KIIT’s jungle row: NGT orders Status Quo on construction

BHUBANESWAR: Influence and nexus shall not work for ever. Its a set back for highly powerful and influential Achyuta Samant, who did not get any relief today from highest green authority.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed KIIT and KISS to maintain a status quo on the construction activities on the forest land, which it has allegedly grabbed in the capital city of Odisha.

It also directed the Odisha government to ensure that no further construction is taken in the forest land in question.

An NGT bench headed by Justice S.P. Wangdi directed the authorities concerned and the state Forest Department to ensure that no further work is done on the disputed forest land.

The bench was hearing a petition by filed rights and green campaigner Subash Mohapatra, who alleged that KIIT had grabbed forest land illegally.

Earlier, NGT had sought responses of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Odisha government and Kalinga Relief and Charitable Trust, which runs KIIT and KISS, on the issue of the use of forest land for non-forestry purpose without any approval.

It was scheduled for today as the date set earlier that Bhubaneswar Divisional Forest Officer and Khurda District Collector to file their responses in the matter by Sep 14.

Appearing for the petitioner, Counsel Shankar Prasad Pani sought court’s interim direction for not to allow further damage to environment.

NGT had sought a reply from the concern parties as to how the forest land was used for the non-forestry purpose.

Achyuta Samant managed educational institutions have encroached around 18 acres of forest land mostly of Chhot Jungle Kisam in Pathargadia Mouza of Bhubaneswar Tehsil, said Mohapatra.

The issue has been agitated time and again in Odisha Legislative Assembly on various occasions. In reply to a question of MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria during the last session of the Assembly, the state government had responded that KIIT had encroached 18 acres of forest land.

The government had also assured that it would take steps to take possession of land back.

Tehsildar Bhubaneswar 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.

‘While the forest land is being encroached without prior approval from central government, the state government is busy in covering up the entire episode in the guise of paper exchanges,” Mohapatra lamented.

The irony is that the state government had awarded Prakruti Mitra to Achyuta Samanta in 2011. Prakruti Mitra Award is given every year on world environment day for outstanding contribution to saving nature and the environment.

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