KIIT’s forest land grab under NGT scanner

KOLKATA: It is not all good for green award winner Achyuta Samanta and his organization Kalinga Relief and Charitable Trust (popularly known as KIIT) as it comes under scanner of nation’s green authority National Green Tribunal (NGT) for violation of green laws.

samantaNGT issued notice today and sought responses of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and governments of Odiasha and KRCT, which runs KIIT and KISS, on the issue of use of forest land for non-forestry purpose without any approval.

A bench headed by Justice S. P. Wangdi also issued notice to Bhubaneswar Divisional Forest officer and Khurda District Collector asking it to file its response in the matter by Sep 14, the next date of hearing.

Acting on a petition filed by rights and environment campaigner Subash Mohapatra, NGT has asked reply from the concern parties how the forest land was used for non-forestry purpose.

Appearing for the petitioner advocate Sankar Prasad Pani told, construction of building by Kalinga Relief and Charitable Trust for its educational business on forest land without approval under Forest Conservation Act from Ministry of Environment and Forest Climate Change, Government of India is illegal. The very act of construction and changing the nature of land use from forest to non-forest activity without prior approval is against the principle of Sustainable Development, Precautionary Principle, National Forest Policy and Supreme Court order in TN Godavarman Case.

The Achyuta Samant led educational institutions has encroached around 18 acre of forest land mostly of Chhot Jungle Kisam in Pathargadia Mouza of Bhubaneswar Tehsil.

The issue have been agitated time and again in Odisha Legislative Assembly on various occasions. On last occasion in March 2016, in reply to the question of MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria, the Government has responded that 18 acre of Forest land has been encroached by KIIT institutions; it will take steps to restore the possession of the land back.

Tehsildar Bhubaneswar has registered two cases in 2011 under Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act 1972, but no action for eviction or demolition has been taken as of now even after 5years of the institution of the case, said Mohapatra.

The DFO, Chandaka in his letter in Novmber 2014 to Secretary Forest and Environment Department has admitted that the KIIT has encroached 18acres of forest land. Further the letter suggests that since the land in question is unauthorized occupied and recorded in anabadi khata and jungle kisam land, so further legal action is to be taken up by the competent revenue authority.

‘In this backdrop where the forest land is being encroached without prior approval from central government and the state government is busy in covering up the entire episode in the guise of paper exchanges and shifting of responsibilities between Revenue and Forest Department’, Mohapatra lamented the State government.

The irony is government of Odisha has awarded Prakruti Mitra puraskar in 2011 to KIIS and its founder Achyuta Samanta. Prakruti Mitra Award is given every year on world environment day for outstanding contribution to save nature and environment.

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