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Simlipal National Park, conflict over conservation project, Odisha, India

Tribal populations pushed out from their forest - a case of displacement and dispossession from the Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha.


The Simlipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, which is mostly inhabited by indigenous communities, has been a place of conflicts between the local communities and the forest department. The Park, which is spread over 2,750 sq. km, was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a sanctuary in 1979. In 1986 the central government marked 845 sq. Km of the reserve as a core area; the same was later expanded in 2007 to 1,194.75 sq. km, englobing 5 of the 65 villages that were living within the limits of the park. Since then the forest department has been relocating a number of about 453 families both from core and buffer zone. This has led to a series of conflicts between the indigenous communities and the forest department on different fronts.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Simlipal National Park, conflict over conservation project, Odisha, India
State or province:Odisha
Location of conflict:Mayurbhanj
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Simlipal Tiger Reserve, is a compact block of elevated plateau located in the central portion of Mayurbhanj district, in the northern part of Orissa. The Simlipal Reserve Forest spread over 2,750 sq. km, was declared as “Tiger Reserve” on 04.12.1973, under Project Tiger Scheme of India. On 31st December 2007, the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) was declared as per the Section 38V of the WLPA amended act, extending its core area over 1194.75 sq. km and a buffer area of 1555.25 sq. km.

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Project area:275,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:24.020
Start of the conflict:1973
Relevant government actors:Odisha Forest Department
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vasundhara
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi)
Forms of mobilization:Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Some villages located in the buffer area, whose community forest rights (CFR) have been recognized, are constituting a forest management committee and 30 villages have already prepared a management and conservation plan for community forest resources. 21 villages have submitted a management plan to the Sub-divisional level committee and approved by the District collector. About 10 villages have already started implementing their management plan with the support of the Forest department. The process is being followed up by Vasundhara and CREFTDA, and a meeting is held with the concerned authorities every month to follow up the process.
However, the real implementation of these rights continues to be obstructed by the forest department, and the indigenous communities are continuously struggling to properly implement the law – a law which has the potentiality to bring out of poverty thousands of people and legalize their status in their forest reserved areas.
Legal Actions:
The first legal action has been taken on 15th December 2014, when the local indigenous activist Telanga Hasa from Jamunagar village, submitted an appeal to the Ministry of Tribal Affair requesting to stop the relocation from the Simlipal Tiger Reserve and provide the basic amenities to villages inside Simlipal. On 15th and 16th December 2016, a National Public Hearing was organized by the Human Rights Law Network, in New Delhi, in support of the Jamunagarh relocated villagers. It was argued that while community rights and titles received their rights were immediately deprived in the relocated site. It was also criticized that the two villagers inside the core areas were continuously denied of asserting their rights, although titles distributed and CFRs recognized.
Since the beginning of 2017 local activists led by Telanga Hasa, have started to get organized to protest against the ongoing eviction under the flag of Simlipal Surakshia Manch (SSM). An important meeting was organized at the state level on 6 January, 2017 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha to protest against the forcible eviction of the villagers from the STR. On that day the representatives of Simlipal Surakshia Manch (SSM) appealed to stop the relocation plan both in core and buffer area, asking to stop the continuous harassment and ensuring basic facilities to the communities of the Simlipal Tiger Reserve.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the local communities of Simlipal Tiger Reserve and National Park have got their community forest rights recognized, this cannot be considered a success, as the law here has been instrumentalized to legalized the relocation from the protected reserved areas, which is in an ongoing status. The forest rights recognized under the law continue to get denied by the forest department, harassment and human rights violation continue to take place against the indigenous communities living within the limits of the tiger project.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (recognition of forest rights) Act, 2006
[click to view]

section 38V of the Wildlife Protectio Act (WLPA), Amendment 2006
[click to view]

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

Madhulika Saho (2012), Anthropology of displacement: Case of conservation induced displacement and its impact on indigenous people in Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, Afro Asian Journal of Anthropology and Social Policy Indian, Vol. 3, No. 2, July- December 2012, pp- 45-52
[click to view]

Vasundhara Report, 2016. Recognition of community forest rights under the forest rights act: Experience from Simlipal Tiger reserve.

[1] Tribal leader targeted for resisting eviction from tiger reserve, Survival International, March 27, 2015
[click to view]

[2] The Hindu 'Tribals against shifting of villages from protected areas', June 9, 2017.
[click to view]

[3] Down to Earth 'Habitat rights of Odisha’s tribal group denied; their livelihood also at stake'. Author: Ishan Kukreti. January 4, 2018.
[click to view]

[4] The Indian Express "PVTG families relocated to rehab colony", January 25, 2020
[click to view]

[5] Update Odisha. "Villagers oppose forcible relocation from Similipal Tiger Reserve" January 6, 2017.
[click to view]

[6] Down to Earth "Community forest rights in critical tiger habitats under threat" Authors: Shruti Agarwal, Soujanya Shrivastava. January 17, 2017.
[click to view]

Tribals present Forest Management Plan
[click to view]

The Ecologist, "India: tribes face eviction for "tiger conservation". may 13, 2014.
[click to view]

Business Line "Pushed out of the woods". Author: Bhasker Tripathi. January 12, 2018.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

India: Tiger Reserve tribe faces eviction
[click to view]

Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by the organization Vasundhara and its members.
Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, [email protected]
Last update19/07/2018
Conflict ID:3612
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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