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Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharastra, India


Description:

The Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary, in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra state in central India, was on the brink of an ecological and social collapse around the turn of the century. Extensive timber smuggling and encroachment of forest lands had severely degraded the habitat over the years. But, a collaborative initiative between a regional organization, Lok Sangharsh Morcha (LSM) , which was formed in 2000 and the local Forest Department, supported by other government bodies, led to an amazing revival in the sanctuary. 

The sanctuary is home to 6 villages who reside inside, namely Langda Amba (a forest village), Usmali, Jamanya, Gadriya, Garbardi and Nimdya. The complex situation in the sanctuary has mostly arisen because the issues of land and resource rights and access to them have been systematically ignored in conservation planning for decades. More so, they were ignored since 1996 when the sanctuary was brought under the wildlife wing of the Forest Department [1]. 

Since the British time, these villages became employed in forestry activities without having access rights to the resources and depending entirely on daily wage labour. The same restrictions continued to be applied even after independence under the Forest Department. When the forest got declared as a sanctuary, forest extraction activities continued. Timber felling was later stopped in 1984 while Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) extraction continued till 1991. Extractive activities were banned completely only in 1996 when the sanctuary was handed over to the wildlife wing of the Forest Department. However, this resulted in a systematic reduction of livelihood options for the community, with minimal agricultural land available and no access to forest resources [1,3]. Since then, the villages have been demanding their rights and have been actively participating in the shaping of the Forest Rights Act, to allow them to access the basic forest resources needed for their survival. However, just before the FRA was passed in the parliament, some people spread the rumours that forest land could be occupied thanks to this just-passed law. Several communities from the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh illegally occupied the land for agriculture purposes. This led to conflicts between the two communities, rising again the issues of timber smuggling, deforestation corruption etc., which had its deep root in the socio-political context that emerges from social inequity, centralized power and conservation policies, among others. Moreover, the sanctuary was often reported in the media as a space of huge encroachment [4]. 

After years of conflicts related to land issues, insecurity and rights, the local communities started to ask for the support of the Forest Department. Finally, in May 2013, the Forest Department Collector of Jalgaon decided to collaborate with the locals. He started the process of recognizing the rights to the residents under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). Since then, six villages started the process of rights reclamation, and they also began environmental restoration activities and wildlife management plans [1]. This was particularly valuable in the area since it had gradually lost its ecological biodiversity, due to lots of forestry and encroachment activities. These restoration activities were considered vital both for the life of the wildlife and for the sustenance of the communities. 

The process of claiming the rights and mapping the village limits area, has been carried on under the support of: a local NGO called Lok Sangharsh Morcha (LSM) or the People’s Struggle Front, which was formed in 2000; of the social and environmental organization Kalpavriksh; and with the respective state agencies including the Forest Department. 

The collaborative process, which started in 2012 has led to important restoration activities of forest regeneration and wildlife populations, and with 1,208 hectares of illegal encroachment successfully removed by 2014. It was also reported that the first tiger was again spotted in the sanctuary after a long 15 years [5].

Despite all this valuable job, on July 1, 2016 the Satpura Bachao Samiti, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, issued a press release in local newspapers asking for five villages to be relocated from inside the Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary, and the sanctuary be declared a critical wildlife habitat. This was a shock for the local residents who have been playing a crucial role in its regeneration and transformation, and that since then have been continuously fighting for the legal recognition of their community forest rights (CFRs). However in a final success, before 2 and then the remaining 4 villages inside the core area received the legal recognition of their CFRs in May 2018 (statement based on local information gathered on fieldwork by the author). 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharastra, India
Country:India
State or province:Maharashtra
Location of conflict:Jalgaon
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:Timber
Fruits and Vegetables
Fish
bamboo

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra state of central India, it extends for 176 sq km and it has been declared as Wildlife sanctuary in 1969.

Project area:17,600
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:500
Start of the conflict:01/01/1969
End of the conflict:01/05/2018
Relevant government actors:Maharastra Forest Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Lok Sangharsh Morcha (LSM)
Kalpavriksh

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
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary has been declared as a protected area, but the 6 villages living within the park have got their legal recognition of their community forest rights (CFRs). They have started a forest community management approach with the support and collaboration of the forest department, including restoration activities and trees plantation which have led to the restoration of wildlife and of tiger population.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The indigenous communities have obtained their right to use and access to the resources. It is a positive example of collaborative forest community conservation management approach.

Sources & Materials

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

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

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

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

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

Neema Pathak Broome, Nitin D Rai, Meenal Tatpati (2017) Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Rights Act, in Economic and Political Weekly.
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Meenal_Tatpati/publication/318489911_Biodiversity_conservation_and_forest_rights_act/links/5d51445492851cd046b50f29/Biodiversity-conservation-and-forest-rights-act.pdf

[2] Nature in Focus ' two sides of every story'
https://www.natureinfocus.in/nature-digest/two-sides-to-every-story

[3] Radical Ecology, 'Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary – Resurgence Through People’s Participation', Author: Neema Pathak Broom &

Yagyashree Kumar, Oct. 28, 2017
https://www.radicalecologicaldemocracy.org/yawal-wildlife-sanctuary-resurgence-through-peoples-participation/

'Two sides of every story ' in Nature in Focus
https://www.natureinfocus.in/nature-digest/two-sides-to-every-story

Frontline, 'Lesson from Yawal', Aug. 04, 2017. Author: Neema Pathak &
https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece

Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary – Resurgence Through People’s Participation
https://www.radicalecologicaldemocracy.org/yawal-wildlife-sanctuary-resurgence-through-peoples-participation/

Nature in Focus
https://www.natureinfocus.in/nature-digest/two-sides-to-every-story

[4] Times of India, 'Encroachments overrunning Yawal sanctuary' Aug. 8, 2013, Author: Vijay Pinjarkar
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/21718500.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

[5] The Times of India. 'Tiger sighted in Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary after 15 years', Jan 9, 2016
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Tiger-sighted-in-Yawal-sanctuary-after-15-years/articleshow/50510474.cms

[1] Frontline 'Lesson from Yawal', Author: Neema Pathak Broom &

Yagyashree Kumar, Aug. 04, 2017
https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece

[5] The Times of India, 'Tiger sighted in Yawal sanctuary after 15 years', Jan. 9, 2016
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Tiger-sighted-in-Yawal-sanctuary-after-15-years/articleshow/50510474.cms

[4] The Times of India 'Encroachments overrunning Yawal sanctuary', Author: Vikay Pinjarkar, Aug. 08, 2013
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Encroachments-overrunning-Yawal-sanctuary/articleshow/21718500.cms

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA, (UAB), [email protected]
Last update03/09/2019

Images

 

Rally at Jalgaon on World Indigenous Day, 9 Aug 2016

A group of indigenous people from the Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary raising their voice for the recognition of their rights on the World Indigenous day

FRA claim verification progress

Spot verification of claim made under FRA in progress in Mindya village in October 2016. Retrived by: https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece

Restoration activities in Yawal Wildlife Sanctaury (YWS)

Yawal Village residents participating in a campaign of the Maharastra Forest Department to plant trees, in July 2016. Retrieved by: https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece

Rally at Jalgaon on World Indigenous Day, 9 Aug 2016

A group of indigenous people from the Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary raising their voice for the recognition of their rights on the World Indigenous day

Restoration activities in Yawal Wildlife Sanctaury (YWS)

Yawal Village residents participating in a campaign of the Maharastra Forest Department to plant trees, in July 2016. Retrieved by: https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece

FRA claim verification progress

Spot verification of claim made under FRA in progress in Mindya village in October 2016. Retrived by: https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/conservation/lesson-from-yawal/article9769795.ece