Chapters :

 

  • Environment UNCCD – 03

  • Effects of dams on forests and tribal people

  • Forest Conservation and Management

Environment UNCCD – 03

Mining

  • Indiscriminate mining in forests of Goa since 1961 has destroyed more than 50000 ha of forest land. Coal mining in Jharia, Raniganj and Singrauli areas has caused extensive deforestation in Jharkhand.
  • Mining of magnetite and soapstone have destroyed 14 ha of forest in hilly slopes of Khirakot, Kosi valley and Almora.
  • Mining of radioactive minerals in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka are posing similar threats of deforestation.
  • The rich forests of Western Ghats are also facing the same threat due to mining projects for excavation of copper, chromites, bauxite and magnetite.

Effects of dams on forests and tribal people

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru referred dam and valley projects as “Temples of modern India”. These big dams and rivers valley projects have multi-purpose uses. However, these dams are also responsible for the destruction of forests. They are responsible for degradation of catchment areas, loss of flora and fauna, increase of water borne diseases, disturbance in forest ecosystems, rehabilitation and resettlement of tribal peoples.
India has more than 1550 large dams, the maximum being in the state of Maharashtra (more than 600), followed by Gujarat (more than 250) and Madhya Pradesh (130).

  • The highest one is Tehri dam, on river Bhagirathi in Uttaranchal and the largest in terms of capacity is Bhakra dam on river Satluj in Himachal Pradesh. Big dams have been in sharp focus of various environmental groups all over the world, which is mainly because of several ecological problems including deforestation and socio-economic problems related to tribal or native people associated with them.
  • The Silent valley hydroelectric project was one of the first such projects situated in the tropical rain forest area of Western Ghats which attracted much concern of the people.
  • The crusade against the ecological damage and deforestation caused due to Tehri dam was led by Shri. Sunder Lal Bahaguna, the leader of Chipko Movement.
  • The cause of Sardar Sarovar Dam related issues have been taken up by the environmental activitist Medha Patkar, joined by Arundhati Ray and Baba Amte. For building big dams, large scale devastation of forests takes place which breaks the natural ecological balance of the region.
  • Floods, droughts and landslides become more prevalent in such areas. Forests are the repositories of invaluable gifts of nature in the form of biodiversity and by destroying them (particularly, the tropical rain forests), we are going to lose these species even before knowing them. These species could be having marvellous economic or medicinal value and deforestation results in loss of this storehouse of species which have evolved over millions of years in a single stroke.

Tribal rights 

Traditionally forest-dwellers have been the sole stakeholders of forest and lived in mutual relationship with the forest. But as societies developed and political systems became defined their rights have been encroached upon ultimately leading to ecological imbalance and survival of the forest.

The tribal people need to be having the following rights:

  • Nistar (usufruct) or ownership rights to forest resources,
  • Grazing rights including seasonal ones of nomadic communities, 
  • Habitation rights (for those classified as Primitive Tribal Groups), 
  • right to be left out of certain laws in order to preserve their traditional heritage
  • Conversion of forest villages into revenue villages
  • Economic exploitation of minor forest produce
  • Involvement and permission for declaration of areas as protected or national parks
  • Permission seeking for the construction of dams or land for mining etc.

However few of these are granted by the governments to the people under various schemes and legislations like Wildlife protection act 1972, Forest rights atc, forest rights act 2006, PESA act, 1992. The tribal are also included in conservation schemes like Agroforestry, joint forest management etc. 

However a better integration of forest dwellers in the conservation and management of forest is necessary to protect the forest ecosystem as they are still struggling with legal battles for rehabilitation in case of dam projects, low standard of living due to economic and social marginalization etc. 

Forest Conservation and Management 

Conservation of forest is a national problem so it must be tackled with perfect coordination between forest department and other departments as well as the government at all the three levels. People’s participation in the conservation of forests is of vital importance. Cutting of timber and other forest produce could be restricted. Grasslands should be regenerated. Forest Conservation Act, 1980 should be strictly implemented to check deforestation.

Joint forest management 

JFM is a mechanism identifies and respects the local community’s right and benefits that they need from forest resources. Under JFM schemes, forest protection communities (FPCs) from local community members are formed. They participate in restoring the green cover and protect the area from being over – exploited.

Under the National Forest Policy of 1988 added importance to joint forest management (JFM) is given which co-opts the local village communities and the forest department to work together to sustainable manage our forests.

Another resolution in 1990 provided a formal structure for community participation though the formation of village forest communities (VFS). Based on this experience, new JFM guidelines were issued in 2000 which stipulated that at least 25% of the income from the area must go to community.

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