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Land grabbers usurp 15,000 hectares of forest land in Jammu and Kashmir

Land grabbers usurp 15,000 hectares of forest land in Jammu and Kashmir

The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has revealed the names of 64,000 persons who have encroached upon and occupied over 3 lakh kanals of forest land (15,000 hectares) in the Union Territory. The Forest Department has finally uploaded information regarding encroachment of the forest land In compliance with the orders from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court (JKHC).

In a public interest litigation (PIL) titled SAVE (Save Animal Value Environment) versus UT of J&K and others, JKHC had passed directions to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for appointment of a committee with the time-bound mandate of receiving and deciding all complaints about encroachments of the forestland.

Principal Secretary Revenue Department was appointed as the Chairman of the high level committee and Commissioner-Secretary Forest Department as Member-Secretary. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and Divisional Commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu were associated as Members.

The names of the encroachers of the forestlands, as compiled by the high level committee, have been made public at a time when the UT administration, under the orders of a division bench of JKHC, is separately publishing the names of the people, including former Ministers and other influential persons, who have either grabbed the State lands or acquired ownership rights on the State lands under the J&K State land (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act 2001. This disputed law has been nullified and declared void ab initio by the division bench of of J&K High Court headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal.

According to the information for the first time uploaded by the Forest Department on its domain, nearly 3 lakh kanals of forest land have been occupied and grabbed by 64,000 encroachers across Jammu and Kashmir. Among the 32 territorial Forest Divisions—13 in Kashmir and 19 in Jammu—Ramban Forest Division in Jammu figures at the top with encroachment on 42,120 kanals. One hectare is equal to 20 kanals of land.

In Jammu’s Rajouri Forest Division, 9135 encroachers have grabbed 39,474 kanals of forestland. In the adjoining Poonch Forest Division, 1129 persons have encroached upon 29,459 kanals of forestland. Around 10,000 kanals of forestland has been illegally occupied by 704 persons in Jammu Forest Division, 4752 kanals by 541 persons in Billawar Forest Division, 4650 kanals by 899 persons in Doda Forest Division and 3854 kanals by 687 persons in Bhaderwah Forest Division.

According to the official data, 1.60 lakh kanals have been grabbed by around 33,000 persons in Jammu Province and 1.36 lakh kanals by 31,000 persons in Kashmir Province.

In the Kashmir valley, Anantnag Forest Division surfaces at the top with encroachment of 29,922 kanals by 6583 persons, followed by 20,534 kanals by 3882 persons in Shopian Forest Division, 13108 kanals by 3210 persons in Pir Panjal Forest Division (Budgam), 11902 kanals by 2632 persons in Langet Forest Division (Handwara), 11558 kanals by 2977 persons in Kamraj Forest Division (Kupwara), 11106 kanals by 2195 persons in Kehmil Forest Division (Kupwara), 9265 kanals by 2312 persons in Sindh Forest Division (Ganderbal) and 8304 kanals by 1586 persons in Jehlum Valley Forest Division (Baramulla).

In Lidder Forest Division (Anantnag), 7366 kanals have been grabbed by 2496 persons and in Kulgam Forest Division, 7116 kanals by 1399 persons followed by 3160 kanals by 1062 persons in Bandipora Forest Division, 2895 kanals by 604 persons in Awantipora Forest Division and 337 kanals by 121 persons in Tangmarg Forest Division.

In Urban Forestry Division Jammu, 60 kanals of forest land have been encroached by one person in Mahamaya and 4 marlas by another person in the same area. These are the two-odd encroachments in urban areas in the winter capital. Details of Urban Forestry Division Srinagar, that covers the area from the posh Gupkar Road to the Zabarvan foothills of Harwan, have not been made available. Officials said that some complaints in that area were still under process of investigation..