New Delhi: Hearing a plea on the alleged encroachment at Lankamalla Reserved Forest and a ‘Tiger Corridor’, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Andhra Pradesh government to take into account the current tiger population and growth trends and also to consider the possibility of man-animal conflicts in the area in YSR district of the state.
The southern bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan, and expert member Dr. Satyagopal Korlapati, in the recent order, also asked the state to take into account the recent orders of Supreme Court that “every National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in the country shall have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of at least one kilometre starting from its demarcated boundary”.
The green tribunal pointed out that the allotment of land by the district administration to some persons in Nandyalampet village of the district, which is shown as ‘Forest’ in the revenue records, without getting clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was not legal.
The petitioner argued that the “encroachments were done by the persons, who are having political influence, in the guise of granting land deeds to the landless”.
According to the state government and the revenue department, “since it is not a notified forest, it is not necessary to obtain any permission from the authorities, and the revenue department can utilise the land for their purpose”.
The possession of the land was given to displaced persons who lost their land when Brahmamsagar Reservoir was constructed and they are staying there for more than 20 years and doing cultivation since long time, the state argued.
Contrary to this, Forest Department and Union Environment Ministry were of the view that though it is not a reserved forest or notified protected forest, since it is shown as forest in the revenue records, it will be a deemed forest for the purpose of attracting the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 as per the decision of the Supreme Court.
“Without getting clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the land should not be used for other nonforest purposes,” it was argued.
The green court also asked the state to consider the connection of the locality to “Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary” and also the “Tiger Corridor” which facilitates the movement of Tigers from the tiger corridor connected from Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve (NSTR), Srisailam to Sri Venkateswara National Park (SVNP), Tirupati.
“So, conversion of this area for agricultural purposes is likely to enhance the possibility of man-animal conflicts and this aspect must be considered,” the order noted.
“The state is directed to take appropriate steps to get clearance from the concerned authorities under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, if permissible under law for this purpose and if such application is made, then the concerned authority is directed to consider the following aspects and only thereafter, they can consider the question as to whether the clearance can be granted or not for this purpose,” the order said.
The revenue authorities should also verify whether the lands are in the possession of the original allottees, who were displaced due to the said reservoir project. In case the allottees have sold the said lands or not in possession, which were only allotted temporarily, then take immediate action for restoring the lands to the Government, it said.