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
"Generally forestry establishment (and green groups) in
the country has a perception that the FRA is a threat to the
"(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
According to him, 7.5 lakh claims would make upto 3
million hectare of forest cover of the total of nearly 67
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
"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,"