Bhubaneswar: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Odisha Government to maintain status quo on the plans to hand over 20 acres of land of the Ekamra Kanan to the General Administration department (GA).
A two-member bench of judge B Amit Sthalekar and Saibal Dasgupta stated in the order " We are further of the view that it would be necessary to issue interim direction to ensure that during the pendency of this matter in the Tribunal, the deemed forest area and the trees over the land in question are not to be cut or destroyed.”
While listing the matter for hearing on June 30, the green Court also directed the government to constitute a four-member panel which would inspect the area and submit a report within four weeks time.
The committee which would be formed as per the tribunal order would have the members including-
i) Senior Scientist from the Integrated Regional Office,
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,
ii) District Magistrate, Khurdha or his representative not below the rank of Sub Divisional officer of that area,
iii) Divisional Forest Officer, Chandaka Wildlife Division, Baramunda, Bhubaneshwar,
iv) Director of Horticulture, Krishi Bhawan, Bhubaneswar,
The tribunal directed that the panel will investigate into the following aspects
i) Whether the area is a Deemed forest having characteristics of a forest?
ii) Whether some portion of the area is classified as Jungle Kisam /Revenue forest as per land record as alleged by the applicant?
iii) Whether the area is covered with important fruit bearing trees and other species of biological importance?
iv) Whether such diversion attracts the provision of Forest Conservation Act, 1980?
Sushant Kumar Jena, a resident of Bhubaneswar filed the petition in the green court alleging that the State government had planned to construct multi-storey buildings and commercial activities on the Ekamra Kanan land.
In October last year, the GA department had asked the Horticulture department through an official communication to surrender 20.192 acres of land from Ekamra Kanan farm.
The GA department's official communication had sparked a state-wide public and political outcry with Opposition BJP and Congress hitting the roads demanding withdrawal of the decision.