The incident occurred in Taurenga buffer area of Udanti Sitanadi tiger reserve, where around 200 hectare of forest land has been encroached upon by felling around 20,000 to 30,000 trees, the reserve's deputy director Varun Jain said
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Villagers allegedly attacked a team of forest personnel and injured three of them when they arrived to clear encroachments inside a tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh's Gariaband district on Friday.
The incident occurred in Taurenga buffer area of Udanti Sitanadi tiger reserve, where around 200 hectare of forest land has been encroached upon by felling around 20,000 to 30,000 trees, the reserve's deputy director Varun Jain told PTI.
The area is located on the border of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, around 200 km from capital Raipur, and is considered Naxalite-affected.
When a forest team reached the village to remove the encroachments and set up water harvesting structures, villagers held three forest guards hostage and assaulted them with sticks, he said.
They also pelted stones on three vehicles of the forest department and one belonging to NGO workers, breaking windshields and window panes, the official said.
The situation was subsequently brought under control and 20 villagers, including women, were detained, he said.
While carrying out GPS-tracking in the area a few months ago, forest personnel found that a large number of trees had been chopped in the area, which was covered with dense forest before 2011-12, the official said.
The GPS-track file was evaluated with Google Earth imagery, which clarified that before 2011-12 there was dense forest in the area, he said.
For further confirmation, the images were matched with satellite images from the Indian Space Research Centre (ISRO), which clearly showed that trees were chopped off on a large scale after 2011-12 in the area and forest land was converted into farmland and huts were built, he said.
The investigation revealed that around 65 families from neighbouring Odisha and adjoining districts of Bastar settled there and named the place as Ichradi village and they felled around 20,000 to 30,000 trees, he said.
People there also allegedly indulged in the smuggling of teak, he said.
The forest department had last month caught a consignment of teak worth Rs 10 lakh from the interstate border in the area, which was reportedly supplied from Ichradi, the official said.
Villagers were served notices twice seeking their replies and documents in support of possessing the forest land. When they did not cooperate, they were asked to vacate the land, but they did not do, he said.
Following this, the forest personnel launched an exercise to remove encroachments on May 26, he said.
Villagers attacked forest staffers, injuring a deputy ranger and forest guard on May 26, he said, adding that six villagers were detained for the incident and later released.
At least 69 huts were removed using a JCB at that time, but again 25-30 huts came up in the area, he said.
"We have planned to set up 50,000 water harvesting pits on the encroached land to prevent soil erosion and recharge underground water," Jain said.
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