The forest department has asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to cross-check records and not to regularise unauthorised colonies under the Centre’s PM-UDAY scheme in unidentified or protected forests without approval from a competent authority.
The Delhi forest department in a letter, which PTI accessed through an RTI application, told the DDA on November 24 that ”there are khasras which are recorded against the forest department in revenue records for forestry purposes but are yet to be declared as forest area under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, or a protected area under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972”.
”In such cases, any regularisation of unauthorised colonies will be regarded as diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes and will be a violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, as per the order of the Supreme Court dated December 12, 1996, in the T N Godavarman case.
”Hence, revenue records are to be cross-checked by the DDA before any regularization of unauthorized colonies is allowed in such areas/khasras,” it said.
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While the DDA has started the process of regularising unauthorised colonies in unidentified forest areas and protected forests, it is yet to seek approval of competent authority for the diversion of forest land, a forest department official told PTI. There has been no response from the DDA to PTI’s messages and calls for a reaction. The Central government launched the Prime Minister-Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana (PM-UDAY) in December 2019 to give ownership rights to the residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies in the national capital after Parliament passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Act, 2019.
The objective of the rehabilitation project is to provide a better and healthy living environment to the residents of slums.
According to the RTI reply, the Delhi forest department also told the DDA that the central land-owning agency is yet to demarcate 286.14 hectares of the around 1,189 hectares of protected forest land under DDA’s management.
A protected forest is a forest with some amount of legal and constitutional protection. The state government has proprietary rights and the power to issue rules about the use of such forests, but local people are allowed to collect wood and graze their cattle without causing any serious damage.
”Some of the unauthorised colonies may fall in these unidentified protected forests. The DDA should ensure that there is no regularisation of unauthorised colonies falling in unidentified protected forests in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, because of the lack of demarcation on the ground,” the letter dated November 24 read.
”There may be unauthorised colonies which might have come over land having the status of deemed forest or ridge, which are protected by various orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Hence, the DDA should do necessary due diligence to avoid such areas during the regularisation or seek approval of competent authority such as Ridge Management Board, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,” it said.
Forest department officials said they had written to the DDA in this regard in July last year also. Some of the unauthorised colonies in the protected forests in the national capital include Bhim Basti, Shanti Camp, Biru Camp, Sambhav Camp, Bapu Camp and Sanjay Colony-Bhatti Mines in Chattarpur; jhuggies at Kewal Krishan Chowk Post in Rajokari and some parts of Sangam Vihar. ”Analysis of all the above cases reveals that the permission of competent authority is required before diverting any land by way of granting ownership in the area which is non-forestry purposes,” the forest department wrote to the DDA.