J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Ministry of Environment and Forests has informed the Supreme Court that the Forest Survey of India, an independent Central organisation, should be asked to conduct a survey to find out whether there had been an encroachment by Obulapuram Mining Co. Pvt Ltd or others on the forest lands in the border area of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The affidavit filed on Wednesday by the MoEF counsel Haris Beeran said the Central Empowered Committee had recommended that the demarcation of the leasing areas should be done by the Survey of India (SoI) and, in the meanwhile, no mining should be permitted. Accordingly, mining was stopped by the State government.

“The survey by the SoI does not seem to be feasible, as for them this is the working season for field work and they had withdrawn the survey party to be deployed elsewhere.” While getting the survey conducted by the Forest Survey of India, the MoEF would also take into account the survey by the Andhra Pradesh government before coming to a conclusion whether “there has been an encroachment by any party or not.”

Explaining the delay in completing the survey, the affidavit said the MoEF wrote to the A.P. government on June 24 and July 8 requesting security coverage by the armed police, preferably the CRPF, to the survey team of the Andhra Pradesh Geo-Spatial Data Centre, Survey of India, Hyderabad. However, the team could not conduct the field work due to lack of security coverage.

From the record, it was clear that the survey team stayed in Hyderabad between July 17 and August 5 and the MoEF had been requesting security for the survey team. But the State government maintained that the survey had already been conducted using State government surveyors. The boundary figures were corrected in all the mines as per the rules and, therefore, no further survey by SoI was required.

It said from the inspection report received from the Regional Office, Bangalore, “there appears to have been alleged overlapping of lease lands. The OMC’s contention is that assuming there is encroachment then the same amounts to violation of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, as amended in 1988, and not violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, as has been alleged.”

In view of this stand, the MoEF suggested that the survey be conducted by Forest Survey of India to ascertain whether there was encroachment by any party, the affidavit said.