We are committed to safeguarding such farmers within the limits of the law: Ramanath Rai
The State government will soon take a decision on protecting the land rights of small farmers who are cultivating encroached forest land, Minister for Forests and Environment B. Ramanath Rai has said.
“On one hand, we have to remove encroachments in forests, according to a Supreme Court judgment. But, on the other hand, we need to protect the interests of small and marginal farmers who have been cultivating encroached forest land for generations. We are committed to protecting these sections within the limits of the law,” Mr. Rai said here on Wednesday at the launch of the Vruksha Laksha Abhiyan. Under the programme, at least one lakh saplings will be planted in non-forest areas of the district in one year.
He said Bidar was the second place after Udupi where the programme was launched.
“Bidar has a total forest area of only 8.3 per cent, which is far below the State average of 22 per cent. In fact, the National Forest Policy recommends that 33 per cent of total land area be covered by forests. With that goal in mind, we need to go in for intensive plantation programmes, including agroforestry,” the Minister said.
He sought people’s participation in the programme and encouraged them to plant sapling in farms, their backyards, school and college campuses, as well as offices and factories.
He said the government planned to strengthen village forest committees (VFCs) on the lines of self-help groups (SHGs).
“We feel VFCs should get funds like SHGs and they should be involved in extension programmes of the government,” Mr. Rai said. Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli, MLA, urged the Minister to take steps to secure approval for a proposal to construct a sewage treatment plant as part of the underground drainage project for Bidar city, which was pending before the government. He also urged the Minister to start a jungle safari in Bidar district.
“When I was Minister for Forests, I had begun preparations on the project. You should take it forward,” he said. He also urged Mr. Rai not to cancel schemes started by former Ministers.
More funds sought
Ishwar Khandre, MLA, sought additional funds for the protection of trees such as sandalwood and animals such as black buck. He urged the Minister to sanction a peacock sanctuary in Bidar district. He said farmers should be given incentives to grow more trees and regulations on planting protected species such as sandalwood should be simplified.
Deputy Range Forest Officer Abdul Jameer, forest guard Bakkappa and NGO activists Shailendra Kavadi and Jagannath Mulge, who have been working to create awareness about the environment, were felicitated.
Senior forest officials such as Deepak Sharma, C.S. Raju, Shivanna Gowda, and G.S. Hosmath as well as Deputy Commissioner P.C. Jaffer were present.