Encroachment of forestlands seems to be continuing unabated, as the forest area in the Vijayawada division shrank to 7.55 per cent as against 33 per cent stipulated under the National Forest Policy. Even this limited area is prone to encroachments with the active support of politicians and anti-social elements, say officials from the Forest Department.
A major portion of the land around Indrakeeladri hill was grabbed, and houses were also constructed. According to a note submitted during District-Level Forest Protection Committee meeting held last year, around 1,441.39 hectares land in Vijayawada, 1,034.50 hectares in Mylavaram and 5,796 hectares in Nuzvid are under encroachment. In all, 7,751 encroachers grabbed 8,272.12 hectares, the note said.
The geographical area of the division is 8,796 square kilometres including a forest area of 664 square kilometres which accounts for 7.55 per cent of the total geographical area, officials explain.
While environmentalists and wildlife activists gave a clarion call to preserve green cover on the recently held World Environment Day, the authorities have urged the government to take necessary steps to prevent these encroachments.
According to officials, the forest area of this division comprises mostly ‘ex-estate forests’ taken over under the Estate Abolition Act, 1948. “As patta lands abutting these ex-estate lands are mostly under mango cultivation, they are prone to encroachments,” the note observed.
Infringements are posing threat to the forest area in the district particularly in Nuzvid Revenue Division where most of the ex-estate lands are situated. When contacted, District Forest Officer K. Ashok Kumar says: “Government assistance is essential for taking stern action against those indulging in such activities. We can book cases against encroachers under PD Act,” he adds.