Environment conservation plans are great, but if they are at the cost of endangering certain communities’ livelihood, are they really worth it?
These afforestation measures were aimed to be implemented on scrublands, shifting cultivation areas, abandoned mining areas, ravine lands, mangroves, sea-buckthorn areas, urban and peri-urban areas (including institutional lands).
A large number of tribal and forest-dwelling communities in India are dependent on these forest lands for their livelihood. In order to legally ensure this and avoid illegal encroachment over these lands, there had to be some law enforcement. The Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) entitled these communities to make sustainable use of the land, along with conserving biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance. However, this Act was not so successful and achieved about 3% of what it promised by 2016. Then rolled-in the CAMPA impact; titled “Impact of Compensatory Afforestation On Land and Forest Rights: An Interim Report”, it revealed that 70% of the afforestation measures implemented in 10 states in the country under CAMPA were conducted on forest lands instead of non-forest lands. In states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa, all of the 52 compensatory afforestation plantations were conducted on forest lands under the FRA Act, without the permissions of the concerned Gram Sabhas. Foreseeing this, the CAMPA Bill was fiercely opposed by the forest communities through protests and resolutions made by the Gram Sabhas, as it posed a threat for their livelihood; but this was hardly heard.
With all these issues still in the mix, and existing forest land still in dispute, it’s hard to imagine how the Government plans to expand the forest cover in India. Yes, it’s essential to undertake environmental protection measures, but only if it’s done keeping sustainability in mind – not only in terms of the environment but also in terms of the indigenous people.