Hosted by Aarathi Ganesan
Edited by Nidhi Rejithlal
The Forests Right Act, 2006 (FRA), was envisioned as a law that would recognise forest dweller’s historical and customary rights over forests and their resources. It allows communities to take environmental democracy into their own hands, and among other things, prevents unlawful evictions from their traditional homes in the forest from taking place. In spite of these admirable objectives, the FRA is not being implemented well.
This is especially the case in Protected Areas like National Parks and Reserves. These large areas of land are cordoned off in order to create pristine habitats for endangered species (think: tigers or rhinos). To create these ‘natural habitats’, communities who have resided in forested areas for centuries, are relocated en masse by the State, often against their will. Laws like the FRA have been unable to help them prevent these evictions, or protect their rights to the same lands now categorised as Protected Areas.
This phenomenon is documented in Losing Ground, a new interactive map by the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJA) and Kalpavriksh. The product of three years of extensive fieldwork supported by displaced communities, activists, and on-ground organisations, the map documents the varied human rights violations unfurling across 29 Protected Areas in India. In the process, it reveals the ways in which some ‘wildlife conservation’ methods can undermine the rights of indigenous peoples, vested by progressive legislations like the FRA.
This is the second instalment of our series on Losing Ground, produced in collaboration with the Environmental Justice Atlas and Kalpavriksh. To watch part one, which discusses the fallacies of the Protected Areas model of conservation in India, click here.