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Environment Ministry issues draft guidelines

Environment Ministry issues draft guidelines

New Delhi: Environment Ministry on Wednesday issued a revised draft guidelines for determining critical wildlife habitats as required by the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act, 2006, based on feedback from a wide set of experts and stakeholders.

The new draft guidelines came two months after the Ministry was forced to withdraw its earlier guidelines on 4 March 2011 as wildlife enthusiasts, scientists and activists protested saying that it was meant to relocate thousands of tribal people from national parks and sanctuaries.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said the new reworked draft guidelines “accommodate all genuine concerns."

“The purpose of these guidelines is to harmonise the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and to seek consensus on the protocol that will determine critical wildlife habitats within National Parks and Sanctuaries," Ramesh said in a statement here.

The Ministry said the “Implementation Protocol" is in no way intended to cause or force resettlement or relocation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers from National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, but to facilitate the determination and notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats following due process of law.

“This conformity with the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forests Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a mandatory requirement," it said.

Ramesh admitted that there has been concern that the earlier guidelines of 2007 were inadequate and needed to be substantially improved.

“Accordingly a completely revised set of guidelines has been prepared after extensive consultations with wildlife experts and social scientists," he said.

While taking care of the conservation and protection imperatives of wildlife and its habitat, it is equally important that forest rights and secure livelihoods are ensured to Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers living within, or resettled outside the critical wildlife habitats, the Ministry said.

According to the new draft guideline, it should be ensured while implementing the protocol that the determination and notification of critical wildlife habitats is in accordance with the provisions of the FRA, 2006.

“Section 4(1) of the FRA, 2006 recognises and vests forest rights in Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers. The Forest Rights are listed in section 3 of the FRA, 2006, which, inter-alia, secure individual or community tenure or both," the Ministry said.

The Ministry has invited comments and suggestions on the matter within the next 30 days.

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