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Opposition to AP government's move to involve industries in JFM gathers momentum

Published: Sunday 31 December 2000

-- the controversial move by the Andhra Pradesh ( ap ) government to give the industry access to degraded forest lands for plantation and other agro-forestry activities through the Joint Forest Management ( jfm ) institutions has sparked off a storm of protests in the state. Over 600 Vana Suraksha Samitis ( vss ) -- the village level institution formed under jfm -- have joined in a signature campaign to stall the move. And the number is growing by the day. "The people, whom the government sought help of industries, have rejected the proposal," says M V Sastri, of the Centre for World Solidarity, a Hyderabad-based non-governmental organisation ( ngo ).

The government had justified the move saying that since the World Bank funding for the project was nearing an end, this was the only way to make jfm sustainable. However, this explanation has fallen flat. The World Bank recently indicated that it would renew its funding.

A number of ngo s , working in the forestry sector, have started a tirade against the government order. "There is no shortage of privately-owned degraded lands in the state. Therefore, the industries must be asked tie up directly with farmers as sugar and paper industry have already done," the ngo s suggested to the chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, who is believed to be backing the order.

But there are hurdles. The Fifth Scheduled makes it virtually impossible to transfer tribal areas to non-tribals (see story: 'Scheduled abuse' on p13). Only the ministry of environment and forest ( mef ) can give such a clearance. This has become a bone of contention between the industries and the state government. According to sources, three industrial houses have asked the state government to secure this mandatory clearance from the mef. The state government, on its part, has put the onus on the respective industry to procure the clearance.

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