In pursuant to the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order dated12.12.1996 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 202/1995, T.N. Godavarman Thirumalpad V/s Union of India and others, the process of identification of the Private Forests areas in Goa was started in year 1997, with constitution of S. M. Sawant Committee on 24.01.1997.

The Criteria adopted by Committee is as follows:

  1. 75% of the tree Composition of such lands should be of Forestry Species
  2. The area should be contiguous to the Government Forest Lands If in isolation, The minimum area identified should be 5 hectare
  3. Canopy density should not be less than 0.4.

The Sawant Committee submitted its final report on 10.12.1999, identifying 46.60 sq km area as private forest. Upon examination of the Sawant committee report, the State Government decided to constitute another committee on dated 04.09.2000 under the chairmanship of Dr. Hemant Y. Karapurkar to demarcate and delimit all those private properties having natural forests standing thereon and to mutate all such identified areas in the Land Records to show the classification as ‘Forests’.

However, it took considerable time to the state Government to assure the Apex Court that Karapurkar committee was working towards identifying the additional areas, so as to complete the task that remained uncompleted by Sawant Committee. Subsequently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court appreciated the additional work done by the committee and directed to submit report by January, 2003. Since considerable time was lapsed due to the PIL of Goa Foundation, the Karapurkar committee could resume its works in February, 2002 only and the committee could not go beyond identification of survey numbers. The Karapurkar committee submitted its report, identifying 20.52 sq km of additional Private Forest area in the state on 16/12/2002.

Thus, the total area of Private Forests identified by both the committees was 67.02sq km. Both the Committees had identified the Private Forest areas based on occular approximation assessment and had suggested an exhaustive survey to find out the actual extent. While the State Government was contemplating the required action on above mentioned two reports, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa passed an Order dated 02.07.2003 in MCA No. 350/2003 in Writ Petition No. 286/2003 directing the State Government to demarcate the non-Forest areas from Forest areas on the basis of Sawant and Karapurkar Committee reports.

Another Writ Petition no 334/2006 was also filed by Goa Foundation in Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa on 25.07.2006, seeking direction for the State Government to complete the process of identification of private forests within a time bound manner in terms of Apex court order dated 12.12.1996 and report compliance. Vide its order dated 16.12.2009, Hon’ble High Court directed the state government to constitute 2 new committees, for both the districts, for the purpose of identification of balance areas of private forests. In pursuance of this order, the state government constituted North Goa District Committee under the chairmanship of Sh. K G Sharma and South Goa District Committee under the chairmanship of Sh. P V Sawant. However, both these committees did not give any recommendations within stipulated 2 years’ time, therefore, the state government constituted 02 new committees namely North Goa Forest Division Committee under the chairmanship of Sh. V T Thomas and South Goa Forest Division Committee under the chairmanship of Sh. F X Araujo on 27.11.2012.

Meanwhile, pursuant to the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa order dated 02.07.2003, the Goa Forest department carried out the exercise of demarcation of non-forest areas from Forest areas after ground verification. This exercise took 5 years for the State Government to complete and the final report of demarcation team was submitted to Hon’ble High Court on 30.06.2008. As per this demarcation report, the actually surveyed and demarcated private forest area came out to be 41.20 sq km.

However, the said demarcation report was challenged before the Hon’ble High Court in Writ Petition No. 673/2008 by Goa Foundation, saying that there is a reduction in area as referred by both Sawant and Karapurkar Committee and that demarcated by the demarcation team of Forest Department.

After constitution of Hon’ble National Green Tribunal, the Writ Petition No. 673/2008, Writ Petition No. 286/2003 and Writ Petition No. 334/2006 were transferred by Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa to NGT and the petitions were numbered as follows:-

  1. 673/2008 – Application No. 18 THC/2013
  2. 334/2006 – Application No. 16 THC/2013

Vide its order dated 07/01/2016 in Application No. 18(THC)/2013(WZ), The Hon’ble NGT, WZ, Pune directed the State Government to constitute a committee and evolve internal mechanism to demarcate private forest areas in each of the land which is recognized as full and private forest by Sawant and Karapurkar committee.

In pursuance of the order dated 07/01/2016, the Government of Goa, vide Notification dated 23.04.2018 disbanded the two Forest Division committees (North and South) and constituted a new Committee, to review identified Private Forest areas identified by the earlier Sawant and Karapurkar Committees and also by the two Forest Division committees (North and South) on 23/04/2018. The new Review Committee headed by Deputy Conservator of Forests (Working Plan) Deepshika Sharma Committee its review of areas identified by Sawant and Karapurkar and submitted its report to Government on 20/06/2019, and it was filed before Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 06/12/2019 and was accepted by Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 18/08/2020. In the said report, the review committee has identified an area of 46.11 sq km as private forests.

Further, the Government of Goa constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of CCF to review the private forests provisionally identified by Thomas and Araujo Committee vide notification No. DCF (WP)/Pvt. For/ 16(THC)/2013(WZ)/19-20/119 dated 18/06/2020 and the review work of these provisionally identified survey number is in progress.