Encroachments are slowly eating up the green cover in Punjab. As per Forest Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani, locals have encroached upon more than 20,000 acres of forest land and a large number of them have taken up farming over the land in the last 30 years.
“A special policy needs to be framed to free the forest land from the encroachers,” Jayani said, adding that his department had recently got 190 acres of encroached forest land freed in Machiwara area. “However, there were protests and we had to give a large chunk of the freed land back to the farmers.”
“This is a recurring problem faced in many areas. I will be meeting Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to frame a policy to get the encroached area freed and enhance greenery in the state,” Jayani said, adding that a compromise needs to be reached with the squatters.
“Since the forest department never initiated efforts to get the land freed, we will be suggesting the CM that a part of the land should remain with those who have encroached upon it. We can devise a compromise formula.
“This way, we will get at least something. As of now, we have not been able to get anything,” the minister added.
After Machiwara, the forest department is now targeting the encroached areas by the Hambaran road in Ludhiana. Here, the members of Bharti Kisan Union have been claiming they had been ploughing the land - which, incidentally is a part of river bed - for years.
Darshan Singh Koohli, BKU general secretary, said they will not let the forest department acquire this land.