For a long time, it was assumed that forest land was the easiest land to take over for companies, industries and “development” projects. Now, under the Forest Rights Act, takeover of land requires the consent of the local communities and the recognition of their rights. This is a huge step forward for democracy. But the government is not complying with the law.
Note: If you are involved in fighting a project, or for more legal details, please see our note on Using the Forest Rights Act Against Displacement and Projects.
Under the Forest (Conservation) Act, the Central government’s permission is required before forest land can be used for non-forest uses. In practice the government has treated this provision as if only the Centre’s permission is required, and proceeded to hand over huge areas of forest and forest lands to projects and private companies without consulting or even informing those most affected – the local communities.
Between 2001 and 2006 alone, more than five lakh hectares of forest land was “diverted” for non-forest use by the Central government. Even for a year and a half after the Forest Rights Act came into force, the government continued to grant permission for take over of forest lands, even though the government was required to recognise people’s rights first. After repeated mass protests, new orders were issued in August 2009, but these seem to have been ignored in every case till date.
For more, see these notes and documents:
- Using the Forest Rights Act Against Displacement and Large Projects
- Environment Ministry circular of July 30, 2009, requiring recognition of rights and gram sabha consent prior to diversion of forest land
- Tehe Supreme Court’s judgment in the Niyamgiri case,where it read the Forest Rights Act to require that the gram sabha must take a decision on any proposal for forest diversion