Facing eviction

A World Bank project might leave over three lakh tribal families homeless

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

tribals of Madhya Pradesh (mp) have decided to unite and rise under the aegis of the non-governmental organisation (ngo) Ekta Parishad, to oppose a World Bank (wb) forestry project that might displace over three lakh tribal families. The project, aimed at encouraging natural regeneration through better management of forests and biodiversity, is being criticised by the ngo on grounds that the forests can be protected only with the help of tribal community.

The ngo contends that the project will severely curtail the rights and access of tribals to the natural resources which are vital to their existence. According to Gautam Bandhopadhyaya, spokesperson of Ekta Parishad, the project, if implemented, will deny the local tribal communities access to water, forests and land. The Parishad had already approached the wb in this regard, requesting it to deny funding to the project. But the wb has already released Rs 247 crore for the purpose. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs 800 crore, which the wb is committed to give regardless of the consequences.

Even though the project envisages joint forest management, Bandhopadhyaya states that the people were never consulted in the drawing up of the project. Even in the present scenario, tribals are not permitted to collect minor forest produce. Grazing cattle inside the forest is also disallowed. Bandhopadhyaya argues that grounds have already been prepared to displace three lakh families, as their claims for right to land have been rejected by the government. This, despite the fact that some of them have been living in the area for four decades. The state government has also not sought any alternative for them. He added that the interference of officials in tribal areas was already quite significant, and that this should not be allowed to increase any further.

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