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Displacement for conservation in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, CG, India


Description:

The Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, located in the Mungeli district of Chattisgarh, is mostly inhabited by the Baigas, an indigenous community belonging to the particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG).

Out of the 25 villages inhabiting the core area of the tiger reserve, 6 forest Villages[1]-Jalda, Kuba, Bokrakachhar, Bahud, Bakal, and Sambhar Dhasan, with around 249 families - 238 tribals and 11 from OBCs - were relocated from the tiger reserve during December 2009 [1,2]. In February 2009, the tiger reserve was notified under Project Tiger, with the condition of relocating all the villages from the core area of the reserve to make "inviolate space" for tigers. Villagers were promised a fixed compensation package of 10 lakh rupees (1 million) including basic amenities in the new settlement place like  - 5 acres of agricultural land/household, accommodation, school, healthcare and better livelihood opportunities. But when this relocation was carried on, the alternative location was not made ready for the displaced population, the villagers had to stay in temporary huts built by the forest department and each household was given a petty amount of Rs.5000 cash and Rs.45,000 in the bank account, which was spent mostly in meeting the daily needs and housing arrangement [1,2]. 

The people felt cheated as they understood they would receive both land and 10 lakh rupees as promised earlier by the forest department [1]. The explanation on how the compensation money has been distributed came out in a local newspaper reports which reported, ‘Rs 1 lakh goes for making 1 acre of land, Rs 2 Lakh for construction of the house, Rs 4 lakh for the construction of the community centre, Rs 2 lakh for the Davsthal (Deity house / temple), Rs 1 lakh for the playground, Rs 3 Lakh 50 thousand for the school building, Rs 1,050 for Anganbari (Kindergarden) and for ten tube-well Rs. 2-2 lakhs will be spent and a cash amount of Rs 50 thousand will be paid to these families’[5]. In 2009, the sudden relocation of Jalda village in the winter to temporary camps also led to the death of one person due to starvation. The villagers were left with no proper house, no source of livelihood and had to survive the winter at the mercy of the forest officials [1]. 

The relocated families who are living at the edge of the forest have been strictly prohibited from collecting forest produce and fuelwood from the forests. The Baiga tribal argues that they have no alternative livelihood options outside forests and are working as contract labour at construction sites in urban areas. This relocation was done without considering the option of co-existence which is a violation under section-4(2)(c) of the FRA,2006. Baigas who are primarily dependent on the forest for livelihood have run out of livelihood opportunities in the area where they have been relocated. The land is of poor quality and away from the forest resources inhibiting them from practicing their livelihood activities.

As per guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the relocation of the other 19 villages residing the core area of the ATR will be taking place soon, vis.: Achanakmar, Chaprwa, Katami, Atria, BadiAtaria, Surhi, JakarhBandha, Dagaria, Rajak, Niwaskhar, Bamhai, Tilaidubra, Bindawel, Lamni, Ranjaki, Sarasdol, Kiwalkhar, Danokhar, Chirhatta. 

 There is a plan to relocate all the villages outside the reserve. According to a TOI report, the government is ready for the relocation plan of 5 villages, namely Sarasdol, Rajak, Tilaidabra, Birarpani and Chirhatt [6]. The villages of Ranjaki, Niwaskar and Chaprwaar have also been targeted by the forest department [6]. The forest diversion process for relocation of Tilaidabra, Chirhatta and Birarpani has been submitted by the deputy director of the Achanakmar tiger reserve so as to relocate these families from the tiger reserve [7]. Some of these villages are now fighting back and asking for the recognition of the Forest Rights Act. With the support of the Navraska NGO, a young group is starting raising awareness on FRA and organizing the local communities to fight back. Dilharn from the youth group says: “This is our jungle and we are not willing to move, there is nothing interesting in the cities, and we are happy living in our villages. Look at the stars here, do you think you will be able to see the same from Bilaspur?” [info from the field]. 

The only village that started the FRA process and submitted their claims has been so far Fulwaripara, a village located in the buffer area. However, these claims have been rejected, and the women, leaders of the movement, have been continuously facing lots of harassment and threats of eviction [5]. 

In the last 10 years harassment and pressure of relocation by the forest department have started to increase, and the villages living just on the limits of the core area are mostly affected. Indeed, as they live on the edge, they are not able to get into the patrolled core area to collect minor forest products for their livelihood. One story of harassment was shared by the Baiga Bupen in fieldwork. Bupen recounted that on 6 January 2017, he entered the forest together with a group of 26 to collect bamboo, an important source of livelihood. The group was seen by the patrolling forest guards who detained and tortured Bupen and two friends for one entire day. When the asked recompensation of 10.000 rupees was not given by the villagers involved for lack of resources,  the FD entered the village taking whatever resources available such as chicken, food and other small items. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Displacement for conservation in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, CG, India
Country:India
State or province:Chhattisgarh
Location of conflict:Bilaspur
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Land
Timber

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 1975 part of the Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve was declared as Achankmar Wildlife Sanctuary, covering 557.55 sq.km. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2003, after the recommendation of the 37th meeting of the Steering Committee of Project Tiger held on 23rd January 2003. With the notification of the Critical Tiger Habitat on 20 February 2009, the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve was expanded up to 914 sq. km. The core expands for an area of 636 sq. km and the buffer for 287 sq.km. However as per official records, the Tiger Population dropped drastically.

The Tiger Reserve is divided in 4 range divisions: Lahmni, Surahi, Achanakmar and Chaparwa, and it extends on the 3 block of Lohrmi, Gaurelia, Kota. The TR hosts a total of 42 villages, of which 25 villages have been residing in the core area.

Project area:91,401.7
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,774
Start of the conflict:05/12/2009
Relevant government actors:Chattisgarh State Forest Department
International and Finance InstitutionsWWF from Switzerland
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Nadi Ghati Morcha, Baiga Mahapanchayat, Equations (http://www.equitabletourism.org/)
Navraska NGO
Al India Forum of Forest Movement (AIFFM)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Tribal groups of Baiga, Gond and Yadavs
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
Development of alternatives:-An independent review of the status at rehabilitation sites including livelihood, living accommodation, access to forests, access to education, health services and other civic amenities must be conducted. Based on the outcomes necessary steps should be taken and only then should the next phase of rehabilitation be taken up.
· All forest and land rights claims filed under the Forest Rights Act of 2006 should be first settled – specifically community rights.
-The Forest Rights Act of 2006 provision of right to protect the forests should be acknowledged and this should be taken into account before any further displacement takes place.
·-Forest Rights Act of 2006 and the Revised guidelines for the ongoing centrally sponsored scheme of Project Tiger, 2008, mention about the right of the adivasis (tribal groups) and other forest dwellers to access natural and forest resources and this should be upheld.
· The form of displaced is forced (by manipulation). The forest department needs to show cultural sensitivity, especially while building the homes which should be such that they are specific to the cultural and social context of the communities. Further, resettlement sites should be identified such that they are near the forests so that people can access the natural and forest resources.
-Money that is due to the people who have been displaced should be given, and bank passbooks should handed over to the heads of the households.
-Any tourism development that takes place should take the community into confidence and the process should ensure that the opinions of the community be respected and acted upon.
By-EQUATIONS, Baiga Mahapanchayat, Nadi Ghati Morcha
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Department of Forest still does not acknowledge the socio-economic and cultural fault in the relocation plan of the Baiga tribal and has not yet settled Forest rights of the communities living in other villages in the core area of the reserve. However the relocation plan for other 5 villages have been prepared and the proposal has been approved by the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change who has advised the State to settle forest rights before the process of relocation.

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

Violation under Section-3(1) and Section-4(2) where community rights settlements is compulsory before relocation of the tribal and forest dwellers from the forest area.
https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiO8-6ChOjVAhWKwI8KHbRUCCkQFgg7MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tribal.nic.in%2FFRA%2Fdata%2FFRARulesBook.pdf&usg=AFQjCNF-c6V--dqQZVEDXmudaxr0Kd0yqQ

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

Bineet Mundu. Development and Displacement: Who Pays the Price?
https://www.academia.edu/15552683/Development_and_Displacement_Who_Pays_the_Price

Land Rights Violations at Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary, Chhattisgarh

A fact finding report by the local tribal rights group. EQUATION
https://www.scribd.com/doc/52480983/Land-Rights-Violations-at-Achanakmar-Wildlife-Sanctuary-Chhattisgarh

[5] Bineet Mundu. Development and Displacement: Who Pays the Price?
https://www.academia.edu/15552683/Development_and_Displacement_Who_Pays_the_Price

[3] Business Standard. "Tribals relocated from tiger reserve face livelihood crisis" Aug. 13, 2016.
http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/tribals-relocated-from-tiger-reserve-face-livelihood-crisis-113081600224_1.html

[7] Achanakmar rehabilitation project
http://forestsclearance.nic.in/timeline.aspx?pid=FP/CG/REHAB/42779/2019

[1] The Hindu. "Relocation plan to nowhere land". Aug. 1, 2012. Author: Meena Menon.
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/Relocation-plan-to-nowhere-land/article12674787.ece

[4] The Hindu."Forest versus Forest Folks". Auguts 5, 2012. Author: Meena Menon
https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/forest-versus-forest-folks/article3723261.ece

[5] World Rainforest Movement. "Indigenous Baiga women in India: “Our story should be heard”. March 11, 2019.
https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section1/indigenous-baiga-women-in-india-our-story-should-be-heard/

[6] Times of India. "Relocation of villages: Tiger population up in ATR". April 27, 2015. Author: Arjun Chouan
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Relocation-of-villages-Tiger-population-up-in-ATR/articleshow/47069389.cms

[2] Deccan Herald "Tribals relocated from tiger reserve face livelihood crisis". Aug, 16, 2013
https://www.deccanherald.com/content/351434/tribals-relocated-tiger-reserve-face.html

Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by Devjiit Nandi of Navraska NGO and member of All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM).

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, [email protected] (ICTA)/ Ankur Paliwal
Last update13/11/2017

Images

 

Entrance of the park

Source: http://tumkurameen.blogspot.it/2009/11/beyond-tiger-show-hidden-treasures-of.html

Entrance of the park

Source: http://tumkurameen.blogspot.it/2009/11/beyond-tiger-show-hidden-treasures-of.html

Baiga in the resettlement site

UPROOTED: The Baiga are trying to adjust to their new life in concrete dwellings in the relocated villages of Bokhra Kachchar. Photo: Meena Menon | Photo Credit: mail_grjgm

Baiga in the resettlement site

UPROOTED: The Baiga are trying to adjust to their new life in concrete dwellings in the relocated villages of Bokhra Kachchar. Photo: Meena Menon | Photo Credit: mail_grjgm