Amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown, hundreds of trees have been cut in a forest area between Kaliasot and Kerwa dam in Madhya Pradesh. The forest and revenue authorities in the state have initiated a probe, reported The Indian Express.
However, there is a lack of clarity on whether the patch spread over hundreds of hectares is a notified forest, a deemed forest, or private land. While hearing a petition seeking a ban on all illegal activities in the area, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had asked the state forest department to map the area and take over deemed forest areas for administration.
While the NGT wanted the process to be completed by April 30, the forest department and the revenue department had not yet started the process when the lockdown came into effect on March 24.
"Many trees have been systematically felled in the last few weeks to reduce tree density, to ensure the area is not classified as a deemed forest as and when the mapping begins," activist Rashid Khan, the petitioner in the case before the NGT, told the media.
A vast track of deemed forest area lying between Kerwa and Kaliasot was being used for non-forestry activities without permission, according to a Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) report, submitted in March 2019.
Bhopal DFO H S Mishra said that as the classification of the area is unclear, there is no clarity on who is in charge. He said he has written to revenue officials to take action and promised the cooperation from the forest department.