Andhra Pradesh

Land mafia at work in Kolleru: environmentalist

Capitalising on confusion: A file photo of the Kolleru lake in Krishna district.

Capitalising on confusion: A file photo of the Kolleru lake in Krishna district.   | Photo Credit: CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR

‘Encroachment gains pace despite CEC’s status quo fiat’

The encroachment of the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS), a Ramsar site, has become faster after the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court asked the Andhra Pradesh Government to maintain status quo on altering its boundary.

Environmentalists allege that land mafia is digging up fish tanks at a faster pace as the agencies concerned with protecting the wetland have been plunged into confusion with so many conflicting reports.

Land mafia is taking advantage of the confusion and is trying to encroach upon the wetland, they charge.

“Encroachment of the KWS had, in fact, picked up pace from the time the Central Working Group headed by Raman Sukumar recommended a resurvey of the patta and ziroyati (private) lands in the sanctuary,” a few other conservationist allege. The working group had recommended removal of privately held patta (ziroyati) lands that form a single large stretch very close to the north-eastern boundary of the KWS and provide relief to the D-patta land cooperatives through a combination of ways – provide compensation or rehabilitate them elsewhere.

Boundary confirmation

It, however, had said that these actions should be taken only after the compilation of reliable data on the actual boundary of the KWS on the ground, extent of ziroyati and D-patta lands, encroachments, land use, hydrology, etc., as recommended by the Azeez Committee in 2011.

This data would form the scientific basis for fixing the new boundaries of sanctuary as well as rehabilitation of the people, the working group had said.

It had also recommended preparation of an integrated management plan for the broader (up to contour + 10) Kolleru Lake.

Plan not implemented

The comprehensive plan for the KWS prepared for the State government by the Wetlands International in 2008 had not been implemented yet, the conservationists allege.

Prof. Sukumar had observed that the Wetlands International study was the most scientific assessment of the hydrology, biodiversity, land use, and environmental problems of the region.

The committee had even recommended that important areas of bird congregation be declared as ‘core zones’ free of human disturbances. The remaining area could be used for traditional fishing, without construction of bunds for impounding water as it was being done for commercial fishing.

Kolleru Lake Conservation crusader T. Pathanjali Sastry said, “While the Prof. Sukumar committee had laid down so many conditions for denotification of the private and patta lands, the State government simply decided to denotify the land, which would only add to the problem.”

“Taking advantage of the confusion, some influential persons are encroaching on the KWS,” he alleged.

Appeal to CEC

As one of the original petitioners to the case in the Supreme Court, Mr. Sastry said he had written to the CEC to make public the interim order so that the sanctuary managers would act upon it.

“Officials of the Forest Department are booking cases, but where are the convictions?” he asked.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:45:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/land-mafia-at-work-in-kolleru-environmentalist/article24963121.ece

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