I’m at the experience desk at Cardamom County, waiting for my first set of afternoon check-ins as a trainee. While waiting, I found some interestingly related articles about the Forest Rights Act, which is a piece of legislation passed in India in 2006. For all intents and purposes, the FRA allows tribal communities to petition the government for rights to lands they’ve historically dwelt on. The controversy surrounding this legislation is based on questions of anthropogenic cohabitation, deforestation, and the honesty with which the government handles petitions.
Here are a couple articles from India Together addressing certain of these issues.
From India Together,
“Unable to bear the hardships of leading a dignified life living cheek by jowl with wildlife, a large percentage of tribes living in forest areas crave for relocation, provided of course they get livelihood options, and are able to retain their cultural and tribal identity. Yet, anthropologists contend that tribes have been coexisting peacefully for thousands of years in wildlife reserves while the concept of wildlife and biodiversity conservation is nascent. In line with this, they say that relocation of the indigenous people will rob them of their dignity.”
- and environmentalist Ashish Kothari explains the politics of the FRA
“…the FRA says is that the development projects have to be appropriate; they have to be ecologically right, culturally sensitive and they should benefit people. The kind of projects which are coming up are mindlessly extracting water and forest resources on which people depend; these are not really ‘development’ projects. And if the FRA is coming in the way of such projects then it’s a good stumbling block to have.”
Of course, the Periyar Tiger Reserve (where I happen to be living) stands as a sort of counter-example to these more pessimistic perspectives on the FRA. Here’s a fairly old article (from 2007) about local, former poachers patrolling the park at night, protecting the wildlife from unauthorized exploiters.
I’m interested to find out if these policies still exist at Periyar. I’ll let you know what I find out.