West Bengal eucalyptus conflict, India

Description

In 2007, indigenous villagers chopped down around 6600 young eucalypts on a 6-ha state forest department plantation. The residents claimed that the land is theirs and that they want it back. The villagers of Khorikashuli, comprising mostly Lodha tribals, used to grow multiple crops on this land, which, they say, provided them with enough food for at least 6 months a year. One activist said: “In 2001, officials asked for land along the fringes of our fields. Then they took our thumb impressions on some papers and by 2004 they took over all our land”. The eucalypt plantation started in 2004 as a Joint Forest Management scheme funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Under the scheme, every family in the village would receive 25% of the cash earned from selling the trees after harvests 10 years later. But the villagers said that they cannot afford to wait that long. “Eucalypt doesn’t give us food”. The indigenous peoples are thus reclaiming the land under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. That the act, which recognizes the land rights of forest communities who do not have documentary proof of ownership, has not been implemented yet, does not seem to faze them. The land in question was originally a mahal forest owned by rich landowners or local royalty. The West Bengal Private Forests Act, 1948, which was the state’s first attempt to assert control over south Bengal forests, states that the rights of forest dwellers should be recorded and settled by forest settlement officers appointed for the purpose. However, after 1953 no survey was ever conducted.

Basic Data
NameWest Bengal eucalyptus conflict, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceWest Bengal
SiteWest Medinipur district
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesLand
Eucalyptus
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe eucalypt plantation started in 2004 as a Joint Forest Management scheme funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Under the scheme, every family in the village would receive 25% of the cash earned from selling the trees after harvests 10 years later.
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2007
End Date2007
Relevant government actorsJoint Forest Management scheme, funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersTribal people
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Lodha tribals
Forms of MobilizationProperty damage/arson
Indigenous villagers chopped down around 6600 young eucalyptus on a 6-ha state forest department plantation.
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesThe protesters claimed that the land is theirs and that they want it back. They used to grow multiple crops on this land. They are thus reclaiming the land under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Mass actions against eucalyptus monocultures, and for a more diverse forest ecosystem. But results uncertain. Lack of recent data.
Sources and Materials
References

Mitra, M.N., 2008. Landgrab? Down to Earth Magazine, 15 January 2008.
[click to view]

Down to Earth (DtE), 2009. Free cheers to the Forest Rights Act. Down to Earth Magazine, 15 January 2009.

Meta Information
ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014
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