February 25, 2008
The Cambodia Experience
Wildlife Alliance launched the acclaimed Kouprey Express mobile environmental education unit to teach Cambodian villagers of wildlife and forestry laws and help them manage their resources while protecting areas rich in biodiversity. The Kouprey Express
is a bus, outfitted with engaging and interactive education and outreach tools, that travels throughout rural Cambodia to villages, schools, and community centers.
The Kouprey Express spends much of its time working in communities that
are adjacent to national parks, protected forests, and other key centers for wildlife and biodiversity. There, communities are highly dependent on the environment, which provides much of their food, water, shelter, and traditional medicine. Because these communities
are so reliant on natural resources, it is vital that Wildlife Alliance help them to live sustainably alongside their forests, water supplies and wildlife.
To date, Wildlife Alliance’s Cambodia Conservation Program has reached more than 50,000 children and adults and provided schoolteachers in rural Cambodia with world-class environmental education curricula. The Kouprey Express theme for 2007-2008 is Our Forest,
Our Future. Through films, presentations, classroom exercises, interactive performances, and question-and-answer sessions.
February 02, 2008
November 14, 2007
Tigers and tribals
” Is it possible to reconcile the interests of what seems to be two competing groups?
Two years ago the debate was stormy. The draft forest rights bill was being worked upon by a government just sworn into power. Around this time, it was discovered—to everyone’s horror—that all tigers from what was supposed to be a protected area, the Sariska
National Park, had been poached. Opposition to the draft bill mounted; conservationists argued that this “populist” measure would be the last nail in the tiger’s coffin.
I was asked to head a task force to suggest how tigers could be safeguarded. Over three months the specialists we met believed that it was important to reserve areas for wildlife. These would need to be inviolate areas—exclusively earmarked for animals where
human interference would have to be kept at its minimum. Otherwise, they said, the tiger would not survive. They believed that if the forest rights bill gave people ownership over these lands it would be disastrous.
I approached the issue from different perspectives. I had for long understood that the future of people and forests is entwined. I also knew from experience that regeneration of forests is not possible unless local people benefit. But I was willing to listen
to the experience of those who believed in the tiger. If co-existence was not possible, we needed to find strategies to relocate people who lived in the tiger’s territory.
The issue seemed simple, but the replies shocked me. After 30 years of wildlife conservation efforts, fronted by the country’s most powerful, we had forgotten people. In these 30 years we had managed to relocate 80-odd villages from protected reserves. We estimated
that another 1,500 villages existed in just 28 tiger reserves. Worse, relocation was done in the most ham-handed and inhuman manner. We met families who had decided to return to the harassment and poverty of their homes within the sanctuary as their resettled
parcel of land was full of stones. The authorities had done just about everything to make people trespassers in their own land; everything to turn them against the tiger we want to protect. This would not work we concluded.
Our answer was two-pronged. One, we agreed that inviolate space was important for wild animals. But the people who were making space for the tiger needed to be given a good deal—not marginal forestland which would make them more destitute. Two, we said that
we needed to be realistic. We suggested the need to identify and prioritize relocation of those villages that were in the most critical of wildlife habitats. This had to be done within a time-bound schedule. In the remaining villages, which would have to live
in the reserves, we suggested a new bargain—sharing benefits of conservation with local communities—from preferential shares in tourism to collaborative management of our reserves.
This led to some developments. The government agreed to enhance the package for relocated families from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh; it agreed to conduct a census of tigers in the country, which would pinpoint their presence in different habitats. The tiger census
is the first step to identify the critical habitats that need to be protected and to list the human settlements that need to be relocated. With this done, the agenda of co-existence will need to kick in.
------------- In late 2005, the bill presented to parliament included a provision that temporary pattas (land deeds) would be given to people who were to be relocated from sanctuaries and national parks. This would ensure that their rights were protected, but
also it would ensure that government would undertake their relocation within a time-bound schedule.
Then the tribal lobby, which has the upper hand in parliament upped the ante. In late 2006, the act, finalized by a joint parliamentary committee, dropped this clause. Inside, it inserted an altogether new term, critical wildlife habitats, which would need
to be established as areas to be kept inviolate for wildlife. In the rules for the act to go into force, they have rubbed in this point. They want ministries to issue guidelines regarding the nature, process, validation and interpretation of data to be collected
and roles of expert committees who will now designate critical wildlife habitats, virtually questioning the legality of all protected areas.
This has led conservationists to react. They want all wildlife areas (some 600-odd) to be re-designated as critical wildlife habitats and removed from the ambit of the act. Now they have the upper hand. For now, the act is stalled. The next round belongs to
the tribal lobby. It is after all a wrestling match.
In all this, let us be clear, the losers are tribals and tigers. It is not tigers versus
tribals. It is everyone against them.”
July 13, 2007
COPY of the message sent 11.7.07
Dear all fellow foresters,
We the retired Forest Officers have discussed overall impact of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (2 of 2007) and draft Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional
Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2007.The Ministry of TribalAffairs Notification New Delhi, 19th June, 2007 has invited Objections or suggestions from all persons likely to be affected
by the 6th of August 2007.Any objection or suggestion which may be received from any person in
respect of the said draft rules within the period so specified shall be
considered by the Central Government. Objections or suggestions, if any, may be addressed to the Joint Secretary tothe Government of India, Ministry of
Tribal Affairs, 7th Floor, A–Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi – 110001.
We foresters are concerned when we find that these rules are meant to hand back rights to tribals over land and forest produce that they have traditionally inhabited and used for sustenance
and continue to do so even today.But a campaign, more covert than up front, by some wildlife groups, has instead turned the bill into a battle of people versus wildlife. The campaign has found friends in a set of parliament members who
with their powerful reach in Delhi’s corridors have perhaps got away with scuttling the bill. The Union ministry of environment and forests has enjoined the battle.
The Act is here to stay, but the finer details could be modified based on suggestions.Comments, objections and suggestions on the draft Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules,
2007, are being invited by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, New Delhi to reach by the 6th of August 2007. Comments can be sent by email too.
Those of you who are familiar with the legal details please log on and post your comments
Shri SA Shah IFS (Retd.) and many forest officials like myself would like to request you to kindly consider the following points for research study. In case this information is available kindly share the findings with the undersigned. This
will substantiate the myth that the Impact of Regularization of Unauthorized Cultivation would be postive on the economy of the affected tribals.
Salient points of study are given below.
A line in reply will be highly appreciated.
- Present status of allotted forestlands: Have they improved in productivity or have they deteriorated? What was the quality of farming practices followed by the concerned forest dwellers?
- What has been the input to improve such lands? Has the soil improved? Was the soil analyzed? If so, what are the results of the analysis?
- What has been the annual income from such lands? Have they provided sustainable livelihood to the concerned tribals?
- Did the allotment of such lands cause any social tension?
- What has been the ecological and environmental impact of such small and scattered pieces of land under cultivation? These should include:- 1. Biodiversity 2. Fire 3. Grazing 4. Illicit cutting of trees 5. Erosion in the adjoining areas and 6. Margin effect.
- Did the allotment create social tensions in the community?
- Did the allotment of forestland prevent them from annual migration to the urbam areas close by?
- Did the allotment of forest land make the beneficiaries to send their children to school .regularly?
S.K.Verma IFS (Retd.)
Former PCCF Rajasthan
President- Green Arc Society, Udaipur &
Regional Convenor Indian National Trust
For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)Udaipur
July 10, 2007
Re: Draft Forest Rules - Objections.
The Amendment in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by which the National Tiger Conservation Authority was set up as also the Forest Rights Act and the Rules provides for greater role of people in daclaration of National Parks, Sanctuaries and specifically
in creation of critical wildlife habitats as well as Inviolate areas for wildlife conservation. However, the scheme is such that now if an area is to be declared as critical wildlife habitat, the Consent of the individuals as well as gram sabha will be required
at almost every stage i.e from relocation to acceptance of the relocation package. Thus the whole process is Consent driven. (This to me is fine since there is a need to ensure greater public participation in decisions which concerns the life of the people)
Unfortunately, if the same area is to be opened up for mining or construction of a hydel power project or even SEZ, no such consent will be required. All that will be required is a "public Hearing", which too is not mandatory; the Panel for public hearing
will comprise of District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate and no representative from the Panchayats or Gram Sabha and further the Rehabilatation and other issues need not be even shared with the public. The Project proponents need not explain
as to why other alteratives have not been considered.
Thus while we would have effectively delayed or have made the process of creation of National Parks and Sanctuaries as also critical wildlife habitat difficult, there is no safeguard so far as protection of these areas are concerned. Thus, while the Forest
Department has to follow the "consent" prosedure for declaration of the area, a Mining Company in order to mine the area need to follow the EIA procedure as contained in the highly diluted Environment Impact Assessment Procedure.
The proponents of the Forest Rights Act, have thus played into the hands of the Mining and Industrial lobby since National Parks and Sanctuaries are the only areas where any such actvity is prohibited. The Act also targets the weakest of all the State
agencies i.e the Forest Department while it does not impact the Private Sector at all.....
July 10, 2007
Rule 13 practically covers all possible sources for gathering evidences with regard to establishment of rights. However, a word of caution needs to be put across to the nodal authorities that forest
resources in the country are not inexhaustible. In fact, they are suffering depletion at an alarming rate. The instant Act while tackling the core issue of poverty among tribals, may have just released the genie of greed among the expectants,
specially since OTFD, who out number the tribals by a factor of three or more, are now part of the exercise. Forest areas in non Scheduled / Tribal Areas States stand to be affected in a major way by way of loss of forest land, productivity, biological diversity
as well as water security. A lot, therefore, is at stake.
Rule 16 - 21 concern declaration and notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats. The State Chief Wildlife Warden may have formulated his comments on the same. It would be in the fitness of things to
obtain his comments on the impact of these rules on the wildlife existing outside PAs. There is a need for the Chief Wildlife Warden to exercise abundant caution while commenting on Rule 19, i.e. resettlement package as per section 4(2)(d). For this purpose,
not only the existing provisions of the Constitution but also State laws pertaining to Resettlement would need to be studied. There are many areas where there would be need to “read between the lines”. Hence, assistance of legal experts should be actively
THE ABOVE COMMENTS ARE OF A VERY PRELIMINARY NATURE. THE MOEF HAS NOT ALLOWED TIME FOR WIDER CONSULTATIONS. IT WOULD BE WORTHWHILE TO REQUEST THE MOEF TO URGE THE MINISTRY OF TRIBAL AFFAIRS NOT TO RUSH THROUGH THE PROCESS
OF FRAMING RULES. IT MAY BE CONVEYED THAT FOREST DEPARTMENT IS ANTI TRIBAL. THE COUNTRY NEEDS TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN
CONFERMENT OF FOREST RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY OF THE COUNTRY. IT MAY BE BORNE IN MIND THAT POVERTY IS THE BIGGEST POLLUTER. BUT LET IT NOT BECOME THE EXECUTIONER OF THE NATION’S BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES AND, THEREFORE, ECOLOGICAL SECURITY. WE ARE
A COUNTRY OF OVER 1 BILLION PEOPLE, WHO OCCUPY BARELY 2.4% OF THE EARTH’S LANDMASS AND 1% OF THE EARTH’S FOREST COVER! OVER 17% OF GOBAL LIVE STOCK MAURADS OUR NATURAL LANDSCPES DAY IN AND DAY OUT. CONSEQUENTLY, OURS RIVERS CARRY 35% OF GLOBAL SILT LOAD! STATES
LIKE MAHARASHTRA, WITH PER CAPITA WATER AVAILABILITY OF ONLY 595 CUBIC METERS / ANNUM, ARE ALREADY SITTING ON THE BRINK OF A WATER FAMINE. A MAJORITY OF OUR FORESTS OCCUPY UPPER CATCHMENTS. THAT TRIBALS OTHER POOR NEED TO BE ADEQUATELY COMPENSATED IS NOT DENIED.
IN FACT, IT IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR. HOWEVER, THERE IS NO NEED TO ACCOMPLISH IT WITH AN ANGRY FIST POINTED AT FOREST ADMINISTRATION. THE EXISTING FOREST LAWS ARE QUITE ADEQUATE TO ACT AS THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE TRIBAL ACT. THERE IS A NEED TO WORK FOR ACHIEVING
July 10, 2007
Rule 4.9 needs to be closely looked at in the light of Constitutional provisions cited above as well as existing provisions of Section 28 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Section 13 of the Act already
clarifies that “save as otherwise provided in this Act and the Provisions of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas )Act, 1996, the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time
being in force. Therefore, rather than framing rules which tend to override even the Constitution, existing provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 may be used. Of course, it would involve restricting the definition of community forest resources to the legal
limits of Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. It may be further borne in mind that ownership of MFP has been limited only to community and that too, in the Scheduled Areas.
Rule 4.11 concerns right to Intellectual Property and Biodiversity ( Section 3(1) (k) ).
The entire issue of access to biological resources has been addressed by another Central Act, viz. the Biodiversity Act, 2002. In so far as the question of Intellectual Property Rights is concerned, National Biodiversity Authority is the final Authority.
Every State / UT is required to set up a State Biodiversity Board under that Act. It should be sufficient to provide in the instant rule that the enjoyment of right to biodiversity of a village shall be in accordance with provisions of that Act and rules made
under the same. The Biodiversity Act already recognizes claim of the local community to bio resources and hence adequate and elaborate mechanism would be prescribed once the State Board is set up. Panchayats / Gram Sabhas have an important role to play in
the management of local bio resources and are, therefore, vital stakeholders in the ownership of usufructs relating to the same.
Rule 4.12 & 4.13 concern
in situ rehabilitation and settlement of displaced persons.
MOEF should frame guidelines incorporating adequate safeguards for rehabilitation on account
of non forestry projects ( including resettlement in PAs ).
With these provisions the entire burden of resettlement of the displaced persons from forest lands even for non forestry purposes would shift to forests, thereby converting forests into virtual
land banks. In the ensuing scenario of continuous fragmentation of forest lands, all thoughts of scientific forest and wildlife management should be abandoned.
Rules 5 (a) to (e) seek to
shift the mantle of forest / wildlife management from the Forest Department to Gram Sabhas. This needs to be accomplished strictly in conformity with the provisions of Articles 243, 243A to 243O and their application to the Scheduled Areas. As already stated,
existing provisions of Section 28 of the Indian Forest Act. In fact, the existing draft may render the existing forest and wildlife management ineffective, which would be dangerous for ecological and water safety of India, specially Maharashtra. It would
be in the fitness of things for the State Forest Departments to notify village forests, make rules for their joint management and hand over the same to the respective Panchayats. These forests may be defined as community forests or community forest resources
in the Act.
Rule 7 needs to be in conformity with the Constitutional provisions existing with regard to Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. The State Legislatures have an important role to play in enactment of laws pertaining
to Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. In fact, in States like Maharashtra, elaborate Panchayat Acts exist which have prescribed a distinct administrative niche for Gram Sabhas by way of development sub-committees. Care should be taken to ensure that the existing administrative
frame work is not disturbed. The instant rule provides for election of members of the proposed Forest Rights Committee! It needs to be examined whether such a provision exists in the Village Panchayats Act. In fact, Forest Rights Committee should be formed
in accordance with the provisions of the Village Panchayats Act.
Rule 12 : There is a need for exercising abundant caution as “other traditional forest dwellers” ( OTFD )
may come to form bulk of the beneficiaries. It may be borne in the mind that about 24 million people inhabit forested villages in the State. There are, on the other hand, 9.1 million tribals in the State, not all of whom dwell in forests. The
process of identification of OTFD is to be set in to motion by the Gram Sabha. We may be creating a class of people, who, stand to be called OTFD irrespective of their caste, creed and race and, above all, economic status besides political power.
July 10, 2007
Rule 4(2) of the draft rules seeks to include fuelwood and stones in the list of MFP. These are included in the definition of MFP
in the Act.
Rule4.3(a) needs to be qualified with the inclusion of MFP as defined in the Act
rather than “all MFP regardless of whether they are nationalized, or previously restricted or prohibited and all items provided in all state Acts, Rules, Orders and Directions.”
Rule 4.3(b) in its application to forest areas outside the village boundaries, has the potential to lead to
inter village conflicts.
Rule 4.3© The Act confers ownership of MFP on the
beneficiaries under the Act. The question of payment of royalty should not arise!
Rule 4.3(d) is near impossible to implement in view of jurisdictional issues already discussed above.
Rule 4.3(e) goes beyond the scope of Section 3© wherein it is limited to “right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within
or outside village boundaries.”
& 4.3(g) similarly, go beyond the scope of the Act and serve to further limit the powers under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, with regard to transit to forest produce. Therefore, they need to be opposed.
& 4.4(d) may create right of communities from other States such as Kathiawadis of Gujarat, Graziers from Rajasthan, shepherds from various States thereby not only causing irrevocable damage to forests but also leading to inter
community conflicts. In fact, the right to grazing should be subject to the carrying capacity of forests and be in conformity with the Grazing Policy / Rules framed by the respective States.
Forest grazing was made free in 1935, which only lead to vast devastation in natural forests. It is well known that grazing is the major cause of forest degradation in India.
Rule 4.5(a) may only
legalize the pernicious practice of shifting cultivation.
Rule 4.5© & Rule 4.5(d)
provide for the role of traditional community institutions in the delineation and determination of customary habitat suo motu initiation of process of determination of forest rights by SDLC. This may lead to political
interference, and should, therefore, be avoided. Suo motu determination of rights is not prescribed in the Act.
Rule4.8(b) right of the forest dwellers to MFP which is not prescribed under the Act, except for “critical wildlife habitats”.
July 10, 2007
Some of the other glaring inconsistencies are:
Rule 3 ( 1 ) defines the Gram Sabha. But the definition needs to strictly conform to the Constitutional provisions. It may be borne in mind that the provisions relating to thew Scheduled areas are restricted to only 2278 of the 15694 forested villages
in the State. The Seventy-third Amendment empowers the Panchayat and not the Gram Sabha. The Bombay Village Panchayats Act, 1958, which was amended in 2003 to incorporate greater role for Gram Sabhas, deals with this issue differently. The expression,“Adult
members” does not find a mention in the Constitution.
Instead, the Constitution mentions Gram Sabha as “a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level.
Rule 3 (2) prescribes functions of the Gram Sabha under the Act, which, as per the Constitution, is a duty cast upon the State Legislature.
Rule 3(4) prescribes for constitution of Sub Divisional Committee. Under Clause ©, it includes – The Forest Officer in charge of a Subdivision. This needs to be changed as this designation
may not exist universally. An ACF or SDFO would be a better proposition.
Rule 4(1)(a) seeks to define “family” as mentioned in Section 4(6) of the Act. But, the definition appears to be at variance with provisions of Section 4(4) of the Act. The concept of more than one wife and that of dependent persons other than minor
children seeks to expand the scope of claim as to a forest right. There is a need to restrict this definition.
Rule 4(1)© also appears to overshoot the provisions of the Act in providing that “in case of community rights to land, the entire
area under actual use may be recognized and vested with the community.”
Section 4(6) on the other hand, unambiguously provides that “where the forest rights are recognized and vested by sub-section (1) are in respect of land mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 3 such land shall be under the occupation
of an individual or family or community, on the date of commencement of this Act and shall be restricted to the area under actual occupation
and shall in no case exceed an area of four hectares.” In Bhamragarh Forest Division, 35 tribal families are practicing
shifting cultivation over 10,000 ha of forest land. The Forest Department of Maharashtra does not admit existence of shifting cultivation in the State. If the draft rule’s provisions are allowed to go unchallenged, the department stands to lose
10,000 ha of thick forests @ about 280 ha / family!
July 10, 2007
Comments by Ashok Sharma I.F.S
SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS
( RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS ) RULES, 2007
Of the 43711 villages in the State, 15694 are forested. The forested villages have a population of over 24 million which accounts for about 25% population of the State.
There are 353 tehsils in the State, of which 27 are located in the Scheduled Areas, where 9.1 million tribal population of the State lives. The draft rules have the potential to cause
major adverse impacts on forests and wildlife in the State, specially in light of the Constitutional provisions which many of these rules seek to override.
The Act defines “community forest resources” as customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape
in the case of pastoral communities, including reserved forests, protected forests and protected areas such as Sanctuaries and National Pars to which the community had traditional access. However, Atricle 243G, which empowers Panchayats and not the Gram Sabha,
to plan and implement village level schemes, does not include the same in the Eleventh Schedule, i.e. the Village List! The Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 also does not make any exception in this regard. Obviously,
the Constitution does not envisage extending the powers of Panchayats beyond the Village limits.
The Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996, introduces the role of Gram Sabha in the village administration. The instant Act and the draft rules, however, seek to extend purview of the The
Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 to the non Scheduled Areas too!
The Eleventh Schedule incorporates “maintenance of community assets” it item no. 29. However, it remains to be clarified whether this includes “community forest resources”
per se. Although, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, as applicable to the State of Maharashtra, does not define “community forests”, it does provide, under Section 28, for the constitution of “village forest” But, such village forest also is limited to the boundaries
of the village Panchayat concerned. “Community Forest” is also not defined either in the Act or in the Draft Rules.
Similarly, the Constitution empowers the State Legislature to powers of Panchayats / Gram Sabhas, for the Scheduled and other areas. Can this power
be over ridden by a set of Rules, made under a Central Law? The draft rules seek precisely to do so which appears to be going beyond the Constitutional provisions.
The Draft Rules introduce certain definitions which are not incorporated in the Act. They include “bonafide livelihood needs”, “claimant’, ‘fixed demand holdings”,
“forest rights committee”, “other traditional rights” and “primarily reside in and who depend on forests or forest lands”. Under the definition of other traditional rights, traditional agricultural practices have been incorporated, which is a gross externality.