Madras-HC angry at govt over solar fences in reserve forest
(Sourced from PTI)
Madras HC reprimanded PWD and Forest department for allowing encroachers to put up solar-fences in the reserved forest and water-spread area in Tamil Nadu's Erode and Coimbatore districts and directed the forest department to take immediate steps to remove them. A division bench comprising Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice G K Ilanthiraiyan passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by T Murugavel.
The matter relates to the lease of lands in the water-spread area of the Bhavanisagar dam in Erode and Coimbatore districts to landless farmers by a Tamil Nadu's Agriculture department's order dated October 18, 1967. However, after the Forest Conservation Act came into force in 1980, forest-lands could no longer be legally leased out as farming and cultivation-area for non-forestry activities, the petitioner submitted.
The petitioner also alleged that the practice of farming on forest lands continued and agricultural activities are carried out till date by encroachers, which is unlawful and illegal. He further submitted that though the lands were leased out to poor farmers, later cultivation was carried out by wealthy farmers and mafias. He also alleged farmers had erected solar fences to restrict movement of animals.
The judges said, "It prima facie appears from the status-report that both the Forest department as well as PWD are totally insensitive to the environment and ecological-disaster happening right under their eyes." They also rejected arguments submitted by a senior counsel, who appeared on behalf of some of the farmers, that the solar-fence was only to scare away wild animals and to protect crops.
The bench directed both the departments to remove the solar-fences and said if the officials needed police help they can approach the Erode superintendent of police. It also suo motu impleaded the collector, superintendent of police, and revenue-officer of Erode district as respondents for effective implementation and posted the case to July-25 for further hearing. It also directed PWD to file a status report.