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July 10, 2007
Re: Draft Forest Rules - Objections.
The Amendment in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by which the National Tiger Conservation Authority was set up as also the Forest Rights Act and the Rules provides for greater role of people in daclaration of National Parks, Sanctuaries and specifically
in creation of critical wildlife habitats as well as Inviolate areas for wildlife conservation. However, the scheme is such that now if an area is to be declared as critical wildlife habitat, the Consent of the individuals as well as gram sabha will be required
at almost every stage i.e from relocation to acceptance of the relocation package. Thus the whole process is Consent driven. (This to me is fine since there is a need to ensure greater public participation in decisions which concerns the life of the people)
Unfortunately, if the same area is to be opened up for mining or construction of a hydel power project or even SEZ, no such consent will be required. All that will be required is a "public Hearing", which too is not mandatory; the Panel for public hearing
will comprise of District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate and no representative from the Panchayats or Gram Sabha and further the Rehabilatation and other issues need not be even shared with the public. The Project proponents need not explain
as to why other alteratives have not been considered.
Thus while we would have effectively delayed or have made the process of creation of National Parks and Sanctuaries as also critical wildlife habitat difficult, there is no safeguard so far as protection of these areas are concerned. Thus, while the Forest
Department has to follow the "consent" prosedure for declaration of the area, a Mining Company in order to mine the area need to follow the EIA procedure as contained in the highly diluted Environment Impact Assessment Procedure.
The proponents of the Forest Rights Act, have thus played into the hands of the Mining and Industrial lobby since National Parks and Sanctuaries are the only areas where any such actvity is prohibited. The Act also targets the weakest of all the State
agencies i.e the Forest Department while it does not impact the Private Sector at all.....
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