New Delhi: More than 70% of compensatory afforestation (CA) across 10 States was done on forest land instead of non-forest land, which is a clear violation of guidelines under the Forest Conservation (FC) Act 1980, said an analysis released on Tuesday.
According to norms under the FC Act, compensatory afforestation must be undertaken on non-forest land in the same district as the diverted forest. Under the FC Act 1980, forest land may be diverted for non-forestry purposes like dams, mining and other industrial projects. But in lieu of the forest land diverted, CA is carried out on non-forest land.
The study was released by Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), an advocacy group consisting of grassroots organizations, researchers and academicians from several Indian states, at a national consultation on Compensatory Afforestation and Rights of Forest-Dwelling Communities in the national capital.
“An analysis of 2,479 CA plantations in 10 states from the e-greenwatch website of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) shows that over 70% of these have been set up on forest land instead of non-forest land. This is in violation of the guidelines issued under the Forest (Conservation) Act, which states that CA must be undertaken on non-forest land in the same district as the diverted forest," the study said.
An official statement from CFR-LA said that another study shows that in a sample of 52 compensatory afforestation plantations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, “all the plantations were taken up on community forest land vested in the Gram Sabhas by the Forest Rights Act, without the permission of Gram Sabhas".
“Out of the 52 villages, the forest department sought the consent of the Gram Sabhas in only 2 villages, thereby completely violating the Forest Rights Act (FRA)," the study added.
The study further stated that the forest department used fencing and guards to deny access to rights holding forest dwellers and tribals in areas taken up for plantations, illegally dispossessing them in violation of FRA and the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
It also alleged that forest departments have overwhelmingly favoured commercial timber species, with teak and eucalyptus forming one quarter of the species planted.
“These plantations have often been undertaken after clearing natural forest, and have affected the livelihood and nutritional security of women," it added.
Meanwhile, at the consultation, the participants discussed in detail the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act and called for repealing of the Act or amendments to it to ensure its compliance with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
Participants also raised concerns about the new guideline released by the union environment ministry for creating land banks for compensatory afforestation including degraded forest and revenue forests stating that would have an adverse impact on the rights of tribals and forest dwellers.
The CAF Act, which seeks to facilitate the distribution of over Rs42,000 crore among all states for afforestation purposes, was passed by Parliament last year.
The participants demanded that all CA funds must be transferred to the Gram Sabhas empowered to govern and conserve forests, and that all CA activities must be done with their free, prior and informed consent. They also demanded that those who have been illegally evicted and/or relocated for CA plantations must be given back their land and resources and compensated.