Save Chenchus from Relocation

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Save Chenchu tribe from forced relocation from Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

India’s largest tiger reserve covering, an extent of 2527 sq. km, with declining tiger population between 2010 and 2014 from 72 to 68, was declared as of Nagarjuna Sagar - Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) of the Nallamala region of Andhra Pradesh as Inviolate (free from human habitation and use) Area on 20-12-2007 by the ministry of Environment, Forest, Science & Technology AP, under sec 38V (1) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as Amended in 2006 (WLPA).  The NSTR covers 120 villages, of which 24 are in the core/critical tiger habitat. Eviction from traditional habitat and forced relocation of the Chenchus, a Particularly vulnerable tribal group, from Nallamala forest region poses serious threat to their survival.

The NSTR notification is illegal and in violation of several laws of the land:
  1. Sec 38V4 (1) of  WLPA mandates for notification of the core or critical tiger habitat to be kept as inviolate (free from human habitation and use) areas in consultation with an expert committee and under sec 38V4 (ii) of WLPA the buffer areas need to be notified in consultation with an expert committee and Gram Sabha. No such consultation has been made.
  2. The process of recognition and determination of rights and acquisition of land or forest rights of the Scheduled Tribes and such other forest dwelling persons is not completed.
  3. State didn't establish that the activities or impact of the presence of holders of rights upon wild animals is sufficient to cause irreversible damage and threaten the existence of the said species and their habitat.
  4. State also didn't establish that other reasonable options of co-existence are not available.  
  5. Resettlement package to provide livelihood to the affected individuals in tune with R&R policy is not prepared.
  6. The informed consent of concerned Gram Sabha, and of the beneficiaries to the resettlement programme has not been obtained.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) communicated an order to all Chief Wildlife Wardens of all Tiger Range on March 28th, 2017. It states: "in absence [sic] of guidelines for notification of critical wildlife habitats, no rights shall be conferred in Critical Tiger Habitats. With this communication the entire process of conferring rights under FRA has come to a grinding halt. Around 1502 Chenchu families have been given rights over an extent of 5700 acres in Prakasam District of Andhra Pradesh.  Besides, 1542 individual and community claims are pending at different stages. The order is against the spirit of section 38O (2) of Wildlife Protection Amendment Act 2006. Further, Sec 38 O (2) of WLPA 2006  directs NTCA specifically not to interfere  with or affect the rights of local people particularly Scheduled Tribes. Sec 38V 5 (1) of WLPA 2006 mandates to complete the process of recognition of the rights of tribals first and then designate the conservation areas by adopting due procedures. The law also prohibits making an exception of tribal rights in areas which are designated as critical tiger habitat. Forced Out of Forest The Hindu MAY 06, 2017
                            Chenchus staging a dharna demanding land rights.
The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (hereinafter referred to as Forest Rights Act or FRA) came into force in October 2007.  FRA for the first time statutorily recognised the symbiotic relationships of the tribal with forest. It further recognized that, historical injustice was meted out to the scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers that are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. The said Act provides for recognition of, and vesting of forest rights in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers. The FRA guidelines ensure that Critical Wildlife Habitats are declared only with the voluntary consent of the affected people. It also gives ample scope to the state Governments to explore the possibility of co-existence. If such a possibility is not practicable, the expert committee, which also includes the district Tribal Welfare Officer and an NGO working in the field of tribal welfare, will have consultations with the Gram Sabha/ affected persons for their relocation, during which the available options for voluntary relocation would also be explained. The relocation involves providing secure livelihoods to the persons to be relocated. In fact they may choose the option most suited to them.

Objective-1: To facilitate conferring of rights of all forms to Chenchu community of Prakasam district.
 
Activities: Chenchu community in general and Gram Sabha & Forest Rights Committee (FRC) in particular would be empowered on all relevant aspects of Wildlife Protection Amendment Act 2006 and The Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests) Act 2006. The community would be clearly specified that there is possibility of both i.e. staying back in the forests and relocation from the forests. Help them in filing fresh claims in place of rejected ones and others, if necssary. 

Outcome: Individual & community Rights would be conferred to Chenchu community of Prakasam district.

Objective -2: To Prevent relocation /resettlement of Chenchus from the Tiger Reserve i.e., Core and buffer areas of NSTR.

Activities: Strong presentation would be made on behalf of Chenchus during the consultation processes to determine irreversible damage and options of coexistence  under  Sec 4- 2 B & C of FRA.
A detailed study is proposed comprising a multi-disciplinary team covering the following issues:
  1. Biotic pressure exerted by the combined population of Sundipenta and the temple town of Srisailam.
  2. Anthropogenic pressure on the undisturbed areas of NSTR due to illegal settlements by fishermen along the Srisailam reservoir.
  3. Rights and concessions of local communities - as recognized during the forest settlement process - have been admitted until relocation during the British colonial regime and after. 
  4. Legal provisions followed at the time of notification of Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary on 5th July, 1978 and declaration Project Tiger area on 25th February, 1983 and subsequently. Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary on July 22, 1998. 
  5. Number of goats, sheep and cattle provided by ITDA and their impact on the Tiger Reserve. Conflict between cattle and large carnivore and retaliatory killings of tigers or leopards during 1984 - 2005. 
  6. Decline of Tigers in the region.
  7. Widespread NTFP collection over extended periods of time, migratory cattle on the availability of water & fodder and threat of diseases and potential for retaliatory killing of cattle lifters due to animosity towards conversion of forest into tiger reserve, fuel wood collection, timber  smuggling & lopping of trees to provide fodder for cattle, unregulated tourism, pilgrimage to temple sites within the forest, presence of armed extremists, development projects like Veligonda lift irrigation schemes, poaching of wildlife and the basis for exclusion of Sundipenta and Srisailam temple town from the Core/ Critical Tiger Habitat of 2527 sq km.
  8. Consultation with the affected community, individual and community claims and settlement thereof under the FRA, legal violations and likely impact of forced relocation on the Chenchu population, etc covering 120 settlements. 
  9. A Public Hearing would be organised at hyderabad by involving the stake holders,i.e affected community, forest department,NGO's working on this issue from across the country,legal experts, wildlife activists, Min of Tribal affairs  and MOEF reps, Anthropoligists and Pannel members  hailing from different walks of life etc.
Outcome: Chenchu community legally permitted to stay back in the inviolate and buffer areas of Nagarjuna Sagar -Srisailam Tiger Reserve. As a last resort the Chenchus of the relocated habitations be resettled with secured livelihoods.

Budget :
                Financial assistance is requested for the following activities 
  1. Multi disciplinary study on the conditions of the Chenchus, conflicts and potential impact of relocation of the Chenchus of 120 settlement: 7,20,000
  2. Public hearing and Legal assistance/ PIL: 5,00,000
  3. Coordinator and staff for community mobilisation (Project Coordinator @ Rs 20,000 pm, Community Coordinators (4) @ Rs 7000 pm  for Collective Action: 5,76,000
  4. Administration and unforeseen expenses :72,000
                             Total :     18,68,000
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