From superficial tinkering to unpacking state forests in india


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Madhu Sarin
Chandigarh, India

Presentation for the conference on
Taking stock of smallholders and community forestry
Montpellier France
March 24-26, 2010

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From superficial tinkering to unpacking state forests in india

  1. 1. From Superficial Tinkering to Unpacking State forests in India Presentation for the conference on Taking stock of smallholders and community forestry Montpellier France March 24-26, 2010 By Madhu Sarin Chandigarh, India
  2. 2. Indian context – Forests & wildlife conservation <ul><li>23% area ‘recorded’ as forests </li></ul><ul><li>Progressive stringency of conservation laws </li></ul><ul><li>Centralised management by territorial bureaucracy </li></ul><ul><li>Continuation of colonial law for enclosures </li></ul>
  3. 3. Forest Survey of India 2003
  4. 4. Indian context – Democratic Federal Republic <ul><li>Constitutional protection for equal rights </li></ul><ul><li>Constitutional mandate for decentralization of governance </li></ul><ul><li>Special constitutional protection for tribal cultures & resource rights </li></ul><ul><li>Community resource management as per customs & traditions in tribal areas </li></ul>
  5. 5. Origins of ‘Participatory’ (Joint) Forest Management <ul><li>State forest protection in crisis </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing alienation & conflicts with forest dependent people </li></ul><ul><li>General shift towards ‘participatory’ approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Donor – NGO driven </li></ul>
  6. 6. Basic framework <ul><li>No rights – only conditional entitlements </li></ul><ul><li>No devolution of authority – only responsibilities </li></ul><ul><li>Unilateral, non-enforceable MOUs between FDs & Village institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Only on degraded forests </li></ul>
  7. 7. Research focus in early years <ul><li>Unequal partnerships – imbalance in power </li></ul><ul><li>Gender & equity concerns </li></ul><ul><li>Livelihoods focused silviculture </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional autonomy & diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of legal status </li></ul>
  8. 8. First major shift – centralised standardization <ul><li>Massive donor funding </li></ul><ul><li>FD back in command – NGOs sidelined </li></ul><ul><li>Standardised undemocratic framework extended even to lands under customary tenures </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of creativity & diversity </li></ul>
  9. 9. Judicial Interventions didn’t help <ul><li>A forest PIL case since 1995 </li></ul><ul><li>Supreme court issued sweeping orders, most with drastic impacts on forest dwellers & forest based livelihoods </li></ul><ul><li>Little attention to governance issues – further centralization of power in forest bureaucracy </li></ul>
  10. 10. Deconcentration instead of devolution <ul><li>Extension of FD control inside villages </li></ul><ul><li>Evictions of poor with help of elites </li></ul><ul><li>Further enclosure of tribal & common lands as state ‘forests’ </li></ul><ul><li>Little sharing despite promises </li></ul>
  11. 11. Cultural & ecological impacts of standardisation <ul><li>Further loss of institutional diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Delegitimization of indigenous land and forest use practices </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of biodiversity due to focus on trees & plantations </li></ul><ul><li>Destruction, rather than improvement of livelihoods </li></ul>
  12. 12. Massive evictions as turning point - new questions, new perspective <ul><li>MoEF’s May 3, 2002 order - Evict all ‘encroachers’ by September 30 </li></ul><ul><li>Cited Supreme Court’s concerns </li></ul><ul><li>Bet May 02 & Aug 04, evictions from 152,000 ha </li></ul><ul><li>At 1 ha/hshld, 152,000 families or 750,000 impoverished people brutally evicted. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Outrage brought new issues into limelight <ul><li>Protests brought together people from diverse backgrounds - Issue reached Parliament </li></ul><ul><li>Deconstruction of historical forest land assemblage </li></ul><ul><li>MoEF admitted ‘historical injustice’ & that all forest dwellers without titles are not ‘encroachers’ </li></ul><ul><li>Ancestral tribal lands declared state forests without recognition of rights </li></ul>
  14. 14. Roots of the Problem: Unsound Land Classification as ‘Forests’ <ul><li>Most forestry interventions a-historical </li></ul><ul><li>Unquestioning acceptance of official ‘forest’ land (mis)classification </li></ul><ul><li>Plantations on lands under other uses destroy livelihoods, rights, & biodiversity </li></ul>
  15. 15. Legal Construction of Indian Forests <ul><li>Appropriation of commercially valuable forests & non-privatized commons during colonial rule </li></ul><ul><li>Post independence, poorly surveyed tribal areas declared ‘state forests’ without ecological surveys or recognition of rights. </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1951- 88, ‘national’ forest estate enlarged by 26 million ha (from 41 to 67 mha) through sweeping notifications </li></ul>
  16. 16. Poffenberger & McGean 1997
  17. 17. Disenfranchisement of Tribal Communities by conservation laws <ul><li>Major violation of constitutional provisions for safeguarding tribal cultures, livelihoods and resource rights </li></ul><ul><li>widespread negation of communal tenures, institutions & holistic land use systems without rigid forest-non-forest boundaries. </li></ul><ul><li>labeled ‘encroachers’ on their ancestral lands. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Tribal impoverishment through large scale displacement <ul><li>By 1990 about 8.5 million tribals (about 12.6% of all tribals) had been displaced by mega projects and Protected Areas. </li></ul><ul><li>Tribals only 8% of the population but upto 55% of those displaced. </li></ul><ul><li>6.4 million displaced adivasis left to fend for themselves without any rehabilitation. </li></ul><ul><li>No state accountability to those without recognised rights. </li></ul>
  19. 19. A Lot of legal ‘forest land’ is not legally notified <ul><li>All India ‘Recorded’ Forest Area (considered ‘legal forest’): 774,740 km2 (23.57% of country’s area) </li></ul><ul><li>Reserve Forest = 51.6%; </li></ul><ul><li>Protected Forest = 30.8%; </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Unclassed’ forest (which not legally notified) = 17.6% (SFR 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Rights not recognised even in many RFs & PFs </li></ul>
  20. 20. “ Unclassed state forest’ in Manipur or customary tribal land
  21. 21. Dismal condition of land records <ul><li>Forest and Revenue records don’t tally </li></ul><ul><li>Accdng to MoEF, RFA = 77 million ha </li></ul><ul><li>Accdng to MoAgri, RFA = 67.87 mha </li></ul><ul><li>9.13 mha ‘disputed’ between them with millions of cultivators caught in the middle. Revenue dept allocated the land to the poor but FD treats them as ‘encroachers’ </li></ul>
  22. 22. Overall situation <ul><ul><li>Poor procedures & unsound premises for defining forests and assembling the national forest estate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serious tenurial and land use conflicts, unclear boundaries, jurisdictional disputes between departments & communities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imposition of inappropriate management objectives on non-forest lands declared state ‘forests’ through sweeping notifications. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. JFM priveleged over resolving tenurial conflicts <ul><li>3 months after it’s June 1990 JFM circular, MoEF had issued circulars for: </li></ul><ul><li>FP (1) Review of encroachments on forest land. </li></ul><ul><li>FP (2) Review of disputed claims over forest land, arising out of (faulty) forest settlement. </li></ul><ul><li>FP (3) Disputes regarding pattas/leases/grants involving forest land. </li></ul><ul><li>Tenurial issues known but ignored while JFM attracted huge donor funding </li></ul>
  24. 24. JFM ignores rights & tenure <ul><li>Assumes FD hegemony on ‘forest’ lands </li></ul><ul><li>Converts disputed lands into state property </li></ul><ul><li>Generates poverty thru de-legitimizing existing land uses (agriculture, pasture, shifting cultivation) </li></ul><ul><li>Provides no legal entitlements </li></ul>
  25. 25. FCA promotes structured Inequity <ul><li>All occupants with disputed claims on ‘forest’ land equated with ‘encroachers’ despite being there since generations </li></ul><ul><li>Legal permission to destroy rich forests and tribal habitats for mining, industry and hydro projects granted liberally without even informing them. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Paradigm shift – challenging the macro framework <ul><li>Land classification – state forest or ancestral tribal lands? </li></ul><ul><li>Governance institution – externally imposed or village assembly mandated by Constitution? </li></ul><ul><li>Uni-functional versus multi-functional management? </li></ul><ul><li>FD versus indigenous knowledge of biodiversity? </li></ul>
  27. 27. Premises of Campaign for new law <ul><li>Restoration of citizenship rights to survive with dignity </li></ul><ul><li>Undoing historical injustice – not benevolent granting but recognition of pre-existing rights </li></ul><ul><li>Reclassifying ‘national’ to ‘community’ forest resources </li></ul><ul><li>Statutory community empowerment to protect, conserve and manage – dis-empower forest bureaucracy </li></ul>
  28. 28. Democratization of Forest Governance through FRA <ul><li>rights to include “responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance” </li></ul><ul><li>To strengthen the conservation regime while ensuring livelihood and food security </li></ul><ul><li>Making forest dwellers primary stakeholders in combining conservation with sustainable use. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Claimant Categories & types of Tenures <ul><li>Claimants can be individuals, families, groups & communities </li></ul><ul><li>Granting of secure individual as well as community tenures </li></ul><ul><li>Clear recognition of women’s rights </li></ul><ul><li>Rights to be heritable but inalienable </li></ul>
  30. 30. Categories of Rights to be Recognised <ul><li>rights to land for existing non-forest uses </li></ul><ul><li>to customary community lands for usufructs and grazing including the right to protect, regenerate and /or conserve or manage ‘community forest resources’ </li></ul><ul><li>rights over NTFPs & habitat and habitation rights of PTGs & pre-agricultural communities. </li></ul><ul><li>Other customary rights </li></ul>
  31. 31. Process <ul><li>Bottom up, demand driven law </li></ul><ul><li>Diluted hegemony of forest bureaucracy- Ministry of Tribal Affairs responsible for implementation </li></ul><ul><li>Transparent, village assembly based process for claiming rights </li></ul>
  32. 32. Shortcomings and obstacles <ul><li>Many eligible claimants likely to be excluded </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguous overlapping jurisdiction of other laws </li></ul><ul><li>Sabotaging efforts of wildlife conservationists, foresters and MoEF </li></ul><ul><li>Poor supportive capacity of Ministry of Tribal Affairs </li></ul>
  33. 33. Potential Outcomes <ul><li>Initiation of democratisation of forest governance 60 years after independence </li></ul><ul><li>Poverty reduction thru massive redistribution of resources & livelihood & tenurial security </li></ul><ul><li>Legal space for diverse community institutions managing their local resources </li></ul>
  34. 34. Challenges ahead <ul><li>Compelling entrenched forest bureaucracy & fortress conservationists to respect the law </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring complementary reform in conservation laws and programmes like JFM </li></ul><ul><li>Ensuring right holders have voice in Climate change negotiations and agreements like REDD </li></ul>