Mangaluru: To compensate for the loss of trees in Shakthinagar, the district administration in a meeting announced that 20 acres of land at Tenkayedapadavu has been given to the Forest Department to grow fresh forest. Finally with housing complex at Shakthinagar is close to seeing the light of the day, the environmentalists are raising concerns as to the additional land earmarked for the project in Shakthinagar.
Former MLA J. R. Lobo in 2017 initiated a housing complex project under the Ashraya Scheme, which promised to provide shelter to roughly 930 poor people in Shakthinagar. For the construction, seven acres of land was reserved for the marginalised. Despite the allegations, in 2018 Lobo along with other officials allotted flats through the draw of lots and later gave the beneficiaries their land ownership certificates. Further, on February 24, 2018 the foundation stone was laid at Holy Cross Church Hall in Shakthinagar.
On anonymity, a local resident and a nature lover told News Karnataka, “During Congress tenure, seven acres of forest were cut down. Initially BJP was against this and they stopped it. Later BJP who took over the project after Congress, increased the number of building and altered the land from 7 acres to 17 acres. Now the additional place they are acquiring is not yet cleared. Though they have allotted 20 acres of land in Tenkeyadapadavu, I am not sure how good this forest is. Cordel Forest has hundreds of old trees that date back to the 18th century.”
When the BJP government came into power, the project was taken up by MLA Vedavyas Kamath.
In response to the environmentalists raising concerns about acquiring more forest area, Kamath said, “Let the people raising objections say whatever they want. All of the paperworks are in my possession. This initiative provided land certificates to 930 families even before the work began. They’ve already provided all of the necessary documentation. When I won, I had to take over and start the project again, but the Forest Department halted it for a while because the trees at Shakthinagar land needed to be taken down.”
He went on to say that those who have objections can convene a press conference and say whatever they want, but he will speak backed up by all of the valid documents he has. “After my government won the election and Yediyurappa became the elected Chief Minister, I took the things up with the Forest Department and other higher officials and asked them to offer me solutions for the project, which they eventually did.”
MLA affirmed that they completed the survey, and the file was duly sent to the State Government from the district administration. The state government will clear the file in ten days and send it to the central government. Within a month, the project will be cleared and cutting of trees will be initiated adopting the entire project.
He also alleged that no survey was done by the officials before starting the project in 2017 for the housing complex in Shakthinagar. “Five such project initiated by former MLA in Mangaluru is in similar condition and I am completing it one by one.” He also claimed that he has documents supporting the same.
As per the official statements, 20 acres of Tenkayedapadavu land is now given as compensatory land to the Forest Department in return for forest land given up for Shakthinagar land project for building housing complex. When asked about the further proceedings of the project, Mangaluru City Corporation Commissioner Akshy Sridhar said, “Corporation has already deposited 64 lakhs towards the Forest Department for plantation purposes in Tenkayedapadavu.”
Environmental activists also claim that the Cordel forest is now called Shakthinagar forest. “With regard to Cordel village named as Shakthinagar forest, MCC is not aware of it and if it’s there they can directly notify us. If there are any other problems, they can approach me and I can provide them with the plans. If they have to make any corrections, we are always ready to do it as well,” added MCC Commissioner.
When asked about clarification on why Tenkeyedapadavu land was chosen, Deputy Commissioner Rajendra K. V told News Karnataka, “The land in Shakthinagar was reserved way back in 2017 and around 930 people have been given land grant certificates and house allotment letters also were given. There are so many naturally grown trees in Shakthinagar and it could be really difficult for the Forest Department to give permission to fell them. That is why they were requesting alternate land. We tried to look for alternate land to construct the houses in the city area. However, we didn’t get any better land like the one in Shakthinagar to construct the housing complex.”
He further stated that since the file was already moved the administration had to use the same Shakthinagar land. Around 50 per cent beneficiaries are waiting for their due share of houses.
“We have sent a proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest Regional Office in Bengaluru through proper procedures. After this, there will be a public hearing to see if there are any objections regarding cutting the tree as there exists a high possibility of activists who will protest against this. My request to them would be that this is not something that we started and we are taking forward whatever was already initiated in the past,” DC added.