Panaji: The process carried out by expert committees two
decades ago for identifying and demarcating private forests in the state seems
to be improper, as many concerns and genuine issues have not been taken into
consideration including the criterion that says that 75 per cent of trees in
private forests should be of forestry species.
It has also come to notice during the nearly month-long
hearing of the aggrieved parties by the three-member committee headed by Joint
Secretary Revenue Anthony D’Souza that physical site inspections were not
carried out by the committees while identifying and demarcating private forests
in the state.
The three-member committee constituted by the state
government to finalise report on private forests, submitted by the review
committees, has completed hearing of over 1,500 aggrieved parties and directed
the revenue department to constitute committees for cross verification of the
claims by conducting site inspections of the demarcated areas as private
forests. A Supreme Court judgment passed in December 1996 redefined the meaning
of forests to include not just land classified as forest under forest or
revenue departments but also that land that comes under the ‘dictionary’
meaning of forest.
The apex court had then also asked states to form expert
committees to identify forests, irrespective of the nature of land ownership or
whether they are notified, recognised or classified in a time-bound manner.
Subsequent to the said order, the state government had
set up two consecutive expert committees in 1997 and 2000 to identify private
forests in the state on private and revenue lands. These two committees relied
on certain guidelines, which were prepared by Goa forest department in 1991,
prior to the order by the apex court.
The criteria to identify areas as ‘forest’ was that 75
per cent of tree composition should be of forestry species, the area should be
contiguous to the government forest and if in isolation, the minimum area
should be 5 Ha and canopy density should not be less than 0.4 (40 per cent).
In the case of Goa, the expert committees have not
mentioned about a method adopted for identifying the private forests.
Moreover, there is no clarity in the report prepared by
the review committee on private forests on whether land owners will get
compensation once their property is notified as private forest, how the forest
department will maintain it and whether land owners will have right to
cultivate the land.
Sources told ‘The Navhind Times’ that Sawant and
Karpurkar committees had identified 67 square kilometre area as private
forests. However, the review committees constituted by the state government on
April 23, 2018, found only 41 square kilometres of area as private forests. It
is also learnt from sources that the review committees had made an attempt to
include 4.9 square kilometres of more area under private forests. However, the
state government did not accept the recommendation.
Sources said that as per the report, whatever areas have
been identified by the expert committees as private forests have trees like
cashew, mango, jackfruit and others and have hardly any forestry species.
Though the committee headed by the Joint Secretary
Revenue has completed hearing of claims submitted by the aggrieved parties on
private forest areas, it would be interesting to see how the final report will
Source:: The Navhind Times