The Forest and Wildlife Preservation Minister, Punjab, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot has said that the state government headed by the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has launched a campaign to free the forest land from illegal encroachments. As of now, a total of 31000 acres of forest land is under illegal encroachments out of which legal cases are going on concerning 21000 acres while 2000 acres has been freed from illegal encroachments. The department has set a target of freeing 10000 acres from the illegal encroachments till May-June this year. The land which has been freed from the illegal encroachments falls in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Bathinda, Ferozpur, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Sangrur, Ludhiana, Rupnagar, Nawanshahar, Amritsar and Gurdaspur.The minister further said that the 400 acres of land encroached upon by the rich was freed in 2 days span and now a wall is being erected on the land. The officers conniving with the encroachers have been removed and cases registered. He also said that the 6 acres of expensive land with estimated cost amounting to Rs. 50 crore in Pathankot has too been freed from the encroachers.
Divulging more, the minister said that the 2300 acres of land encroached upon by the colonizers in the 15 semi hilly villages near Chandigarh too has been freed and notified for the period of 15 years. He said that there was a nexus of colonizers as well as politicians in the case. He also added that special steps are being taken to increase forest cover in the state with the intention to ensure cleaner environment and reducing pollution. He also disclosed that in December, 2017 the forest cover increased by 66 square kilometers in which 2 crores of saplings have been planted which are being well looked after. He further elaborated that satellite navigation system is being used for keeping a hawk's eye on the proper upkeep of these saplings. He also detailed that in 2015-16 the forest cover was 1771 square kilometers which has now swelled to 1837 square kilometers.
Mr. Dharamsot said that 2 lakh saplings of sandalwood would be planted in Punjab to make the farmers prosper economically through crop diversification. For this purpose, saplings are being prepared at the medicinal plant nursery in village bhatoli in dasuha. There are plans to get the saplings prepared at Mohali and other places. These saplings would be provided at a rate of Rs. 10-12. Under this programme, the 15000 saplings planted earlier have yielded good results. Divulging more, he said that the department has decided to establish a big saw mill in the kandi area to take the employment generation campaign of the government forward. The project would be coming up at either machhiwara or Hoshiarpur which would give employment to 10000-20000 people.Mr. Dharamsot further said that a special strategy is being chalked out to put a stop to the incidents of wood stealing as part of which the ministers are conducting checks personally at some places while at the others the checking teams are doing the job.On the occasion, Additional Chief Secretary Forests Mr. Satish Chandra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Mr. Jatinder Sharma and Chief Conservator of Forests Mr. Ratna Kumar were also present.