The Delhi government is in a quandary about declaring the Delhi Ridge a reserved forest. Claims to the area must be settled by the forest settlement officer before the government can issue a final notification under the Indian Forest Act on the status of the Ridge. However, only about 50 of the thousands of claims were filed by the last date of December 12 in response to a government gazette notification.
Although parts of the Ridge had been designated as reserved forest as early as 1913, several portions have since been allotted by the government to various ministries and for the development of research and educational institutions. Besides legal rights, the government must also settle traditional usufruct rights of those who have been living in the area for generations. Encroachments are another contentious issue.
The poor response to filing of claims means a delay in the process of demarcation of boundary of the reserved forest area. To get over the problem, the government is expected to cancel all allotments on the Ridge made after the Forest Conservation Act, which bans all non-forestry activity in a reserved forest area, came into force in 1980. Post-1980 developments on the Ridge will be identified on the basis of the Delhi Development Authority Master Plan describing allotments and encroachments in the city each year.
Meanwhile, conservation organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature that have been lobbying for greater protection of the area fear that the government could take this opportunity to regularise pre-1980 encroachments.
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