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Three years since formation of NGT panel, only 21% of forest land in Southern Ridge made encroachment-free | Delhi News

Only around 21% of forest land identified as “encroached” in the Southern Ridge in Delhi has been cleared of encroachments so far, nearly three years after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) constituted an oversight committee to oversee the progress of encroachment removal in the Ridge, which is an extension of the Aravallis.

Of the 398.61 hectares of forest land identified as encroached in 2019 in south, southeast and southwest Delhi, encroachment on 83.828 hectares has been removed, and 314.782 hectares of land remains encroached, according to the minutes of a meeting held last month of the oversight committee that was constituted on the orders of the NGT. The Southern Ridge covers an area of around 6,200 hectares.

The committee is chaired by the Director General of Forests and Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. According to the minutes, the Chairman of the committee “expressed strong displeasure on the slow pace of progress of encroachment removal in the ridge area,” and directed the District Magistrates (DMs) of south, southeast, southwest and New Delhi, and the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) of the south and west forest divisions to intensify encroachment removal and prepare a schedule for removal.

The committee, which includes the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Delhi, has also decided that the district magistrates will appoint an officer from their district as a nodal officer to coordinate with the DCFs on encroachment removal.

Going by the minutes of the meeting, the committee was informed “about the direction of Hon’ble Minister (Environment and Forest), Govt. of NCT of Delhi regarding not carrying out any encroachment removal without submitting the detailed encroachment removal plan to Hon’ble Chief Minister, Delhi…However, it was directed by the chairman that there is no such procedure in respect of encroachment removal from forest areas. DMs and DCFs should ensure removal of encroachments strictly as per the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the relevant rules on case to case basis.”

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At a meeting of the committee last year, it was noted that there are 103 JJ clusters located on forest land in the ridge. On this, the committee noted last month that “encroachment removal from forest areas cannot be delayed on the grounds of requirement of rehabilitation of illegal encroachers…”.

While constituting the committee in January 2021, the NGT had noted that “the Ridge in Delhi has historical and environmental significance…It has special and distinct features and uses. It is part of Aravalli hills.”

It had added: “We are thus of the view that there is urgent need to take necessary steps to protect the Ridge by taking necessary steps to finalise the notification under section 20 of the Forest Act for reserved forest and protection by appropriate measures…No non-forest activity is permissible in the Ridge area.”


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