New estimate offers ‘baseline for planning and effective implementation of forest rights Act recognition’
The Odisha Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) created an atlas of potential areas where the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [FRA] could be applied.
The atlas, released in Bhubaneswar by Union tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda on February 27, 2020, marked 27,818.30 square kilometers (sq km) over which Community Forest Resources (CFR) rights could be recognised; Individual Forest Rights (IFR) can be recognised over 7,921.36 sq km, acording to the atlas.
CFR rights are recognised for entire gram sabhas, based on traditional forest boundaries. IFRs are recognised for individuals using forest land; its area can't exceed four hectares. Both stem from FRA.
Only 951.84 sq km (3 per cent) for CFR rights and 2,600.27sq km (32 per cent) for IFR were recognised, according to a September 2019 progress report by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA).
To arrive at the figure, the atlas used data from the 1999 Forest Survey of India report and Census 2001 to identify forests which are being used by dwellers.
The new estimate offered a baseline for planning and effective implementation of FRA recognition, according to the atlas. “It will allow policy makers and forest dependent communities to assess the extent to which the law has been implemented,” it added.
According to the atlas:
The village details from the Census provided an extent of forest land within the village boundaries. This data was collected by the Census from the official land records and, therefore, provided the best proxy of actual legal status of forests inside village boundaries.
The research for this was by Odisha SCSTRTI, along with Vasundhara, a non-profit.
In 2014, SCSTRTI executed a pilot study of potential FRA areas in Mayurbhanj district and presented the findings to MoTA. In 2015, similar studies were sought from all states. Only Odisha has finished one so far.
“Odisha had many princely states. After independence, their forest lands were recognised as reserved or protected forests without settling the rights of forest dwellers. FRA sought to undo the historic injustice,” Tushar Dash of advocacy Community Forest Rights said.
Forests comprise 37 per cent of Odisha's geography and are home to 62 ST communities that make up nearly 22 per cent of its population.
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