Panaji, May 18 (IANS): Alleging that the Goa government is trying to convert forest land into concrete cover, state unit Congress chief Amit Patkar on Wednesday demanded a judicial investigation of recent 'forest fire' incidents under the retired high court judge.
The Congress led by Patkar submitted a memorandum to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and demanded an inquiry into the matter.
"Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane has lied to the people of Goa over incidents of forest fire. While giving answers in Legislative Assembly Questions, he says that in the last five years damage is zero in terms of forest, trees, species," Patkar said.
"How can he say that damage is zero, when there are species in the forest? Without completing the inquiry, how can he say there is no damage," he questioned.
"Actually, the forest department is yet to complete the inquiry of the Forest Fires in Goa from 2019 to 2023. The minister is trying to convert the forest into concrete cover," Patkar said.
"This is why we demand a judicial inquiry under a retired high court judge, about how fire incidents are taking place and also about the damage caused," Patkar reiterated.
Patkar demanded that the government declare the forest lands, which were engulfed by fire, as 'No Development Zone'.
"The government should declare these forest lands as 'No Development Zone' and should not allow the conversion of the land to Settlement Zones or Eco-Tourism Projects," he said.
According to official records, about 470.22 hectares of Forest Area was affected by 200 incidents of Forest Fires from 2019 till March 2023.
Congress Aldona MLA Carlos Alvares Ferreira said that fire incidents are taking place in the prime areas of government forest areas and private areas.
"The government should inquire about these incidents and no development should be allowed there. It should plant trees in these areas and maintain forest cover," Ferreira said.
He alleged that the government is trying to make concrete jungles.