Bhubaneswar: In Odisha, less than 6 % of the state potential for rights recognition for over 25 million tribals and other traditional forest dwellers on nearly 6 million acres of land has been achieved under India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA), according to a new report released on Monday.
The State Level Report on ‘Promise and Performance–Ten Years of the Forest Rights Act’ found that in Odisha effective implementation of the law would ensure poverty alleviation and development in forested areas, improve forest conservation, and empower community-led afforestation.
Odisha was identified as one of a few states in the country that has recognized both Individual Forest Rights (IFR) and Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights. CFR rights enable communities to use, protect and manage large areas of their customary forests and resources.
The state report, released by a collective of civil society organizations, found that in total forest rights could be recognized over 5,788,714 acres of land in 34,090 villages. To date, community forest resource rights have been recognized over 264559.21 acres of land.
Major challenges identified in effective implementation of the FRA in Odisha include obstruction by the forest dept in the CFR claim and recognition process, the dilution of the law by forest department through schemes such as Ama Jungle Yojana (which promotes VSSs formed by the forest dept), the non-recognition of rights of non-tribal forest dwellers, and large-scale plantation on community lands without Gram Sabha consent.
“Plantation of teak and eucalyptus by the Forest Department has reduced our area for cultivation. Previously we would grow 70-80 different types of millets. Now this variety has been completely reduced causing a crisis in food security and nutrition. We are open to trees being planted but these trees should be local species and benefit our community,” said Basanti Majhi, a member of the Kutia Kondh community, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
Concern has been raised by tribal groups in Odisha regarding Odisha govt’s wholehearted support for the recent enactment of CAMPA Act which contradicts Forest Rights Act and does not have provision to ensure consent of Gram Sabhas.
“Odisha claims to be a frontrunner in recognizing rights under FRA. However, such claim is challenged by the facts presented in the report which reveals that implementation of FRA is limited to only a few pockets (mostly due to civil society efforts) and a large number of CFR claims are pending in the tribal districts. Claims are particularly pending from the mining districts (Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Koraput, Rayagada) prompting self-declaration of Community Forest Resource areas by Gram Sabhas in large numbers”; said Manohar Chauhan, a lead campaigner of the National Campaign for Survival & Dignity.