The Forest Rights Act

Forest Conservation

Joint Forest Management is often touted as a "participatory" success and a revolutionary scheme that has decentralised India's forest management.  In practice, however, most JFM Committees are in fact proxies of the Forest Department and are neither participatory nor democratic in their functioning.  Meanwhile, the Environment Ministry is pushing JFM at the expense of actual community control.  See the attached notes and press releases for more information.


Across India, communities have been protecting their forests against mafias, land grabbers, estates, companies and the Forest Department. The most famous example, but hardly the only one, was the Chipko movement. Until now, community protection was illegal and, if it went against the Forest Department's wishes, a crime. Now, the tide is turning.

The government often proclaims that India's tree and forest cover is increasing. Today, it's taken to making claims that this is central to tackling climate change (also see REDD: A New Danger to Adivasis and Forest Dwellers).  But much of this "increased forest cover" is afforestation plantations, including the "compensatory afforestation" that the law requires when forest land is diverted.

Under the Forest (Conservation) Act, the Central government's permission is required before forest land can be used for non-forest uses.  In practice the government has treated this provision as if only the Centre's permission is required, and proceeded to hand over huge areas of forest and forest lands to projects and private companies without consulting or even informing those most affected - the local communities.  In law, that has now changed with the Forest Rights Act.  For more, see our page on Large Projects and Forest Land.

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