and to be utilised as a pasture for cattle. But the underlying condition by the government has a;ways been to return the land to the forest department according to the clause of allotment. As of today, we have clear cut orders from the ministry to take back our land and restore them as reserved forests.What about the forest lands which are being used commercially now or whose nature has been changed recently?Once a piece of land is declared as forest land, it will always remain so. We have informed the government about all such lands which have undergone a change of purpose. Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, it is imperative for the land user to compensate the forest department with the current land cost as per the prevailing market rate and pay an amount per tree as decided by the government. The forest land cannot be kept by private persons. They are required to return it along with the costs levied by the government.