Over 15 lakh acres of forest land in India is under encroachment, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Replying to a question about unsocial elements occupying hundred of hectares of forest land, the minister said: "Encroachment on forest lands has been reported by various state and union territory governments. Protection and management of forests is primarily the responsibility of the concerned governments."
According to data, Madhya Pradesh tops the list with 5.34 lakh acres of forest area under encroachment as of March 2016. Assam with 3.17 lakh of forest area under encroachment comes second as of 2015.
The minister said that except for Goa, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, all other states and union territories have some land under encroachment.
Odisha has over 78,000 acres of forest land encroached while Maharashtra over 67,000 and Arunachal Pradesh over 58,000 acres.
Even Andaman and Nicobar Islands has over 4,000 acres of land encroached. Chandigarh has 14 acres of forest land under encroachment, the minister said.
According to the India State of Forest Report released in 2015, the total forest and tree cover in India is 79.42 million hectares, which translates to about 196.26 million acres -- about 24.16 per cent of the total geographical area of the country.
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