Forest Rights and Heritage Conservation

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    In Context

    • Majority of applications of lands claimed under the FRA are either rejected or are still pending. 

    More about the Forest rights Act (FRA)

    • About the act:
      • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006.
      • It was adopted by Parliament in 2006 to ‘undo the past injustices’ endured by indigenous people. 
    • Purpose of the Act:
      • Legal recognition:
        • Sanctioning a legal recognition of the rights of the traditional communities living in forested areas since time immemorial who have been kept deprived of their basic fundamental legal rights due to the draconian provisions of the colonial forest acts.
      • Reducing state control:
        • The Act also aims to shift away from the excess state control of the forests which were kept away from the purview of public discourse and discussion. 
        • This democratises and gives a respectful recognition to the tribal identity.
      • Local self-governance:
        • The aim is also for empowering and encouraging local self-governance amongst the marginalised tribal communities and forest dwellers.
      • Conservation & developmental activities:
        • Conservation of the traditional knowledge and the intellectual property rights related to cultural diversity and biodiversity of the inhabitants of the forests.
        • The Act also provides guidelines for undertaking developmental facilities of the villages in and around forested areas.
      • Poverty alleviation:
        • Another important aspect dealt with the Act is the promotion of the vulnerable groups, aiming at alleviating their poverty levels and pro-poor growth.

    Issues & Challenges with respect to Forest rights Act (FRA)

    • Issues with land measuring:
      • The majority of the forest dwellers claimed land measuring not more than one acre. 
      • It is clear that the claims were nowhere close to the ceiling of four hectares permitted under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
      • The rejection rate of the other traditional forest dwellers was two times more than the STs. 
    • Failure to provide evidence:
      • One of the major reasons for this Act to be described as contentious is the high rate of rejection of the claims.
      • In few cases of traditional forest dwellers, it was mainly failure to produce evidence of dependency and dwelling on forest land for 75 years.
    • Severe restrictions:
      • The people in the villages falling under eco-sensitive zones said they have started experiencing severe restrictions on their entry into the forest. 
      • Development activities like road repair have been stopped. Farming is not allowed in a normal way, a slight sound is demurred, the use of fertilizers is banned, and even a small knife is not allowed to be carried into the forest. 
      • The people are prohibited from cutting trees falling on their houses to undertake repair work or move the earth.
    • Animal insurgency: 
      • The increasing animal insurgency is causing damage to the crops of the farming forest dwellers. 
      • Those who don’t have recognition over their lands are not given compensation for the loss.
    • Issues with the tivestock & grazing lands:
      • Owning livestock in the villages close to forests is more challenging than in regular revenue villages. 
      • In the areas where irrigation projects have come up, the affected people reported that grazing lands have been taken over by
    • Deprived of basic facilities:
      • Most forest dwellers said they were still deprived of basic facilities and other government benefits extended under various schemes and programmes as they don’t possess the ‘Records of Rights, Tenancy and Crops’ that is required along with the title of the land. 
      • The government must address this issue in consonance with the rules of the Act.
    • Issue of relocation in Karnataka:
      • Half the world heritage sites in Karnataka fall under protected areas:
        • National Park: 1
        • Wildlife Sanctuaries: 4 and 
        • The remaining are reserved forests. 
      • The issue becomes complicated when the people refuse to ‘re-locate’ on grounds of their attachment to the land fearing extinction of their culture and religious roots
      • Hence, the government must bring more clarity to the Act to avoid conflicts between the government agencies conserving biodiversity and the people living in the forest for over decades and centuries.

    Way Ahead

    • The conservation of biodiversity requires special attention. Yet, forest dwellers willing to live in the forest must be allowed to stay. 
      • Many of them comply with the norms of the eco-sensitive zone because they do not depend on modern development needs.
      • In the same breath, those wanting to experience the fruits of development must be relocated according to their choice of a new place and a suitable package. 
    • This can be possible only when the areas declared as ‘protected’ are arrived at after consultations with the local population.

    About the World Heritage Convention

    • The convention:
      • The World Heritage Convention, formally the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, is an international treaty signed on 23 November 1972, which created the World Heritage Sites, 
      • Goal:
        • It has the primary goals of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties.
    • Protected areas in India:
      •  39 areas declared by UNESCO in 2012 as being critical for biodiversity in the Western Ghats
      • Seeking local opinion in the Process of recognition:
        • Before recognising areas as world heritage sites, UNESCO seeks the opinion of the inhabitants on the implication of the possible declaration on their lives and livelihoods.
    • Outcomes:
      • Presenting the declaration of the world heritage site in a positive light, many locals have noted that illegal tree-felling and poaching have come down following the stringent implementation of rules in the ‘protected areas’.

    Significance of Western Ghats

    • Hottest hot spot:
      • Older than the Himalaya, the Western Ghats mountain chain is recognised as one of the world’s eight “hottest hot spots” of biological diversity
    • Ecosystem:
      • The Western Ghats forests include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere. 
      • They are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish species. 

     

    Mains Practice Question

     

    [Q] What is the purpose of enactment of the Forest Rights Act? Examine the issues & challenges regarding the implementation of the Act.