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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- State also didn't establish that other reasonable options of co-existence are not available.
- Resettlement package to provide livelihood to the affected individuals in tune with R&R policy is not prepared.
- The informed consent of concerned Gram Sabha, and of the beneficiaries to the resettlement programme has not been obtained.
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.
- Biotic pressure exerted by the combined population of Sundipenta and the temple town of Srisailam.
- Anthropogenic pressure on the undisturbed areas of NSTR due to illegal settlements by fishermen along the Srisailam reservoir.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Decline of Tigers in the region.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Multi disciplinary study on the conditions of the Chenchus, conflicts and potential impact of relocation of the Chenchus of 120 settlement: 7,20,000
- Public hearing and Legal assistance/ PIL: 5,00,000
- Coordinator and staff for community mobilisation (Project Coordinator @ Rs 20,000 pm, Community Coordinators (4) @ Rs 7000 pm for Collective Action: 5,76,000
- Administration and unforeseen expenses :72,000