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Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal, India

Since 2009, within and around the protected area of Jaldapara National Park, twelve villages of about 2,150 households have been fighting for the recognition of Community Forest Rights.

Jaldapara National Park is situated in the Alipurduar district of North Bengal, an area mostly inhabited by the indigenous community of Rabha (or Rava). It was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1941, and its habitat supports populations of one-horned rhinoceros, gaur, leopard, elephant, wild boars, sambar, spotted deer and other rare varieties of animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Since then it has been extended up to an area of 261.51 sqkm in 1998, and officially recognized under the category of National Park in 2014 (Envis, 2019).

Since 2009 twelve villages of about 2,150 households have been demanding recognition of the Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The FRA recognizes the rights of forest dwellers and scheduled tribes (indigenous communities), to use and inhabit the area.However, till date not a single CFR have been recognized. Since  2008, the conflicts between forest communities and the forest department started to escalate, when villagers laid a siege to the departmental timber depot at the Kodal Basti forest village and stopped outsiders and departmental stuff from extracting timber from the Chilapata forests which form a crucial part of the Jaldapara NP. In 2010, more than 500 forest dwellers from Kodal Basti Gram Sabha got organized to reclaim their forest rights and put up a board asserting their authority over their CFR, which was self-proclaimedThe action resulted in  harassment and repression against the local  and activists fighting for their due rights; criminal cases were lodged against many

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal, India
State or province:West Bengal
Location of conflict:Alipurduar District
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

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Project area:26,151
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2,150 households
Start of the conflict:01/01/2010
Relevant government actors:West Bengal Forest Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch
North Karbari gram sabhas
All Indian Forum of Forest People (AIFFP)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Rabha Indigenous Group
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:8 January 2014. Press release. [1]. Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch demands that:
1. Forest department must immediately suspend their CFC operations in Khairbari forests and do not start new CFCs in any other forests over which communities have a claim.
2. Government of West Bengal must ensure that community rights of forest dwelling tribals and other traditional forest dwellers over their forests are duly protected, and initiate due official process to recognize and record forest rights including rights over Community Forest Resource.
3. That legal proceedings according to Section 7 of FRA are started against all forest department staff, and others who tried to cut tress in Khairbari forests.
Lal Singh Bhujel
Sundar Sing Rava
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:I would not consider this a complete success, but a partial success. The communities continue to be under threat by the forest department, violation of human rights continue to happen, and the forest rights have not been officially recognized. However, the community have started asserting their rights over land and forest in a successful manner, organizing patrolling activities, planning conservation strategies and mapping their own area to create their own model of community conservation.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Soumitra Gosh (2016) 'Selling Nature: nature of Coercion, Resistance and Ecology' in Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis. Ed. Kohli Kehi, Manju Menon
[click to view]

[click to view]

[1] Press Release by Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch
[click to view]

[2] The Wire "Criminalising Forest-Dwellers Has Not Helped India's Forests or Wildlife. It's Time for a New Deal'. Authors: Meenal Tatpati and Sneha Gutgutia work at Kalpavriksh, Pune. 23 May 2017.
[click to view]

Times of India: Gramsabha members in Cooch Behar forests protest clear felling in elephant corridor. Jayashree Nandi, 8 Jan. 2014.
[click to view]

Other comments:We are thankful for the data shared by Soumitra Gosh of NESPON and by Sundar Sing Rava, the convener of the Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch.
Some data have been collected directly from the field through survey discussion with the community members and leaders of the movement.
Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, UAB, [email protected]
Last update25/03/2019
Conflict ID:3886
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