Encroachment into reserved forest areas in Meghalaya is “increasing continuously”, said the latest report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India.
The total area reported to have been encroached as on March 2012 was 8,536 hectares, against which 1,136 court cases were filed, the CAG said.
The report added that an additional 64 hectare area has been reported to be encroached upon since then, taking the total encroached area up to, 8600 hectares as on March 2017.
The majority of the encroachment was reported in the Jaintia Hills division (8,088.84 hectares), the CAG report said, adding that the state forest department filed 1,223 cases regarding encroachment up to March, 2017.
Stating that no verdict has been awarded in any of the cases, the CAG said the district forest officers (DFOs) did not follow up or pursue cases sent to court.
The CAG also cautioned that encroachment of forest land in the state is on the rise.
“The inability of the forest and environment department to clear these cases has emboldened other miscreants to encroach further and further in the forest land,” the CAG report said.
The CAG report said that the Union ministry of environment and forests had directed that the state government shall hold the concerned deputy commissioner, police superintendent and DFO “personally responsible” in respect of any fresh occupation of forest land and they would be liable for disciplinary action.
“Also, encroachment monitoring committees had to be constituted at state, circle and district levels, who were to meet quarterly to monitor the status of eviction from encroached land,” the CAG said, also pointing out that the state government did not implement these directives.
Observing that the forest fringe area is markedly different from the inner forest due to close contact with local communities, the CAG report mentioned that the communities living in the forest fringes depend heavily on the forest for their fuel and fodder needs.