Tree plantation at Nongmaiching reserve forest on June 5 turned violent as some villagers attempted to prevent the plantation activity by hundreds of volunteers in celebration of World Environment Day 2022. Following the opposition by the villagers, principal chief conservator of Forest, Forest Department, Aditya Kumar Joshi issued a clarification.
The official stated that the tree plantation event was organised in compartment number 7 Iril block of Nongmaiching reserve forest, locally known as Ishing Chaibi area, in association with CSOs, voluntary agencies, youths, students, etc.
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However, the villagers of Nongmaipal village attempted to thwart the plantation activity tearing up the backdrop set for the plantation, Joshi said on Tuesday.
He explained that Nongmaipal village had shifted two times from the original place in 1985 and 1995 and finally settled at the present site at the foothill of the reserve forest which is in violation of the Indian Forest Act and rule.
Declaration of Nongmaiching reserve forest
The initial notification under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 for declaration of Nongmaiching reserve forest covering 74.7 square km was issued on February 16, 1966.
The same day, the forest settlement officer was also appointed for determination and settlement of the rights of villagers as provided under chapter-II of the Act, Joshi said.
Once the initial notification under Section 4 is issued, accrual of fresh rights is not allowed, he added.
The forest settlement officer issued a proclamation under section 6 of the Act inviting claims and objections on July 7, 1966. In response, altogether, 20 claims were received by the FSO, including Yamkhokhai, chief of Nongmaipal village, Joshi said.
After settling the claims and objections by the forest survey officer, the final notification of Nongmaiching reserve forest covering 67 square km was issued under section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 on January 4, 1990.
An area of 7.07 square km was set aside for all the villagers lying inside the notified Nongmaiching reserve forest.
The notification was also published as Manipur gazette number 41 on January 17, 1990. All the procedures as required under the Act were followed, mentioned PCCF, head of forest Joshi said.
Joshi futher clarified that under para number 4 (x) of the final notification of the reserve forest, an area covered by one-fourth mile radius, that is 125.44 acres, was set aside in favour of Yamkhokhai, chief of Nongmaipal village, who is the father of present village chief Jankhoshat Haokip.
Pending Court Case
On the pending court case, Joshi said that on March 21, 2018 the village chief filed a case bearing OS No 1 of 2018 in the court of the Civil Judge (senior division) Senapati, praying for declaration as owner of a suit land with schedule of boundaries, totally different from the set aside area. Further, he also prayed to allow mining of stone from that area. But Division Forest Officer Central filed the para-wise reply and the court dismissed the suit on December 17, 2021.
Fifteen accused convicted
Joshi mentioned that on July 18, 2017, a combined team of forest and police arrested seven persons for mining stone at Chaithabi area and seized 3 trucks. On further investigation, it was found that the mining was carried out on a lease deed given by the village chief Jankhoshat Haokip on payment of Rs 40,000 for a period from Pharel 2014 to Inga 2015.
Further, he collected Rs 20,000 for extension of the lease. However, Jankhoshat Haokip was arrested and a Cril (P) case No. 89 of 2017 was filed in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East. Fifteen accused persons have been convicted by the court and the case against two persons, including the village chief is pending in the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East.
Joshi, representing the forest department, prayed for imprisonment of six months and fine as provided under the Act. Further, the department also prayed for payment of Rs 20,38,932 as compensation for damage to the forests and re-afforestation of the area.
He also mentioned that the forest department has initiated actions for consolidation of the boundaries of the reserve forest and protected forest. As per the decisions taken by a high-level committee under the chairmanship of the chief secretary, Manipur, a joint survey for finding exact boundaries of forest lands and revenue lands by the forest and revenue department is underway.
There have been few incidents of objections to the plantations being taken up by the forest department and a joint survey conducted by the forest and revenue department for consolidation of reserve forests and protected forests, Joshi said.
Forest in Manipur
Regarding the forests of Manipur, Joshi stated that there are 37 reserve forests and 23 protected forests in the state covering 1,467 square km. Some of the reserve forests were notified by the then Manipur State Darbar and some were notified under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 as per the provisions provided under the act. All the protected forests were notified under section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
“Decisions taken by the Manipur State Darbar for declaration of reserved forests are considered to have been notified under IFA, 1927 as per the provisions of the Manipur (administrative) order 1949. The same has also been upheld by the courts at various level”, said Joshi.
Conservation of Biodiversity to combat Climate change
Forest, including reserve forests and protected forests are for conservation of biodiversity, maintain ecological balance, improve air quality to combat climate change, livelihood, conservation of water, source of medicine, preservation of soil, supporting wildlife, reducing drought and preventing soil erosion and pollution.
Joshi appealed to all concerned, including every citizen of the state, to cooperate with the department in conservation and development of forest and wildlife.
Forest Act - Lack of Awareness
Further, Chief Conservator of Forest, L Joykumar said that there was misunderstanding on plantations on World Environment Day, the issue was solved and the plantation was held.
However, there are dos and don’ts according to the Indian Forest Act to be followed at reserve forest and protected forest area. It should be followed by every citizen.
When asked about forest cover, Joykumar said that the forest was 499 square km during the period 2015-17, in 2017-19, it was reduced to 249 square kilometres.
Forest department has a well-set map of Manipur Forest for reserve and protected forest. However some issues arise about encroaching forest area, it is a matter of communication gap between the revenue department and the forest department. But the joint survey which is being conducted at present will consolidate, said Joykumar.
On buying land near hill areas, Division Forest Officer, Central, RK Amarjit appealed to all to get land verification from the forest department.
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