After the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council said that rights of forest dwellers should not be diluted in anyway, pressure is mounting on the environment ministry to withdraw its controversial guidelines for declaring lands as critical wildlife habitats (CWH).
A group of environmental groups, including forest right activists and wildlife groups, have sought withdrawal of the guidelines even as environment minister Jairam Ramesh has called for a meeting this week to explain the ministry’s position on the guidelines. Apart from environment groups, tribal affairs ministry officials are also called for the meeting.
“The guidelines are in total violation of the Forest Rights Act,” said Ashish Kothari of NGO Kalpavriksh, after Ramesh issued a clarification on the purpose of the guidelines. The ministry had issued the guidelines in February, followed by a clarification note. But it failed to pacify the agitating activists.
“The guidelines should be withdrawn. There is a need for a wider discussion on CWH process and approach,” Kothari, said in a representation submitted on behalf of environmental groups to Ramesh.
The environmental groups also claimed that the new guidelines contradict the recommendations of a joint committee of environment and tribal affairs ministries on Forest Rights Act on critical tiger and wildlife habitats.
The biggest concern against the guidelines is lack of democratic process to determine the habitats, which once identified, will give powers to the government to relocate people.
The groups have also alleged that the guidelines do not require proper scientific and knowledge based approach in determining the habitats.
Highlighting several loopholes, the groups have said the guidelines aims at doing away with the consultation process before declaring a critically wildlife habitat and there is no clarity on the process for identification of wildlife areas for declaring them as CWH under the guidelines.
As against the government claims, not much headway has been made in implementation of the Forest Rights Act in over 600 areas, which could be declared as wildlife habitats under new norms.