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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Forest rights and heritage conservation


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: UNESCO, SC/ST, Forest Rights Act (FRA) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I and II: Conservation of Environment, Environmental impact assessment, FRA-positives and negatives etc


  • Of the 39 areas declared by UNESCO in 2012 as being critical for biodiversity in the Western Ghats, 10 are in




How UNESCO declares areas as critical biodiversity?

  • UNESCO seeks the opinion of the inhabitants on the implication of the possible declaration on their lives and livelihoods.
  • The primary stakeholders were Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Other traditional forest dwellers include
    • Scheduled Castes (SCs)
    • Other Backward Classes,
    • minorities
    • general category.
  • In Karnataka; Majority said that they were not aware of the process that led to the declaration of UNESCO heritage sites.


Forest Rights Act:



Advantages of the Act:

  • It recognises the rights of the STs because of their overall backwardness.
  • The illegal tree-felling and poaching have come down following the stringent implementation of rules in the ‘protected areas’.
    • Most forest dwellers acknowledged this fact.


Issues with the Act:

  • Ceiling of four hectares permitted under the Forest Rights Act (FRA): The majority of the forest dwellers claimed land measuring not more than one acre.
  • The rejection rate of the other traditional forest dwellers was two times more than the STs.
    • In the case of the STs, the reasons were attributed to fresh encroachments
  • Claimed lands being on ‘ paisari bhoomis’: wasteland and forest lands which have not been notified as protected forests or reserved forests) or revenue lands
  • Multiple applications made in a single family.
  • In the case of other traditional forest dwellers, failure to produce evidence of dependency and dwelling on forest land for 75 years.


Issues faced by people falling under eco-sensitive zone:

  • The people in the villages falling under eco-sensitive zones: they started experiencing severe restrictions on their entry into the forest.
  • Development activities like road repair have been stopped.
  • Farming is not allowed in a normal way, the use of fertilizers is banned, and small knives are not allowed to be carried into the forest.
  • The people are prohibited from cutting trees falling on their houses to undertake repair work or move the earth.
  • The increasing animal insurgency is causing damage to the crops of the farming forest dwellers.
  • Those who don’t have recognition over their lands are not given compensation for the loss.
  • Monkeys and snakes released from urban settings into the forests enter their houses.
  • People reported that grazing lands have been taken over by the government to compensate for the forest land lost to projects.


Current status:

  • In many places, people are accepting the resettlement packages and moving out of ‘protected areas’ for good.
    • If half the village population moved away, it would become difficult for the remaining ones to live their normal life.
  • Most forest dwellers are deprived of basic facilities and other government benefits extended under various schemes and programmes as they don’t possess the ‘Records of Rights, Tenancy and Crops’ that is required along with the title of the land.
  • Half the world heritage sites in Karnataka fall under protected areas: (National Park: 1; Wildlife Sanctuaries: 4) and the remaining are reserved forests.


Way Forward

  • The government must bring more clarity to the Act to avoid conflicts between the government agencies conserving biodiversity and the people living in the forest for over decades and centuries.
  • The conservation of biodiversity requires special attention: forest dwellers willing to live in the forest must be allowed to stay.
    • Many of them comply with the norms of the eco-sensitive zone.
  • Those wanting to experience the fruits of development must be relocated according to their choice of a new place and a suitable package.
  • Areas declared as ‘protected’ should be arrived at after consultations with the local population.



Q. How does the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 differ from the existing EIA Notification, 2006?(UPSC 2020) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)