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Lemru Elephant Reserve will not infringe on rights of villages, forest dwellers: Minister

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Villagers objecting to proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve expansion. (File Photo)

Raipur (Chhattisgarh) [India], October 20 (ANI): Denying reports about the displacement of the villagers and reduction in their forest rights due to Lemru Elephant Reserve, Chhattisgarh Forest Minister Mohammad Akbar on Monday said the project will not infringe on the rights of villages and forest dwellers.
“There will be no displacement in villages or reduction in forest rights due to the establishment of Lemru Elephant Reserve. Rights of villages and forest dwellers will remain intact. Forest rights will be protected, and there will be no hindrance in the collection of minor forest produce,” said Akbar.
He said elephants belonging from other areas will not be settled in Lemru Elephant Reserve, and the situation will remain the same as it is at present.
“Elephant Reserves are already present in the state of Jharkhand and Orissa and there has been no reduction in the rights of villagers and residents or any kind of displacement. In fact in the Sarguja division of Chhattisgarh, there is Tamor Pingla, Semarsot, Badalkhol sanctuaries and Elephant Reserves as well since 2011, but there was no displacement caused in the village. The above three are sanctuaries, while the Lemru Elephant Reserve is being formed as a Conservation Reserve, which will ensure all the rights of the villages and forest dwellers will remain intact as compared to the sanctuary,” he said.
Akbar said the rumours and misinformation regarding the Elephant Reserve are being spread by certain elements with vested interests, whereas only activities like coal mining, large industries, hunting and poaching of wildlife, setting fire to forest are going to be banned
“Panchayat representatives will also be included in the committee to be formed for the management of the Conservation Reserve, and no work will be taken ahead without their opinion and prior approval. Panchayats will get an additional amount to prevent human-elephant conflict. Overall, the formation of the Lemru Elephant Reserve under section 36 (a) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 will fully protect the interests of the forest, forest dwellers and wildlife,” he added.
The Forest Minister also cleared the rumours being spread in the state, concerning the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decision in the case of the state of Tamil Nadu.
“There was no establishment of Elephant Reserve in Tamil Nadu, but a land acquisition notification was issued regarding the Elephant Corridor. For Lemru, the forest department is not going to acquire any kind of land and the notification will cover only government land, ie there is no restriction on the ownership, purchase and sale of private land,” he said.
The residents of villages which are falling under the area prescribed for the formation of Lemru Elephant Reserve are opposing the project as they are fear that they may get displaced and will have no lands to carry out agriculture.
Villagers in Surguja are objecting to the state government’s proposal to expand the area of proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve. A total of 39 villages in the district will be affected by the project.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had in August last year announced the formation of Lemru Elephant Reserve aiming at minimising human-elephant conflict and destruction of property in addition to providing a permanent habitat for the wild tuskers. The cabinet later proposed to extend the area for the project by 1,995.48 square kilometres. (ANI)

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