The department has notifiedx a staggering 5,729 acres as a reserve forest in a span of about 120 days — a record of sorts. Several senior forest officials revealed that this is the first time in recent years that such a feat has been accomplished and attributed it to the new administrative setup at the secretariat level.
Documents from the forest, environment and ecology secretariat revealed the department approved 29 proposals between June and September, clawing back about 40% of the 5,000 hectares of forests that were diverted for non-forest purposes from 2008-2023.
Senior officials said any land parcel can be notified as a reserve forest under section 4 of the Karnataka Forest Act 1963, but the process of notification must go through several hoops as mandated under the Act.
“For example, a forest settlement officer must investigate if any person has any right over the land or its produce and must determine the existence, nature, and extent of these rights. Subsequently, a proposal must be forwarded to the state government for official notification,” an official said.
Asked if all the 29 proposals were fresh ones, the official said, “It is a continuous process. But all these years it would have been either stuck with the settlement officer or would have been held up at the secretariat. This is the first time that all proposals that were sent — at various times — to the secretariat have been approved and cleared by the forest minister on a fast-track basis. This has motivated us to work at the same speed.”
Forest minister Eshwar B Khandre said the aim is to protect the state’s existing 22% of forest cover and to increase it to more than 30%.
“We have seen the vagaries of climate change and increasing incidents of human-animal conflicts,” Khandre said. “All of us have the responsibility of addressing these issues by expanding our forest cover. Chief minister Siddaramaiah said the same thing last week and asked our department officials to work towards increasing forest cover to 33%.
Ever since I took over the reins, we have collectively ensured eviction of encroachment on more than 2,000 acres of forest land. Similarly, thanks to the efforts of our officials, we have been able to notify more than 5,700 acres of reserve forest.”
Demonstrating that charity must begin at home, Khandre has kickstarted the process by notifying 261 acres of land as reserve forest in his home district of Bidar.