40,000 trees cut in Odisha!

Just like in Chhattisgarh, officials obtained a fake Gram Sabha certificate to take over tribal land
Tree cutting
Photo: @Sushmitav1 / Twitter 

40,000 trees have been cut in the Talabira village of Odisha’s Sambalpur district to make way for a coal mine, Down to Earth (DTE) reported.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) gave Stage II clearance to divert 1,038.187 hectares of forest land for the project that is steered by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India Ltd in Jharsguda and Sambalpur on March 28, which involved the felling of 1,30,721 trees.

This is again a violation of forest rights of the village residents by NLC India Ltd which had signed a mine development and operator contract with the Adani Group in 2018. The forest has been protected by forest dwellers in the Talabira village, along with five other hamlets in the area. The residents had formed the Talabira Gramya Jungle Committee had appointed a guard to protect these forests and used to pay him three kilograms of rice per family.

“We have protected this forest for more than 50 years. Around 3,000 people are dependent on this forest which is around 970 hectares in area. Now, these trees are being cut down by the government for coal,” Hemant Kumar Raut, a resident of Khinda hamlet, told DTE.

No titles have been granted to people these forest dwellers under the FRA 2006 and this has proved to be the bane of their existence. The villagers who have been protecting this forest, have now been told that it belongs to the government and they will have no say in matters of what the government is going to do with it because they did not file for titles. Almost 60% of the population affected belongs to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Despite it being the duty of FRA officials to create awareness among the people with regards to their rights, they have not completed their responsibility and this lack of legal recognition has led to the forest land being diverted. This, in spite of the government officials having given Rs. 74 lakh and Rs. 14 lakh to the Sambalpur and Jharsguda forest departments.

Kanchi Koli, senior researcher, Namati Environmental Justice Programme, Centre for Policy Research told the publication, “The FRA rules, 2012, require that the concerned officials raise awareness about the Act and its provisions. This is especially important if no claims are forthcoming and can enable the process of filing claims.”

Also, just like in Chhattisgarh where the government run Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) obtained fake no objection certificates from the Gram Sabha to grab land for bauxite mining, villagers in Odisha claim that the district officials acquired a fake Gram Sabha letter indicating that the Gram Sabha had given its consent for the diversion of land.

Although the villagers had written to the collector and the secretary, there has been no action taken yet. A report by Counterview states that the region where the trees are going under the axe is one of the last big forest patches in an area surrounded by industries and mines and has the oldest and most established community forest protection.

The illegal deforestation carried out at Talabari was without the consent of the villagers saw the complicity of 10 platoons of police. They have now proceeded to the Patrapalli village and tree felling is expected to start there soon. The villagers in Patrapalli have been imprisoned in their own homes as the police has surrounded the area and cordoned it off barring any activity.

Earlier as well, the Supreme Court had cancelled the forest right titles of 13,851 families including 6,313 of the Ganjam tribals.

At a time where world leaders are discussing the repercussions of climate change at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) and at a time when India must rethink its approach to sustainable development, it is busy chopping trees, whether it be in Odisha, Jharkhand, Kashmir or Mumbai.


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Thousands of Adivasis demand the implementation of FRA 2006
Compilation of Forest Rights Act, Rules, and Guidelines
Odisha govt cancels forest applications of over 6000 tribal families
In Jharkhand, Forest Rights Could Decide Votes In 77% Assembly Seats
Odisha govt cancels forest applications of over 6000 tribal families

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