Opposition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s plans to declare the Great Himalayan National Park in this district a world heritage site, has been gaining momentum, with locals saying they feared they would be deprived of their rights over the forest area.
Talking to HT, Himalayan Niti Abhiyan Committee coordinator Guman Singh said, “The authorities have merged the Sainj and Thirthan wildlife sanctuaries with the park without consulting the local residents, which is concerning.”
Raila panchayat head Pritam Singh said, “Most of the people are dependent on the forest for fuel. Traditional temples in the area cannot be shifted from their existing locations due to the locals’ regard for the deities to which they are dedicated.”
Villagers said the park came into existence in 1984 and, `20 was charged as entry fee, which has been now increased to Rs 50. If any villager wants to collect broken or dry wood from the park, he is forced to pay Rs 50.
The residents are demanding that the park be managed by the locals after it is declared a world heritage site.
Park conservator BS Rana said, “Under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, people who migrate from one place to another, especially tribals, are compensated under the law, but it can’t be implemented here as people residing in the area are permanent habitants. We assure the villagers that their rights will be protected and efforts will be made to help the affected families.”