The Centrally-appointed Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has pulled up the State government for ‘converting’ a reserve forest to gomala (Gomala lands or Gobhumi are pasture lands set apart in a village for grazing purposes)land in Belagavi.
The recommendations by the 7-member FAC, which comprises officials from Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Agriculture, and ecologists, was delivered during an application by the State government for permission to divert nearly 178.35 acre of forest land for establishment of Rani Channamma University at Bhutaramanahatti village.
Extracts of the minutes of the FAC-
Diversion of 72.177 ha of forest land in Sy. No. 1/1 of Bhutaramanahatti village, Belgaum Taluka and District for Establishment of Rani Chennamma University in favour of the Registrar, Rani Chenñamma University, Belgaum. The above mentioned proposal was considered by the FAC in its meeting held on 26th December, 2016 and the FAC, after examination of the proposal and discussion with user agency, observed as below.
The State Government of Karnataka vide their letter No. FEE 101 FLL 2016 dated 04.10.2016 submitted the above mentioned proposal seeking prior approval of the Central Government under Section-2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The project is located in the Belagavi Forest Division, District Belagavi, Karnataka.
The legal status of the forest land is Reserve Forest.
It is reported that the proposed area is not vulnerable to erosion.
There are 4476 of trees enumerated/to be actually felled.
The vegetation density of the area is 30 to 40% .
The proposed area do not form part of National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary, Biosphere Reserve, Tiger Reserve, Elephant Corridor etc No protected archaeological/ heritage site/defence establishment or any other important monuments is located in the area. It is reported that total cost of the project is 10,000 lakhs Deputy Conservator of Forests has given certificate that the 178 acre & 14 gunta of the proposed land was granted to Karnataka University Dharwad by Deputy Commissioner Belagavi vide order No . RD/LBP/CR198/89-90, dtd. 15.03.1990 considering it as gomal land (gairana) but the said granted land is a part of Fs. No. 1/1 of Bhuthramanhatti Reserved Forest having an area of 196 acre & 14 guntas which was notified vide notification No. AFD/13/FAP/60/BNG, dtd. 28.07.1960.
As per the grant, The user agency carried out non forestry activity. The user agency has deposited Rs. 5.00 lakhs on 07.02.1993 and Rs. 9.40 lakhs on 05.01.1995 towards the compensatory afforestation charges.
The user agency completed the construction of 3 buildings in 1995 is self, thus violating the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It is reported that the requirement of land is unavoidable and barest minimum for the Mining purpose.
It is reported by DCF, Belagavi that the details of CA area released by the Deputy Commissioner, Belagavi as per order no. RB/LND/CR-618/2000-01 dated 24.04.2002 and order no. RS/LND/CR-618/2000-01 dated 28.05.2016 is given /However detail CA scheme is not given. DCF, Belagavi division has given the suitability certificate for CA land. Certificate of Deputy Commissioner & District Magistrate, Belagavi regarding FRA for an area of 178 acres and 14 guntas has submitted. However, copies of Gram Sabha Resolution are not given. Thus, compliance on FRA is in-complete.
It is stated that cost benefit analysis is not applicable as Rani Chaimamma university is a non -profit organization.
DCF has recommended that the user agency has already violated Forest Conservation Provisions by constructing administrative, library and other buildings which are being used since establishment of the Post Graduation Centre. As approximate 1000 students are getting a Post Graduation every year.
The Proposed Forest land is recommended for diversion to Rani Channamma University. CCF has recommended that the forest land proposed for diversion has already been granted in favour of the user agency and the post graduate centre has already been established in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Therefore, the proposal is recommended for obtaining post-facto approval.
PCCF has recommended the proposal subject to conditions as follows.
The legal status of Forest land shall remain unchanged and it shall continue to be as forest land. The lessee shall pay lease rent as fixed by the Govt. from time to time.
The leased out area should be used for the purpose for which it is granted. In case the land is not used for the stipulated purpose within one year or when it is no longer needed for the stipulated purpose, the area should be resumed to the Forest Department under Section 82 of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963. The concerned Chief Conservator of Forests
FAC after through deliberation recommended that Regional Office shall carry out inspection and submit Site inspection report (SIR).
The matter stands deferred till such times State Government to explain the circumstances under which reserve forest was considered as gomal land and lease was executed in violation of provision of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
State Government shall fix the responsibility of officials for carrying out violation of provision of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.