Forest Rights Act, 2006
- The act recognises and vests the forest rights and occupation in Forest land in Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD)who have been residing in such forests for generations.
- The act also establishes the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance of FDST and OTFD.
- Strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
- It seeks to rectify colonial injustice to the FDST and OTFD who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
The Act Identify Four Types of Rights
- Title rights: Gives FDST and OTFD, the right to ownership of land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares. Ownership is only for land that is being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted. It also provides for Community rights over minor forest produce and other resources.
- Use rights: The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, pastoralist routes, etc.
- Relief and development rights: To rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
- Forest management rights: It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
Who can Claim these Rights?
- Members of the community of Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs.
- It can also be claimed by any member or community who has for at least three generations (75 years) before the 13th day of December 2005 primarily resided in forest land for bona fide livelihood needs.
- The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH)
Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) defines CWHs as ‘areas of national parks and sanctuaries where it has been specifically and established, case by case, based on scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for wildlife conservation.
To notify a CWH, the Act requires state governments to establish that the presence of right-holders is causing irreversible damage to wildlife and their habitats and that co-existence between rights-holders and wildlife was not a reasonable option.
Notifying CWHS: Key features of Guidelines
- Chief Wildlife Warden of a state will notify an Expert Committee for identification of critical wildlife habitats (CWH) in a national park or sanctuary.
- The Expert Committee will identify areas within national parks and sanctuaries, based on scientific and objective criteria relevant to the protected area, required to be kept inviolate for wildlife conservation.
- The Expert Committee shall issue a public notice to notify CWH. The public notice shall include details of areas required to be kept inviolate, criteria adopted for CWH identification, implication of the notification on existing rights, and all options of resettlement and rehabilitation schemes, if applicable.
Issues and Concerns
In the existing guidelines, CWH notification does not stand any public scrutiny once consultations have been carried out. Contrast this to the notification of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) around protected areas, where the draft notification of every ESZ is put up in public domain for at least 60 days before its finalisation. ESZ is often notified under Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Forest Dwellers Vs. Wildlife
- Conservationists believe that wildlife needs absolutely “inviolate” areas — those devoid of humans and human activities.
- Many others believe human-wildlife co-existence is generally possible and must be promoted if we are to have “socially just conservation”.