Badal wants restrictions on forest land use lifted by Centre

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Chandigarh, Oct 25 (UNI) The Punjab Government today demanded that the Union Government lift the restrictions imposed on 65,000 hectare of forest land along the Shivalik hills in the state so that it could be used for non-forestry purposes.

The restrictions include ensuring that that no commercial activity is permitted on such de-listed land, which should only be used for bonafide purposes like agriculture and for sustaining the livelihood of the people of the area. A detailed list of such lands showing the land use and status of the land before 1980 and upto 1996 should be furnished to the Union Ministry of Forests and Enviornment.

This demand was made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while inaugurating the conference of Forest Ministers and Forest and Wildlife officials of the Northern state of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakand, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh here. Union Minister of state for Forests and Enviornment S Ragupathy presided over the conference.

Refering to the restrictions, Mr Badal said to protect the fragile ecosystem of Shivalik Hills, the areas were brought under provisions of Punjab Land Preservation Act 1900 (PLPA). In 1996, the orders of Supreme Court defined the forests and forest land which led to include all the Shivalik hills (cultivated and inhabited area) as forest land only.

He pointed out that the state government approached the Union Government to exclude nearly 65,000 hectare of cultivated and inhabited areas falling under PLPA to be deleted from the list of forests lands in Punjab. However, the Union Government agreed to delete this chunk of land from forest land but imposed restrictions which need to be lifted, he added.

'' These conditions are, too, severe to be of any use to mitigate the sufferings of the poor people inhabiting in these areas'', he said.

Refering to the increasing population of wild animals, Mr Badal demanded that the Centre include crop damage by wild animals in the category of natural calamity and allow the states to compensate the affected farmers on the same pattern. In this context he pointed out that the population of wild boars and bluebulls had increased in the state.

Mr Badal also called for ensuring sustainable development and at the same time conserving and protecting the ecology.

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