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Illegal land acquisition, environmental degradation threatens future of Chakrata

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By Rajanya Nandi

Chakrata, a middle Himalayan army base has been blessed to be serene mainly due to low tourism activity. Many changes have been observed by locals and nature observers during the last 10 years in infrastructure development, exploitation for tourism, etc.
Recently, it has been widely reported that there is an increase in illegal land acquisition from the poor Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who are habitants of Chakrata. Right from the year 2015/16, efforts have been said to be underway to somehow influence the local Scheduled Caste individuals to lease out their lands for throwaway prices to vested interests, who have employed proxies in Dehradun to act on their behalf and to get these land holdings.
Absurd terms, such as the poor Scheduled Caste persons selling/leasing the land, not even having the right to challenge the said land sale, etc., have been included in such transactions and based on such documents, work is now underway to completely destroy the local ecology of Chakrata without even understanding it.
It has also been brought to the notice of local authorities through various applications that despite the authorities being notified about the illegal and unjust purchases being made at the expense of the local persons, no action has been taken. The environmental damage through massive hill cutting exercises, buildings with cement, concrete have now started in Chakrata. This means eventually the beautiful, serene Chakrata landscape will turn into another Mussoorie. One such example is at the NH 707, near Garh Bairaat, Village Singhor, Kalsi, where due to extensive hill cutting activity, the debris has completely covered a nala. This also disrupts vegetation, hydrology and animal movement.
The sorry state of affairs is revealed by the fact that the local administration is not taking any corrective steps and this is leading to a disaster situation where the very stability of the hill ranges is being compromised. The debris is cluttering the road and the nearby water bodies and calls for urgent attention from authorities responsible.
There are many other ways to improve the area’s economy through a combination of preservation of nature, controlled tourism that will benefit locals, and will strengthen the local employment and agriculture.