Plant­ing prob­lems

For­est devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tions fell rich forests to raise plan­ta­tions, un­der­min­ing peo­ple's rights and bio­di­ver­sity. It's time In­dia in­tro­duced guide­lines to assess their im­pacts

Down to Earth - - FOREST - SHRUTI AGAR­WAL

WITH COM­PLETE dis­re­gard for peo­ple’s rights, the For­est Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of Ma­ha­rash­tra Ltd (fdcm) felled thou­sands of trees in Brahma­puri for­est di­vi­sion early this year. It felled the trees de­spite protests by the res­i­dents of 22 vil­lages lo­cated in and around the for­est. fdcm did stop felling in June af­ter the mon­soon ar­rived. But by then, it had al­ready cleared 385 hectares (ha) of the old-growth for­est to raise teak wood plan­ta­tions. As a mark of protest, the res­i­dents re­fused to pro­vide labour for plant­ing teak, and fdcm had to hire labour from other dis­tricts.

For­est devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tions (fdcs) have been set up since the 1970s in 19 states with the ob­jec­tive of in­creas­ing yield from forests through forestry pro­grammes. As per fdcm’s Work­ing Plan for 2015-16, it was to fell 690 ha in Brahma­puri for­est, or 210,000 trees, and plant 1.55 mil­lion teak trees on the cleared patch. What irked the res­i­dents is the mind­less felling of healthy trees in old-growth mixed forests of Brahma­puri, and the high-hand­ed­ness with which fdcm was im­ple­ment­ing the plan.

Com­mu­ni­ties in these vil­lages, which fall in Gad­chi­roli district, claim that they have tra­di­tion­ally de­pended on the Brahma­puri forests for food and liveli­hood, and thus have com­mu­nity rights over the for­est re­sources. At least 12 vil­lages have filed com­mu­nity for­est re­source (cfr) rights claims un­der the For­est Rights Act, 2006. Some had filed the cfr claims way back in 2011. But the for­est depart­ment al­lot­ted forest­land to fdcm with­out set­tling their cfr claims. And fdcm started felling trees with scant re­gard for gram sabha res­o­lu­tions against its ac­tiv­i­ties. (See ‘Rights un­der­mined’.)

The com­mu­nity’s big­gest con­cern is that re­plac­ing nat­u­ral forests with com­mer­cial plan­ta­tions will se­verely af­fect their liveli­hood and de­stroy the re­gion’s ecosys­tem.

Felling ac­tiv­i­ties by For­est Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of Ma­ha­rash­tra Ltd in Brahma­puri for­est di­vi­sion

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