Ahmedabad: The principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has directed the Gujarat government to complete the demarcation of Banni Grasslands within four months and submit a report to the tribunal. The matter will be heard next on November 6.
On July 3, the NGT heard the case filed by Banni Pashu Uchherak Maldhari Sanghthan (Banni Breeder Association-BBA) against non-forest activities taking place in the protected forest of Kutch district. Advocates Sanjay Upadhyay and Eisha Krishn appeared on behalf of the applicants.
The NGT bench directed the state government to carry out demarcation on a priority basis and ensure that no non-forestry activity was carried out in the area. The government was also asked to remove all encroachments or illegal constructions from the area.
“Our attention has been drawn to the notification issued on 11 May, 1955, by the Chief Commissioner, Government of Kachchh, in exercise of power under Section 29 of Indian Forest Act, 1927. But neither the exact boundary nor the total area was clarified therein. Subsequently, a working plan of Banni Protected Forest was issued in 2009 by the Forest Department, Government of Gujarat, which had also been approved by MoEF & CC. In the said plan it has been mentioned that the forest area of Banni was surveyed through GPS from 13.12.2005 to 03.03.2006 by the Settlement Commissioner & Land Record Director, Gujarat State, for demarcation of the boundary. The total area came out to be 249,674.45 ha i.e. 2497 km2,” read NGT order.
It further said that till date, the area of Banni grassland had not been demarcated on the ground.
“In view of the fact that the demarcation of the area is yet to be made, the grievance of the applicant with regard to non-forest activities/encroachments can be properly appreciated when the area in question is demarcated on the ground. Therefore, before proceeding further, we direct respondent State to demarcate the boundaries of the Banni Grass Land, on priority and the work be completed at the earliest,” the order read.
In 2018, the pastoralists’ organisation had moved the NGT over the denial of community forest rights to members of the Maldhari community under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
Association members said members of 19 gram panchayats of 42 villages from the area have signed the petition.