Monday, October 8, 2007

Forest Rights Act 2006

I recently came across this petition by Vanashakti which targets the withdrawal of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

If you're wondering what is the FRA then here are snippets from various articles that summarize it:
  • " ...is a historic legislation, the first legislative measure in India's history aimed at addressing the seizure of the homes, lands and livelihoods of tribals and forest dwellers through the declaration of 'government forests.'"[Source: FPP]
  • "...The new law recognises the right to homestead, cultivable and grazing land (occupied, and in use since December 2005), and to non-timber forest produce..." [Source]
  • "...This Act will give away up to 4 hectares of forest land to each tribal family and others dwelling in reserve forests, sanctuaries and national parks..." [Source: Vanashakti]
This act has antagonized many conservationists and environmental agencies and on reading their argument I felt rightly so. As Vanashakti says, the forests do not belong to any section they belong to all. However the FPP claims that these forests are not the uninhabited wilderness that they are being portrayed as but are home to forest communities. What both parties do side with is the denunciation of the act: by FPP because the act supposed to benefit them is being misused and by organizations like Vanashakti because they believe that it would lead to large-scale deforestation.

My take:
As always, I think, it's not the act that people are against but government's evil designs that have made people skeptical. With FPP on one side and the environmental organizations on the other, it's hard to say who's right and who's wrong till one can dig the true story; and that I haven't been able to.

If anybody has any insights on this topic, please share them with me. Or if you have an opinion and why.

4 comments:

Ville-Veikko said...

Dear Smriti

If you read through all the work done under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity on commitments of its implementation in respect to the local and indigenous communities, you can hardly find any law in the world which can implement better those commitments than the Forest Rights Act of India if it gets implemented in a correct way.

Find here a comparition:

http://ngoblog.org/Papers/Policy%20Documents%20Acts/IA-biodiversity.pdf

Based on the above mentioned link, please see also a note of support by European environmentalist-oriented parliamentarians:

http://www.ngoblog.fi/2006/12/european_parliamentarians_supp.html#more

I travelled a year ago for 3 months in tribal villages of India and certainly, their everyday life and consumption is in a much more sustainable relation to the forest and environment than our modern consumerist life which has caused the global destruction of forests and climate.

The problem with Vanashakti is that they have got a lot of money to blackpaint the Forest Rights Act through advertisement like effects without interest to the real content of the commitments of sustainable use and conservation of forest in respect to the indigenous forest communities.

If you want to ask anything more, you can contact me:

villeveikkoh@gmail.com


Thank you.

Ville-Veikko Hirvelä

Friends of the Earth Finland

Smriti said...

Hi Ville-Veikko, thanks so much for the insightful information. I'll definitely go through the various inks pointed by you.

I do have a question: why do you think some environmentalists are against this act? Do you think government can misuse this act and with all the tribal people at the forefront ultimately sell the land for their own gain?

Ville-Veikko said...

Dear Smriti

Many of us both in North and South would like to call ourselves environmentalists even though we consume more than is sustainable.

It is not so difficult for us to live in our cities with our modern consumption of industries, mines, agribusiness, etc. which are the real reason for disappearance of tiger and biodiversity of the world in general and then to think and say we are environmentalists.

Most of the people who say that we must evict from the forest the sustainable indigenous forest life of adivasis (who have lived together with biodiversity and tiger for millenniums without any serious harm for the forest or for tiger) consume themselves much much more forest every day than Adivasis.

Government can use and has indeed used the non-existence of the act very effectively to evict 30 million tribals after the independence of India to take the forests for logging, mines, dams, plantation, agribusiness, etc.

The act says the tribal forest rights are not alienable or transferable, which means they can not be sold, whereas currently government can take any forestland to sell or lease it to corporations as far as no tribal has an ownership document on it (... even thogh their ancestors would have lived there for ages).

thank you

ville-veikko

CSD said...

Vanashakti has unfortunately begun a well-intentioned but completely misinformed campaign. If you would like more information about the Forest Rights Act and the struggle around it, see

http://forestrightsact.awardspace.com

That explains some of the myths that Vanashakti is promoting.