Wednesday November 20, 2019
Home India With luxury e...

With luxury encroaching in forest areas, tribals fear for their existence

From an annual 2,000 tourists in 1980s to 1,50,000 at present, the resort business in the buffer zone of the forests has thrived the most

2
//
Tribal culture Image: Wikimedia Commons
  • Tribals living in the buffer zone say that they are being “urged” to move by choosing one of the “government relocation packages” i.e “land against land” or “Rs 10 lakh per adult”
  • Villages populating the 1,134 sq km of Kanha’s buffer zone, after the families of Gond and Baiga, were either ‘voluntarily’ or ‘illegally’ evicted from forests on the name of ‘conservation
  • Over 1,400 families from nine villages of the Baiga and Gond tribes were moved from the core forest area between 2010 to 2015

Dheerwati, a member of the Baiga tribe, stands over some half acre of her dry patch of land, and points towards a luxurious resort — one of her many nightmares.

“Those resort people have their eyes fixed on our field. Officials lure us to move. We don’t have Patta (documents) for our land, we can’t do anything,” Dheerwati told this visiting IANS correspondent, in her village Khatiya of Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh.

Her village, situated in the buffer zone of Kanha National Park, is amongst the first human settlements outside the core zone of the reserve forest.

Dheerwati, her husband Sonu and six children live in a house that has self-baked Kavelu roof (tiles used across the tribal belt), an electric connection and a newly constructed toilet.

“We require some of the forest produce like bamboo to make a living. They don’t allow us in the forests. We can’t do anything to support ourselves,” says Sonu.

Another tribal said that they are even beaten when caught inside the forest.

From an annual 2,000 tourists in 1980s to 1,50,000 at present, the resort business in the buffer zone of the forests has thrived the most, but at a cost to every tribal in some way. Many tribespersons could be seen begging for their pictures to be taken by the tourists.

Influential people, including some reputed wildlife conservationists, own a resort around Kahna and other national parks across India.

Tribals living in the buffer zone say that they are being “urged” to move by choosing one of the “government relocation packages” i.e “land against land” or “Rs 10 lakh per adult”. Officials however deny this.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter: @NewsGram1

“No village from the buffer zone is to be shifted. However, if they leave voluntarily, they will avail benefit of the packages,” J.S. Chauhan, Field Director of Kanha National Park, told IANS. He added that villages from the core zone only are being shifted.

Villages populating the 1,134 sq km of Kanha’s buffer zone, after the families of Gond and Baiga, were either ‘voluntarily’ or ‘illegally’ evicted from forests on the name of ‘conservation’.

Adivasi culture Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Adivasi culture Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

As the tribes have inhabited the forests for generations it’s their legal right to live there with some limitations, as also assured to them in the Forest Rights Act (FRA). However, norms are seldom followed during eviction.

“Most of the families were moved without legal framework. FRA gives tribals an option to continue living in the core zone or move voluntarily. But no one was told that they had a choice and many were forced to sign the papers,” Sophie Grig, from Survival International, told IANS.

“An official told us to sign a letter of consent quickly. He said that we would get money or that we would go to another village. They were determined to destroy our village,” a tribal from a relocated village, called Jholar, said in a letter to Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission.

Another tribal, Lakhand Merabi, declared, “Irrespective of what happens to us, we will stay here.”

Follow NewsGram on Facebook: @NewsGram

But he had to leave. Over 1,400 families from nine villages of the Baiga and Gond tribes were moved from the core forest area between 2010 to 2015.

A village named Kariwah was moved this year. “One more is in the pipeline,” said a forest official. About seven villages still exist in the core zone of Kanha while over 36 had been moved slowly since 1969.

The number of people relocated remains unknown.

While many tribal families didn’t like leaving, some families preferred relocation and also benefited through education for their children.

“Some Gond families were happy to relocate but most were not,” Sophie said.

Ramkali Durbe and Sukhbati Durbe, who are now guides at Kanha, reflect the positive side of relocation and efforts by the forest department.

“I know these forests like my home, and love to show people around,” Ramkali, whose village in Mukki zone of Kanha was shifted few years back, told IANS.

However, the issue of ‘social security’ – a new concept for those relocated — continues to haunt.

“Most of those relocated prefer living in the vicinity of their relatives for the sense of security,” Chauhan said.

Such cases are however not limited to Kanha alone. Khadia and Munda tribe in Odisha’s Simlipal National Park and Baiga of Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh are meeting the same fate in the name of tiger conservation.

However there are exceptions, Grig says, as the Solinga Tribes of BR Hills Tiger Reserve, in Karnataka, and Tharu tribes of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, never shifted – and with little help they stand guard between poachers and the forest. (IANS)

  • Shubhi Mangla

    The concerns of these tribal communities are justified. Moreover, making resorts or any such luxury buildings will also damage our flora and fauna.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be steps taken to conserve these forests along with the lives of these tribes as thye find it very difficult to manage with the urban lifestyle.

SHARE
  • Shubhi Mangla

    The concerns of these tribal communities are justified. Moreover, making resorts or any such luxury buildings will also damage our flora and fauna.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be steps taken to conserve these forests along with the lives of these tribes as thye find it very difficult to manage with the urban lifestyle.

Next Story

Uttarakhand High Court Bans the Use of Red Chilli Powder to Drive Away Elephants

Sackfuls of chilli powder and chilly bombs were used by people living on the outskirts of the 11 Elephant corridors in the state to shoo away Elephants

0
Elephants
Sackfuls of chilli powder and chilly bombs were used by people living on the outskirts of the 11 Elephant corridors in the state to shoo away Elephants and reduce man-animal conflict in the region. Pixabay

After the Uttarakhand High Court banned the practice of using red chillies and chilly bombs to drive away the elephants, the local people are at their wit’s end now.

Sackfuls of chilli powder and chilly bombs were used by people living on the outskirts of the 11 elephant corridors in the state to shoo away elephants and reduce man-animal conflict in the region. However, the High Court put a stop to this on Tuesday.

The elephants from Nepal, as well as the Terai region in Uttar Pradesh, travel to Ramnagar, Corbett and the Kosi river, crossing the patch of the National Highway 121 along which the three elephant corridors — Kota, Chilkiya – Kota, and South Patlidun – Chilkiya are located.

With increasing human population, the corridors have shrunk over the years, bringing the elephants closer to human habitats.

The people living on the outskirts of these corridors, over the years, devised a method of warding off the wild Tuskers. They used to place bags of chilli powder on the outskirts of the settlement and the moment they saw a herd of pachyderms, they would fling the chilli powder into the air. The elephants were forced to retreat.

“The elephants do not come back for a week or so. For the past few years there has been an increase in the elephant population in the area and the animals not only destroy our crops but also attack people. We have no option but to use chili powder because the government is doing nothing,” said Ramesh Tiwari, a resident of Nandpur village.

He admitted that the use of chilli against the elephants was the ‘cheapest and safest option because it did not kill the animal.’ Most of the farmers in the region plant sugarcane which, in turn, attracts the elephants.

In the past one year, there have been over 20 incidents of elephants attacking people.

However, a Public Interest litigation (PIL) was recently filed by a Noida based non-government organisation called ‘Independent Medical Initiative Society’.

Elephants
The three major elephant corridors of Golapar, Fatehpur-Lamachaur and Lalkuan near Haldwani have seen mushrooming of human settlements, thus reducing the age-old path of the Elephants. Pixabay

The petition alleged that the forest department, instead of controlling the human activities on the road passing through these elephant corridors, is trying to control the elephants’ movement by allowing cruel means such as feeding chilli powder-filled flour balls to the wild elephants, putting chilli powder-filled bags on the edge of the road and by firing shots and burning firecrackers to keep them away from the road passing through the elephant corridor.

Dushyant Mainali, the counsel for the petitioner, said: “The division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma has banned the use of chilli powder and any other such cruel means against the elephants. The court has also issued directives to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Ministry has been directed to file the reply within two weeks.”

The petitioner told the court that the “disappointment and frustration due to difficulties in crossing the corridor, are changing the behaviour of elephants in the entire area. The chief reason of concern is the changing behaviour of the baby elephants, which are becoming aggressive day by day and have been found to be involved in most of the incidents of charging.”

According to reports, the corridors are also facing the threat from sand mining in nearby areas, and also a large number of resorts have come up which have increased the traffic flow through the river corridor, thereby disturbing the elephants.

The petition claimed that in the past one year there has been tremendous rise in the human-elephant conflict in the corridors passing on the edge of Corbett National Park and especially on the patch of the Mohaan-Ramnagar Road which is part of NH-121.

Wildlife expert S. R. Rahi said that an elephant requires about 225 litres of water per day and for this the herd of the wild elephants have to travel towards river Kosi and mostly in the night time when it is believed to be safe for them to cross the corridors, but now they are facing the wrath of fast-moving vehicles even during the night time.

The three major elephant corridors of Golapar, Fatehpur-Lamachaur and Lalkuan near Haldwani have seen mushrooming of human settlements, thus reducing the age-old path of the elephants.

The Surai-Kilpura elephant corridor near Khatima is also witnessing an increase of human settlement. Three of these corridors adjoining the Ramnagar-Mohaan border include 27 kms of highway.

Elephants
The Elephants from Nepal, as well as the Terai region in Uttar Pradesh, travel to Ramnagar, Corbett and the Kosi river, crossing the patch of the National Highway 121 along which the three elephant corridors — Kota, Chilkiya – Kota, and South Patlidun – Chilkiya are located. Pixabay

The elephant corridor in Dhikuli area has more than 150 commercial constructions due to which it is completely blocked. Construction in the Mohaan area and vehicular traffic during the night time is hampering the elephants from reaching the Kosi River.

Marriages, parties and the noise generated at commercial buildings and resorts at night is also causing disturbance to the wild animals.

Instead of preventing human interference in the forest areas, the forest department is allowing chili powder and crackers to prevent the pachyderm from coming onto the highway.

ALSO READ: Now Pay Bills on Amazon Pay While Speaking to Alexa

“There are 11 functional corridors in Uttarakhand, but human activities are increasing around the age-old corridors. Elephants are distance migratory animal with sharp memory and if someone attacks them, they remember to return the attack,” said Rahi. (IANS)