A workshop on sustainable management of Community Forest Resources (CFR), recognized under Forest Rights Act (FRA)’ 2006 ,was organized by NIRMAN in collaboration with Foundation for Ecological Security(FES) at DRDA Conference Hall, Rayagada on 29th March 2015.
The workshop was inaugurated by Shri Jagannath Mohanty, District Collector, Rayagada. Prasant Mohanty, Chief Functionary of NIRMAN, welcoming the guests, shared the objectives of the Workshop. More than 100 Community leaders, FRC members from different villages of different Blocks namely Kalyansinghpur, Kalanahara, Rayagada, Chandrapur and Gunpur, participated in the workshop. Besides, Panchayat representatives, Block Development Officers and WEOs of Kalanahara, Rayagada, Gunpur and Kalyansighpur joined in the workshop.
Sharing the important FRA implementation issues in the district, Kailash Kadraka of village Poduchuna of Kalyansingpur block lamented that Forest officials are not cooperating during CFR field verification. “They do not come despite twice issuing of notice from the Gram Sabha and even deny signing over the ‘hand drawn Map’ and ‘Field Verification report’ prepared by FRC”, he said. Mrs. Dharani Pratika of village Kurmajodi Nuagoan of Chandrapur block complained that the CFR as well as Individual Forest Rights (IFR) are denied by forest officials in the reserve forest area and CFR titles issued in annexure III (claimed in B form) in Panchubadi, Hemburu, Lundubadi, Huruguda and Turiguda villages of Jhariguda G.P of Chandrapur Block are faulty in nature as it doesn’t include the CFR area falling over reserve forest and are issued without CFR maps.
One of the major issues which came up as an issue for both community and government officials as regards to FRA implementation in the district was the problem in recognizing IFR and CFR rights over “Dongar and Pahad” lands. It was shared that while there is physical forest growth over these lands, they have been recorded in the RoR as non forest land.
Santosh Kumar Parida of NIRMAN informed that many CFR claims are pending at the Gunpur SDLC for over last 8 months despite continuous follow up of the same by the community people in the form of representation at SDLC and on the grievance day.
Dr. Sricharan Behera, Forest Rights Expert, opined that since conservation and livelihood is complementary to each other, mere recognition of Community Forest Rights titles would have no value without protection, conservation and management of forest by the Community. Clarifying the issue of “Dongar, Parbat and Pahad” kinds of land not recorded as forest land and denied rights, he said, that it should be dealt based on the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Godavarman case duly clarified by GoO in GoR No.GE(GL) S-23/09(pt-I) 5309/R&DM dated 11.2.2010 and Vide GoR No. 17450/RD&DM dated 17th June 2014.
Manohar Chauhan, Member, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD, Odisha) sharing the land status of Rayagada district said that since Rayagada comes under undivided Koraput district, the process of land survey and settlement have been the same and most of the lands (around 81.83%) are recorded as Government land while rest only 18.17% of the land are in private ownership. Besides, the total forest area of the district is 788937.76 acres constituting 45.16% of the total government land. Of the Total Forest land in the district, Revenue Forest land consists of 63.86 %, Reserve Forest constitutes only 24.19% and DLC land constitutes 11.95 % .
Sharing the FRA implementation status, he said, “As per the FRA status report produced by State level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) by 31st Jan 2015, only 19498 IFR titles over 31424.54 acres of land have been distributed out of 31426 IFR claims filed at the FRC level in the district and rest of the claims are pending at the SDLC level. Likewise only 146 CFR titles (90 claimed in ‘B’ from and 46 claimed in ‘C’ form ) have been distributed out of 579(378 filed in ‘B’ form and 201 filed in ‘C’ form) and rest 433 CFR claims are pending at the SDLC level.
Manohar Chauhan strongly lashed out at the Forest Department for disrespecting the FRA and for promoting Vana Sarankhyana Sammittee (VSS)in villages which he said is irrelevant after FRA. “There has been serious confusion at both Community and Government level due to which the CFR recognition process in the State is getting seriously affected.”, he said. Clarifying on the immediate question raised by the District Collector as to how VSS is not relevant under FRA, Chauhan said–“while the VSS (formed under Joint Forest Management Resolution) is an executive order and is mostly controlled by Forest department, FRA has constitutional mandate which neither even mentioned of any role of forest department nor of the VSS but exclusively talks of Community based protection and management of forest(CFR). He called upon the Government of Odisha to dissolve the VSS and recognize the CFR rights. “VSS and CFR are contradictory to each other and cannot exist together in a village”, said Chauhan categorically
Advocate Jitendra Sahoo, sharing the different provisions of Community Forest Rights recognized under FRA’ 2006, highlighted a number of confusions and hindrances in recognition of CFR Rights at different levels. He further emphasized on the need of documentation of the rich traditional knowledge and biodiversity at the community level available in the CFR and to bring them under Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
Sudhansu Sekhar Deo, Forest Rights Activist emphasized on the role of SDLC towards empowerment of Gram Sabha authorized under FRA. He said that the empowered provisions of the Gram Sabha under FRA has been diluted due to the existence of Palli Sabha under Panchayatiraj system which is contradictory to ‘FRA Gram Sabha’ in many respects and urgently needs to be replaced with the FRA Gram Sabha. He requested the District Collector to develop strategies to empower the Gram Sabha recognized under FRA.
Pradeep Mohanty of FES shared the various aspects of Community based Forest Protection and Management of CFR.
After hearing all the concerns raised, Shri Jagannath Mohanty, the District Collector of Rayagada, appreciated NIRMAN for organizing the workshop. Narrating the various factors of forest destruction, he said– “We are at the cross road as to whether Forest will save the people or the people will save the forest’’. He blamed the un-controlled population growth as the sole factor responsible for this state of affairs. Re-emphasizing on the symbiotic relationship between the tribals and the forest, he raised serious concern over destruction of natural forests, indigenous species and medicinal plants as also promotion of artificial forests by plantation.
He assured to extend all possible support to NIRMAN in the facilitation process for recognition of Community Forest Rights and sustainable Protection and Management of the CFR area by the community.
Bijay Pradhan from Ekta Parishad was also present in the workshop. At the end of the programme, Prasant Palai from NIRMAN gave vote of thanks to all the guests and participants of the programme.