In its bid to recover forest land in the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary from encroachments, the State Forest Department’s demolition drive targeted Khasra numbers 1309 and 1310 on Monday. The drive that has entered its second week here has since April 21 razed an 11-feet high compound wall to the floor, slapped notices on various illegal farmhouses and has earth-moving machines working round the clock.
Deputy Conservator of Forests and Tree Officer (South) Nisheeth Saxena, who supervised the demolition on Monday evening, said the department will soon take possession of built-up area inside the premises. “The time given to the farmhouse owners will depend on how long it takes us to construct walls to demarcate forest land. The built-up area will come under our possession and we will decide whether to demolish it or not. Most probably it will be demolished since we want to preserve the green area and improve the habitat.”
Mr. Saxena said the drive will continue to reclaim notified reserved forest land across Asola, Bhatti and Maidan Garhi. “The issue is that some people have taken excess land than that has been allotted to them and in some cases khasra documents are available for land not where people are actually residing but for different plots,” he added.
The two khasra numbers that were reclaimed on Monday fell inside the 3-acre Gupta Farms and the demolition drive prompted owner Vijay Gupta to show up at his property mid-afternoon. “The Forest Department had earlier taken back some of my land from the side and the back of my plot,” he told The Hindu. “Now, they are claiming more of it is forest land. For 25 years we have had this plot and the forest is beyond the limits of our farm so I don’t know what is going on,” he said. It was through his watchman that Mr. Gupta, a Vivek Vihar resident, came to know about the drive.
Surrounding Gupta Farms were other plots that had been targets in the past week. These included a sprawling 4-acre property whose compound walls were completely destroyed. Outside a farmhouse named Vingo was a notice pasted by the Forest Department informing the occupant that khasra number 1677 was notified forest land. The watchman of this property said the occupants resided in Maharani Bagh.
The National Green Tribunal in July 2013 said “an unmanageable situation” was sprouting in Delhi, with construction taking place across protected land and no clear demarcation of which region falls under the protected Ridge forest. The State Forest Department created 14 digitised maps of the area to identify land that is notified forest land.