NGT orders eviction of settlers from Corbett Tiger Reserve

DEHRADUN: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the authorities of the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) as well as officials of the Uttar Pardesh government to evict around 800 settlers who have made their home in the Kalagarh zone of the reserve. Kalagarh is the core zone of the tiger reserve and the Supreme Court had directed that it be kept free of human habitation. It had also directed demolition of buildings and settlements which have come up in the zone.

The case dates back to 1960 when as per sources, two residential colonies were built for the families of officials and staff of the UP government which was involved in the construction of the Ramganga dam in the Kalagarh division. After the dam was completed in 1974, some of the staff members continued to stay in the houses ostensibly for maintenance work. However, gradually, according to sources, many of the houses were occupied by outsiders. As per estimates, there are around 800 such families that have been identified as encroachers in the area.

The Supreme Court had directed the UP government to identify these encroachers and get them evicted. It had also asked the state government to demolish the structures on eviction so that no disturbance is caused to the wild animals due to human movement in this sensitive area. The matter was recently shifted to the NGT which came down heavily on the UP government for its inaction and issued them a strict warning that they will be penalised if encroachment continued in the area.

Meanwhile, sources said that Corbett authorities, seeing the strict stance of NGT, had demolished a few structures in the area. They had also taken over an engineering college and hostel which was once used by the UP irrigation staff, under their control and put up their signages and marking on these buildings. However, according to Dinesh Pandey, an activist of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which has been fighting this case in SC and NGT since 1999, the forest department instead of taking over the buildings, should have demolished them. “The directions of the Supreme Court, which NGT is also following, clearly stipulates that once these buildings come under the control of Corbett authorities, they should be demolished. This makes sense otherwise these structures will again be occupied directly or indirectly and the problem of human encroachment would persist, thus making the entire exercise of vacating them futile.”

When queried on this, Sameer Sinha, director, CTR, said, “We are acting on the directions of the NGT. As and when we get directions to demolish the structures, we would act upon that.”

Credits ET Realty

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