Last update:
2014-05-03

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
Name of conflict:West Bengal eucalyptus conflict, India
Country:India
State or province:West Bengal
Location of conflict:West 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 :Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Eucalyptus
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

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.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2007
End of the conflict:2007
Relevant government actors:Joint Forest Management scheme, funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Tribal people
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Lodha tribals
Forms of mobilization:Property damage/arson
Indigenous villagers chopped down around 6600 young eucalyptus on a 6-ha state forest department plantation.
Impacts of the project
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-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:The 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Mass actions against eucalyptus monocultures, and for a more diverse forest ecosystem. But results uncertain. Lack of recent data.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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
Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014
Comments
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