Jitendra, Down To Earth
If realised, CFR can recognise the rights of 150 million forest dwellers residing in over 40 million hectares of forestland. These areas are mostly tribal-dominated areas of the country where forests have always been traditionally managed by local communities.
Non-profit organisations like the Odisha-based Vasundhara, New Delhi-based Natural Resources Management Consultants and Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative conducted the study which was released in Delhi recently.
The study recommends definitive action for granting CFR to communities to manage and protect forests.
Forest Rights Act
FRA enacted in 2006 recognises the right of individuals as well as communities over forest resources.
However, the implementation of FRA is only confined to providing and settling individual rights. The progress of individual claims over forests has always been tardy and debatable. On the other hand, community rights over forests have always been ignored.
The study says that if communities were provided the opportunity to manage forests, then they can get control over at least of 40 million hectares of forestland. Since the inception of FRA, the government has only settled or recognised individual claims, which barely covers 1.2 per cent of the total area.
The study has also examined the Forest Survey of India and census data to assess forests that are already listed under land-use category within revenue village boundaries.
It also assesses those forested areas customarily used by forest dwellers, but which fall outside revenue village boundaries, and thus, eligible under FRA.
The study says that one-fourth of India’s villages, which is 1.70 lakh, enjoy CFR over their forestlands within their revenue village boundaries.
The study also says that these villages are mostly backward. It recommends the government to list the names of all these villages in order to implement FRA effectively.
It is also in favour of awareness campaigns in identified gram sabhas to make villagers aware about CFR.