Degradation of forests due to urbanisation, says SC

Deer playing at the Grumara National Park in West Bengal`s Jalpaiguri district. The park was declared the best among the protected areas in India by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the year 2009. (Photo: IANS)
A file photo of deer playing at the Grumara National Park in West Bengal`s Jalpaiguri district. Photo: IANS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed concern over degradation of the forest area like Pachmari and Gir due to constant urbanisation and construction of high-end hotels.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that there is a need to protect the forest areas.

It observed that forest areas across the country are "finished" due to urbanisation and construction of five-star hotels for which politicians, social workers and even courts are responsible.

The bench, which was hearing a matter related to eviction of lakh of forest dwellers and tribals across the court, also took strong exception over construction of hotels and resorts in Gir National Park in Gujarat and Pachmari biosphere reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Taking note that tribals are also transferring lands for building high-end hotels and commercial buildings, the court said: "The forest needs to be protected."

Representing the tribals, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves told the bench that tribals involved in practices of transferring land for commercial purpose should be evicted but not the innocent forest-dwellers.

The court, thereafter, listed the matter for November 26 for further hearing for final arguments.

The court also granted time to Forest Survey of India (FSI) till October 30 to collect information regarding satellite survey and encroachment positions in forest areas.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the parties, told the bench that FSI, citing paucity of manpower and resources, has stated that it would take 16 years to complete the satellite survey.

Divan told the court that he has filed an application seeking a direction to the Centre to release funds to FSI to expedite the process.

The bench asked the Centre to file a response on the application.

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