Of the total 7,67,419 sq km recorded forest aea (RFA) in the country as per the 2019 data, as much as 13,294.77 sq km - amounting to 1.73 per cent - is under encroachment, with Madhya Pradesh and Assam witnessing most encroachments, the Parliament was informed on Monday.
Replying to a question about encroachment on wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas by Lok Sabha members Chandra Prakash Joshi and Nihal Chand Chauhan, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey said:
"The Ministry has not received any reports from the states/UTs indicating that there has been an increase in cases related to encroachment in wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas across the country."
"The protection and management of forests is primarily the responsibility of the state/UT concerned. The Ministry has written to state governments/UT administrations to remove encroachment as per the existing acts/rules and to ensure that no further encroachment takes place," he said.
In order to prevent and control encroachments, the states and UTs also take various measures such as demarcation and digitisation of forest boundaries, strengthening infrastructure for forest protection, involving fringe area forest communities through Joint Forest Management Committees, Eco Development Committees etc, Choubey added.
There is 7,67,419 sq km of RFA as per the India State of Forest report (ISFR) 2019 and it included reserved forests (4,34,853 sq km), protected forest (2,18,924 sq km) and unclassed forest (1,13,642 sq km). Madhya Pradesh (94,689 sq km), Maharashtra (61,579 sq kms), Odisha (61,204 sq km), Chhattisgarh (59,772 sq km), and Arunachal Pradesh (51,407 sq km) were the states with highest area under RFA.
Amongst the states that recorded highest encroachments, Madhya Pradesh (5,417.31 sq km) and Assam (3,631.42 sq km) led, followed by Karnataka (830.92 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (534.50 sq km), and Andhra Pradesh (343.58 sq km), the data provided by the Ministry showed.