Officials gather data sought by Ministers

The Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the State government to decide the fate of 7,586.14 acres in the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) will meet at the Secretariat in Hyderabad on Saturday.

The meeting may result in the permanent closing of the issue which has been an embarrassment to the State government. The Cabinet sub-committee was constituted with Ministers S. Vijayarama Raju (Forest) N. Raghuveera Reddy (Revenue), Kanna Lakshminarayana (Agriculture), P. Sudarshan Reddy (Irrigation), K. Parthasarthy (Secondary Education) and P. Viswarupa (Fisheries).

The GoM which met for the first time on December 19, 2012 sought information about the land in dispute from the Forest and other departments. It also sought the advice of the Advocate General on the legalities involved.

Only two Ministers—Forest (the host of the meeting) and Revenue--attended the second meeting held on March 2 and nothing serious came out of it. The third meeting scheduled for April 1 was put off indefinitely and it took two months and 20 days for the re-convening of the GoM.

The long gap was used to gather the data and opinions that were sought by the member ministers. Special Chief Secretary for Environment, Forest, Science and Technology M. Samuel visited Kolleru Lake and studied the issue - the controversy revolving round 7,586 acres adjoining Atapaka.

The Forest Department officials convinced him that the land was part of the Wildlife Sanctuary and therefore needs to be protected by very stringent laws. The Advocate General also reportedly recommended that nothing less than the National Wildlife Board had to give permission to the State government to distribute the disputed land to the poor.

The disputed land is also core area in the Kolleru lake which has developed into a haven for the Grey Pelicans after they returned to the lake after a gap of nearly three decades.

Dozens of iron stands are being used by the birds for nesting in the absence of suitable trees.

Officials of the Forest Department are confident that the GoM would take a proper decision with regard to the disputed land and the lake.

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