The file forwarded by the forest department for appointing a full-time collector or forest settlement officer to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits or in or over any forest produce, and to deal with the same as provided in the Act for Mhadei wildlife sanctuary is pending for nine months over lack of government decision.
Even after the incident of killing of four tigers in the sanctuary that occurred in the first week of the month, the government is still dilly-dallying over the file, sources told this daily.
Twenty years have passed since the notification of Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, but the state government is yet to settle the claims of local people residing in the jurisdiction of the reserved forest area in the absence of a forest settlement officer.
As a result, human-animal conflicts are on the rise in the areas of the wildlife sanctuary.
Situated in Sattari taluka, it was declared as wildlife sanctuary in May 1999 by the then Governor when the state was under the President’s rule.
As per clause C of sub section 1 of the Indian Forest Act 1927, the state government should appoint a forest settlement officer after notifying a wildlife sanctuary or reserved forest area to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits or in or over any forest produce, and to deal with the same as provided in the Act.
However, in the case of Mhadei wildlife sanctuary the state government has failed to appoint a dedicated and full-time forest settlement officer.
Now after many years, the forest department has moved a proposal to the government seeking appointment of a forest settlement officer, who should be from revenue department not less than rank of deputy collector.
It may be recalled that in May 2019 a violent protest was witnessed in Mhadei wildlife sanctuary jurisdiction wherein a group of people from villages of Sattari set a forest check post on fire to legitimise their encroachment claiming that their ancestors were cultivating the land which has been demarcated as a protected area of wildlife sanctuary.
In the case of Netravali wildlife sanctuary, the government has appointed Sanguem deputy collector as a ‘collector’ or forest settlement officer. However, that particular deputy collector holds multiple charges including as the chief officer of Cacora Curchorem Municipal Council.
According to the senior official, the government must appoint a dedicated officer in this matter.