A major issue of overlapping land records came to light in Madhya Pradesh on Monday in the controversial Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP). Widely touted as a “flagship” project of the central government, the project aims to link the Ken and Betwa rivers and divert surplus water from Ken to the drought-prone Bundelkhand region of MP and Uttar Pradesh. It is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers. The project is progressing despite the numerous objections raised by several environmentalists, wildlife activists and former forest officials. They have previously deemed the project to be illegal and ecologically unscientific.
The project has been disputed ever since it was first conceptualised. And, the recent controversy pertains to the transfer of government revenue land to the forest department as part of the compensatory allocation.
Important to note, the construction of the Dhaudhan Dam is taking place in the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve. The construction is part of the first phase of the construction of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP). And, it lead to the cutting down of about 23 lakh trees According to a report of Environment Impact Assessment, 4141 hectares of the Panna Tiger Reserve will be submerged due to its reservoir. Additionally, 1876 hectares of buffer and general forests will also be affected.
On May 25, 2017, the Forest Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) approved the diversion of 6,017 hectares of forest land for purpose of the KBLP, as recommended by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC). However, this permission was granted on the condition that the government would provide an equivalent amount of non-forest land to the forest department for afforestation.
The MP government could locate only 4,206 hectares of non-forest land of the 6,017 hectares required for compensation to the MoEFCC. The Wire has previously reported that, not all of the land that the Madhya Pradesh government has marked out as compensation to the forest department, under the KBLP, belongs to the government. According to documents accessed by The Wire under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, 823 hectares belong to local villagers.
The latest controversy
In view of above mandate of Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the state government has transferred an area of 5479.63 hectares of government revenue land in the Panna and Chhatarpur districts to the Forest Department.
However, the Forest Department has alleged that they have received only 3460 hectares of government revenue land on the ground. This is because the records indicate that more than 2019 hectares of the land transferred is already declared forest land. Hence, belongs to the forest department anyway.
“Out of the 5479.63 hectares of government land transferred to the Forest Department in Chhatarpur and Panna, only 3460 hectares of land is actually government revenue land. The remaining 2019 hectares of land were already declared as forest land. Therefore, the Forest Department has considered only 3460 hectares of land as their compensation”,Advertisement
Sunil Agrawal, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, told Dainik Bhaskar.
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