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Karnataka: Over 26,000 Acres Of State Forests Lost To Encroachment In A Decade

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Karnataka, facing a critical environmental challenge, has witnessed the loss of approximately 25,767 acres of precious forest land between 2014 and 2023, despite strict legal measures in place. 

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In the Kalaburagi circle, marked by scarce forest cover, a significant loss of 6,333 acres has occurred, raising concerns about the effectiveness of existing safeguards. Forest officials attribute this decline to porous borders and a shortage of staff. Over the past decade, the department has filed 6,611 cases in an attempt to address the encroachment issue, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

Experts highlight areas such as Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Canara, Kodagu, and Hassan circles as hotspots for encroachment, primarily driven by agricultural activities. Bengaluru, the state’s largest forest circle, faces encroachment for both agriculture and “development” purposes. Chikkamagaluru, renowned for its coffee estates and lush landscapes, is already experiencing adverse effects, including a rise in human-animal encounters, particularly involving elephants.

State lost 26,000 acres of forests to encroachers in 9 years

Source: DH

Chikkamagaluru circle, known for its coffee plantations and verdant mountains, has reported the encroachment of 5,864 acres of forest land. The Koppa division alone has witnessed the diversion of 4,130 acres for agricultural purposes over the last decade. Residents are already grappling with the consequences, as wildlife activists note an increase in human-animal conflicts, particularly with elephants.

The forest department’s efforts to address encroachment are hindered by prolonged legal processes, with over 1.10 lakh cases pending in various courts as of 2014. The state government’s decision to “rehabilitate” farmers who encroach upon less than three acres of forest land further complicates the eviction process. Praveen Bhargav, a former member of the National Board for Wildlife, points out that past rounds of regularization have often led to subsequent waves of encroachment, creating a concerning cycle.

Karnataka has 2 lakh acres of encroached forest land, says minister  Khandre; officials told to clear them on priority | Bangalore News -

Source: The Indian Express

Bhargav emphasizes the need to review the Forest Rights Act, citing instances where claims of forest dwellers under this law have been granted without the submission of GPS coordinates to the Forest Survey of India, as directed by the Supreme Court. He underscores the importance of addressing these discrepancies to ensure effective conservation efforts.

Brijesh Kumar Dikshit, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, acknowledges the challenges but asserts that the department is actively working to clear encroachments. He mentions that, over the last decade, more encroachers have been evicted than new cases reported. The legal complexities and the government’s policy of rehabilitating small farmers contribute to delays in the eviction process. Dikshit concedes that staff shortages in “lesser green circles” exacerbate the problem, emphasizing the need for additional resources to safeguard these vulnerable areas.

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