Delhi: Land Encroachment

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The extent of the problem

2018: 1,250 acres of forest, gram land in S.Delhi encroached

Alok KN Mishra, Forest land 4 times the size of Prez estate occupied illegally in S Delhi, July 24, 2018: The Times of India|frame|500px]]

Demarcation Of 11,529 Acres Completed; 1,250 Acres Found To Be Encroached Upon

Self-styled godmen, politicians, businessmen, even celebrities, are among the people who have illegally occupied 1,250 acres of forest and gram sabha land in south Delhi. This is nearly four times the size of Rashtrapati Bhavan (320 acres). Of this, 197 acres of encroached land in Asola village in the same district were recovered by the state government in March.

Encroachment of this magnitude is ironical considering that several public welfare projects, such as sewer treatment plants, have been held up due to the lack of land for their establishment.

This mammoth encroachment was uncovered after Delhi government’s revenue department completed the demarcation of the 11,529 acres of government land in south district to gauge the scale of forest and gram sabha land lost due to illegal occupation. Sources in the revenue department said that the existing value of the land — some located in prime areas — is over Rs 3,000 crore.

“The demarcation of the land was a long pending exercise and it has finally been completed,” said Amjad Tak, district magistrate (south). “We are committed to retrieving all the encroached land for which an action plan is being prepared. After recovering the land from the encroachers, we will put up fencing to see that the retrieved land is not occupied again.”

Civic authorities contend that the gradual encroachment began in the late 1990s. The illegal takeover of government land increased in the late 2000s, with the authorities at different levels allegedly turning a blind eye to these acts. “The encroachers acted very smartly often fooling the police and the authorities,” said a source.

For example, one person purchased an acre land in a village, but while constructing the boundary wall, he took over additional forest or gram sabha land abutting his plot and ultimately expanded the size of his holding into almost five acres. “The same modus operandi was used by most of the selfstyled godmen, celebrities, politicians and businessmen who used their influence to encroach forest and gram sabha land,” said one of the sources. “Many of them converted natural drains and even small water bodies into land by filling them up with debris or garbage.”

This wretchedness of the situation was compounded by illegal real-estate developers who purchased a few acres from farmers and then encroached on neighbouring forest areas to expand their colony plans. “This led to the development of several illegal colonies in violation of all the building bylaws and without regard for norms,” explained a source. The encroachment not only affected the area’s forest cover, but also led to the vanishing of several small water bodies when the land sharks converted them into plots. “The eight water bodies that once existed on the records of the revenue department in the areas under encroachment have vanished. Many wells in the areas have also gone dry,” revealed an official.

Over the years, this has led to a sharp rise in the pollution levels accompanied by a big fall in the water table. “Some illegal colonies in Fatehpur Beri, Asola and Bhatti villages face huge water logging during the monsoon months,” remarked an official.

The situation, however, might change for the better. A couple of months ago, 197 acres of land extensively encroached in the form of far mhouses and per manent and temporary structures were demolished to recover the occupied expanses. Much of the retrieved land has been handed over to the forest department.

Directions for the removal of the encroachment have come from the National Green Tribunal and the committee monitoring building violations in the capital on the Supreme Court’s direction. Notices have already been served to occupants in Bhatti village to remove all kinds of encroachment for have their possessions removed by the district task force. “Some people had filed the cases in Delhi high court, and the court has dismissed them,” one of the sources disclosed. “The grievances of the encroachers are being addressed. When this is over, the district authorities will take steps to remove the encroachment in around one month.”

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