Fake FRA claims cause extensive damage to forest 

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Feb 2019 15:03:58


 


 

Imagery dates (The day on which satellites clicked the pictures) show 3.6 hectares of land cut down in South Korba Sub-Division after 2009.

By Roshan Chachane,

RAIPUR,

The insatiable greed for the Forest Rights Act title has triggered a mad rush of encroachments in the previously untouched forests with thousands of hectares of jungles being cut down and given under fake FRA title claims in Chhattisgarh, exposing the forest-dwelling communities to the hazards of climate change. 

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, or the popularly named Forest Rights Act (FRA) was enacted to recognise and vest the forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been living in such forests for generations, but whose rights could not be recorded. 

STs can claim individual rights only if they have been living on that land before 13 December 2005. Other Traditiona Fortest Dwellers (OTFD) can claim only if they have been living on that land for 3 generations (or 75 years) before the date of enactment.

However, a comparison between the 2009 and 2018 Google Earth Images of a 3.6 hectares area, which belongs to South Korba Forest Sub-Division, shows the extensive damage caused by the wrongful implementation of the FRA to the pristine forests. The land had either been given the title or it was encroached for the title, though the FRA title cannot be given for encroachments. 

It took just 10 minutes to discover a patch of forest cut down for Fake FRA title in South Korba Sub-Division after glancing through the pro version of Google Earth.

Just by having a comparative look at the first 2 image of 2018 and 2009, one can clearly see how 3.6 hectares of forest land has been converted into farm after 2009. Digitalisation of remaining forest land is urgently required. Mapping of FRA lands and rechecking too is required. The Forest Department should start surveying such areas in field to reclaim fake FRA lands, suggested a report by the Forest department.

The satellite images of 3 more sites in Machkote Range in Bastar, one site in Birgudi Range in Dhamtari Division and one in Surajpur Forest Division, where the comparative images of 2013, 2015 and 2018 reveals the extent of damage and shrunk caused to the forest cover.

The Forest Department, in a study report, had also recognized illegal FRA titles as the main cause for not just shrinking forest cover but also the spiking human-elephant conflicts.

The study report of Forest Department pointed out six main causes with the wrongful FRA titles on top of the list followed by encroachment for titles, mines, roads/railway tracks through the forests, home/farmlands on the boundaries of forests and illegal logging. There is no problem in giving community rights because they are anyways bringing minor forest produce, fuel woods, etc from forest, but they can make homes and agricultural fields in individual FRA patta, which is harmful.

The report suggested immediate and permanent halt to distribution of FRA Titles so as the fragmentation of forests could stop and a safe distance could be maintained between humans and elephants. The Rule 11 of the FRA, saying Gram Sabhas has the authority to call for claims and counter claims with at least two evidences to substantiate the claim.

 

‘Fake claims should be probed’


Responding to the issue, Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Department Secretary D D Singh said such fake claims should be looked into. However, they don’t have the judicial authority to cancel any title. It is the domain of district committee which examines the FRA title claims.

Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF) Land Management Atul Shukla said the Dept has no role in issuing the FRA titles. However, it is part of the committee which considers the claims for clearance, but final decision rest upon the Tribal Development Department.