Forest Rights Act aims green-cover restoration: Ramesh
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Last Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010, 17:43
New Delhi: Conservationists fear that Forest Rights Act (FRA) may become a doom for green-cover, but Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh feels that it opens up an opportunity to create a new fort for forestry restoration in the country.

"Generally forestry establishment (and green groups) in the country has a perception that the FRA is a threat to the forestry preservation.

"(But) the FRA opens up a new challenge, a new consciousness for creating a new fort for forestry and restoration through a mechanism involving people who have got patta (land ownership) under the Act," Ramesh said recently at a function here.

Wildlife conservationists have been opposing the Act saying it would lead to the handing over of forests to tribals and make it impossible to create "inviolate spaces", or areas free of human presence, for the purposes of wildlife conservation, particularly tigers.

Forest Rights Bill was passed by Parliament in 2006 to guarantee rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them for decades.

However, Ramesh said in the last three years since its enactment, about 27 lakh claims have been filed at gram sabha level. "Out of this, only about 7.5 lakh pattas (of 4 hectares each) have actually been distributed -- only 28 per cent of total claims."

According to him, 7.5 lakh claims would make upto 3 million hectare of forest cover of the total of nearly 67 million hectare.

The Minister cited example of Madhya Pradesh where rate of rejection of claims was 70 per cent which he termed as "extraordinary and as an enormously important development. This is very good as far as preserving of the integrity of forest is concerned."

However, stating that an inter-ministerial panel has been formed to assess implementation of FRA, he said people cannot be seen as enemies but as our partners in forestry restoration and regeneration.

"I have no doubt that through capacity building and training, the patta-holders can be turned into Joint Forest Managements (JFMs) of their own.

JFM is the partnership in forest management involving both the state forest departments and local communities.

According to the government, in the last ten years the net addition to forestry cover has been ten lakh hectares as per the Forest Survey of India.

"In the next ten years, we hope to double this figure and JFM will be an important instrument to achieve the target," Ramesh said.


First Published: Monday, April 19, 2010, 17:43

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