August 02, 2007
African Rats: The Best TB and Landmine Detectives
Trained giant African rats, with their extraordinary sense of smell, can detect whether or not a sputum sample contains TB indicators 48 times faster than a human lab technician. They also are brilliant at detecting mines—and won’t set them off, unlike
dogs or humans, because they are so light.
Ashoka Fellow Bart Weetjens has shown how to put these “HeroRATS” to work in Tanzania. Now he and his HeroRATS organization, APOPO, have been asked to bring this life-saving innovation to the 11 countries of the Great Lakes Region in Africa.
A HeroRAT can screen 40 sputum samples for TB in 10 minutes—a day’s work for a lab technician. HeroRATS are accredited according to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS), just like mine detection dogs, and 23 HeroRAT teams are now deployed
in Mozambique. HeroRATS are cheaper to breed, train, feed, maintain and transport; the use of HeroRATS speeds up landmine clearance and reduces operational costs; the rats are highly intelligent and social creatures, with an highly developed sense of smell;
they are adapted to the environment; and they love to perform repetitive search tasks in exchange for food rewards. Moreover, the African giant rat has a lifespan of eight years, much longer than other types of rats, and can be used for several years after
the one year training period.
APOPO now has a proven, recognized approach—and the challenge to bring it to scale quickly across 11 of Africa’s most troubled countries. APOPO is demonstrating how to do so in Tanzania. It has established a certified animal training center in Morogoro. Skilled
trainers from there then go out to the most affected parts of the country to help local people learn how to train and use the rats.
For further information (including technical reports, videos and articles), please visit the websites
July 24, 2007
The Curse of Copper
Kenya-born film makers, Jenny Sharman and Richard Jones (True Nature Films) won the ’Best Independent’ award at Missoula (IWFF) with their film ’The Curse of Copper’. The film also picked up a merit for music. Made in Ecuador, the film is having a very positive
impact in drawing attention to the plight of a unique cloud forest and local communities that are being threatened by a Canadian mining company. The film is helping to stimulate a growing public campaign to try to stop this open cast copper mine from going
ahead, but, as yet, the company continues to push forward with its plans. If you’d like to see the film, please go to
July 16, 2007
The Congolese film "Everyone for Conservation"(3 hrs) won the Merit Award for best Conservation initiative at the International Wildlife Film Festival, 2007.
The film was produced to bring about change in behavior and attitude critical for the protection of both human and wildlife populations. Produced by a Congolese production team, it is being disseminated by Congolese educators.
The premise is that awareness efforts must be grounded in the communities where the problems manifest themselves; the issues must be locally determined, the voices recognizable to the audiences that view the films, and produced in the language or languages
of the region, in a manner and style that is culturally appropriate. Dissemination is at the community level, in group settings that empower people to think and communicate with each other through shared experience.
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 11, 2007
Tigers may be down to 1,300
Aalarm bells begin to ring; States reluctant to accept statistics, responsibility
This alarming loss highlights the fact that never before has India had fewer tigers, even in 1972, when the census showed 1,827 tigers.
The current estimates have been arrived at as part of the all-India estimate of tigers conducted by Wildlife Institute of India - a task entrusted to them by Project Tiger. It may be recalled that on May 23, the Ministry of Environment and Forests released
to the media tiger numbers for Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan - the rest detailed are expected to be made public sometime later in the year. ---------------
The enumeration shows that the big cat is severely depleted across its range - in some cases to the point of no return. For example, in Jharkhand(12), Chhattisgarh (25) and Bihar (20), the tiger is almost a write-off. Besides the abysmally low populations,
insurgency plagues protected areas in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, so much so that they are out of administrative control. One can also forget about a safe haven for the tiger in the Northeast, except for Assam which has about 75 tigers, mainly concentrated
in Kaziranga. The rest would not total over 25 spread over three parks - Namdapha has at the most five tigers, with not enough prey base even to sustain these, Dampha in Mizoram would have between three to five, Pakhui-Nameri in Arunachal being the best among
them, with five to eight tigers. The marshy terrain of Sundarbans did not allow for a census by the WII, but a previous enumeration carried out by the Indian Statistical Institute showed that the reserve has no more than 65 tigers, while Buxa and Jaldapara
in North Bengal has a low, unviable population.
Source : http://www.dailypioneer.com
Article by Prerna Singh Bindra on 5July 2007
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!