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Jim Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India


Description:

Corbett National Park was established in 1935 under the name Hailey National Park and it was the first National Park to be established in Asia. The park has a big history of exploitation upon its natural resources and continuous conflict with the local communities. It has been reported that there have been many illegal mining activities taking place and many resorts in the buffer area of the tiger reserve have also encroached on forest land without due clearance [1]. 

There have also been several relocation processes from the tiger reserve.  Since 1994, 4 villages have been displaced from the inside area, namely Laldangh, Kothiraw (300 families), Jhirna (70 families), and Dhara (50 families) [as per information collected by P.C. Joshi, an activist living in Ramnagar]. 

The forest area in and around Corbett is mostly inhabited by the Van Gujjar community, a pastoral nomadic ethnic group originally from Kashmir. They are one of the many tribes who live in deep dependence with the wildlife, and for whom the ‘transhumance’  (the practice of moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle) has been a way of life since centuries. In 2014 a number of 157 Van Gujjars families got relocated from Sona River Wildlife Sanctuary, and reallocated in Sabalgarh in an area of 160 hectares. A petition N. 168 of 2014 (PIL) has been filed by Sri Krishna on 12 May 2015 against the poor conditions of the relocated sites, questioning the position of the relocation in an Elephant Corridor zone. No drinking facilities, and no other basic services were provided. 

Since the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the people living within and around the area have started to mobilize asking for their forest rights to be recognized. However, the state of Uttarakhand has completely denied the rights to the community dwellers. This is also because the Uttarakhand state does not recognize them as Scheduled Tribes (ST), by making the process of claiming their rights under FRA (Forest Rights Act), even more hazardous. In general the process of getting claims accepted in protected areas has been more difficult because of the pressure of the conservationists. 

In May 2015, officials from the Terai-East Forest division entered Tumadiya Khatta, a village situated in the buffer area of the south-eastern part of the tiger reserve and destroyed the huts and the forest crops of the dwellers, committed atrocities, and used physical violence, also against women [2]. On 19 December 2016 a Uttarakhand High Court order declared that all the Van Gujjars living within 10 km around the Corbett area must be evicted (high court order numb. 54 OF 2016). The order came out in relation to the creation of the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the Corbett area, stating that the Van Gujjar are considered a threat to wildlife and forest firings, hence needed to be rehabilitated immediately [3]. 

In August 2018, another High Court order stated that the 57 Gujjar families living in the Dhela range which lies in the buffer zone of the Corbett area needed to be evicted. However, the order was put on halt thanks to a petition filed by Tarun Joshi, a resident of Ramnagar and a leader of the Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha, who is fighting for the recognition of the forest rights in Corbett area, and supporting the struggle for recognition of the Van Gujjars. The halt arrived by the Supreme Court on 28 September 2018 [4]. On the other side, the National Green Tribunal ordered the eviction of 800 ‘encroachers’ inhabiting the core area of the park, many of whom includes workers who stayed back after the completion of the Kalagarh reservoir in the southern area of the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary. The court order was filed by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the petition started in 1999 [5].  

Moreover, after issues related to Human-wildlife conflict, a village bordering the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Sunderkhal has been proposed to be relocated. The village has been identified as an area of high level conflict and is also part of an identified tiger corridor and therefore there have been constant talks between forest officials and the local villagers to vacate the area, with many wildlife organizations rooting for the same [7]. However, development projects and forest clearance continues to be approved within the PA and in its eco-sensitive zone [8;9].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Jim Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India
Country:India
State or province:Uttarakhand
Location of conflict:Ramnagar, Nainital
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

Corbett National Park was established in 1936. The area came under 'Project Tiger' in 1971 when the Government of India launched this ambitious conservation project. Today after addition of areas into the originally declared National Park, the total area of Tiger Reserve extends to 1,288 sq. km spreading over three districts of Uttarakhand viz., Pauri, Nainital and Almora. The national park covers an area of 521 sq km, while the other part which today represents the entire tiger reserve has been added since 1991, and they include the entire Kalagarh forest division, assimilating the 301 sq km and the area of Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of the Kalagarh division.

In 2009 it was notified as a critical tiger habitat (CTH) with an area of 822 sq km and a buffer area of 466 sq km. for a total of 1288 sq km. Later, on July 21, 2012, the area of Amangarh was notified by the State government of Uttar Pradesh as a buffer area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

The forest area in and around Corbett is mostly inhabited by the Van Gujjar community, a nomadic group originally from Kashmir. According to the 2015 MEE report, there are about 20 villages in the buffer area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, and 70 villages located within 5 km of the buffer zone area. Currently, there are no permanent settlements inside the core area of the park, Around 181 families residing in the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary were relocated thus freeing the area of human habitations (information gathered by local sources).

Project area:128,800
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1000
Start of the conflict:1990
Relevant government actors:Uttarakhand Forest Department
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:All India Union of forest Working People (AIUFWP)
Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha
Van Gujjar Kalyan Samiti

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Pastoralists
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Van Gujjar pastoralist community
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Migration/displacement
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:The Van Gujjars communities are demanding the recognition of the forest rights under FRA, upon the inhabited forest land. As pastoralist and nomadic group the community is asking for the recognition of the right of 'grazing (both settled and transhumant) and traditional seasonal resource access of nomadic or pastoralist communities' as sec. 3(1) d of the FRA.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Van Gujjars living within and around Corbett are still demanding for their forest rights, but as for now, their rights are not being legally recognized. No Environmental Justice and Recognition of rights.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/ind77867.pdf

Wildlife Protection Act, 2006 Amendment
http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/THE-20WILD-20LIFE.pdf

Down To Earth. 'Supreme Court orders removal of illegal residential colony from Corbett', Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, July 4, 2015.
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/supreme-court-orders-removal-of-illegal-residential-colony-from-corbett-42905

[1] Tehelka. 'Corbett, now on sale'. Author: Mazumdaar Jay, Sept. 17
https://www.pressreader.com/india/tehelka/20120512/281694021796267.

The Times of India. 'NGT orders eviction of 800 settlers from Corbett'. Seema Sharma, May 25, 2016
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/52437219.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

The Times of India, 'Van Gujjars to be relocated from Amangarh Tiger Reserve '. Author: Harveer Dabas, April 5, 2017.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/van-gujjars-to-be-relocated-from-amangarh-tiger-reserve/articleshow/57996868.cms

The Tribune. Van Gujjars being harassed, says activists. Jan 5, 2017.
https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/uttarakhand/community/van-gujjars-being-harassed-say-activists/346094.html

[4] 'Uttarakhand High Court orders to evict Van Gujjars from forest', in Intercultural Resources, a blog.
https://icrindia.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/uttarakhand-high-court-orders-to-evict-van-gujjars-from-forest/

[6] Hindustan Time. 'Supreme Court directs status quo on relocation of Van Gujjars' Author: Neeraj Santoshi, Sep 24, 2018.
https://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/supreme-court-directs-status-quo-on-relocation-of-van-gujjars/story-jRe4EZIiRF5HYsS5CFLzTM.html

[2] The Hindu. 'The Forest Won't Forget: A struggle for land in Ramnagar'. Author: Kavita Upadhyay, Jan. 17, 2017.
https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttarakhand-2017/The-forests-won%E2%80%99t-forget-A-struggle-for-land-in-Ramnagar/article17047525.ece

[3] The Wire. 'No Country For Pastoralists'. Author: Meenal Tatpati and Neema Pathak Broome, Feb. 14, 2018
https://thewire.in/agriculture/no-country-pastoralists

[8] Times of India "If you can’t protect wildlife, will ask Centre to denotify protected areas". Aug. 11, 2018. Author: Vineet Upadhyay
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/if-you-cant-protect-wildlife-will-ask-centre-to-denotify-parks-hc-tells-govt/articleshow/65359105.cms

[9] Protected Area Update Vol. XXIV, No. 4, August 2018, pg. 14.

[7] Hindustan Times."Wildlife board agrees to hike compensation to conflict victims" June15, 2018. Author: Nihi Sharma
https://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/wildlife-board-agrees-to-hike-compensation-to-conflict-victims/story-uyLYFy9hGwCacj19AfmHtI.html

Protected Area Update Vol. XXIV, No. 4, August 2018, pg. 14.

Hindustan Times."Wildlife board agrees to hike compensation to conflict victims" June15, 2018. Author: Nihi Sharma
https://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/wildlife-board-agrees-to-hike-compensation-to-conflict-victims/story-uyLYFy9hGwCacj19AfmHtI.html

[5] The Indian Express. 'Uttarakhand: Van Gujjars are threat to wildlife, their rehabilitation against public policy, says HC'. Author: Kavita Upadhyay, Aug 17, 2018
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttarakhand-van-gujjars-rehabilitation-5310876/

Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by Tarun Joshi of Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha.

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB), [email protected]
Last update18/02/2019

Images

 

Saphi Bhai, Tumadiya Khatta village.

Saphi Bhai is Van Gujjar from Tumadiya Khatta, situated at the fringe of Corbett Tiger Reserve. He is also a leader in the struggle for the Forest Rights. He and his family have been highly harassed in 2015 an 2016 and his huts destroyed by the forest department. Credit: Eleonora Fanari

Thumadhia Kathia destroyed by Forest Department

The village ofTumadiya Khatta was destroyed on May 2015 by the forest department, bulldozers were used to destroy the huts of the Van Gujjars living in the area. Credit: Eleonora Fanari

Meeting at the fringe of Corbett Tiger Reserve.

People of the Tumaria hamlet near the Corbett Tiger Reserve attend a meeting related to the Uttarakhand Assembly polls. Image retrieved by: https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttarakhand-2017/The-forests-won%E2%80%99t-forget-A-struggle-for-land-in-Ramnagar/article17047525.ece

Meeting on Forest Rights Act

tarun Joshi, a leader of the Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha., address the people in an assembly to discuss on the importance of the Forest Rights Act.