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'Without tribal society, environmental protection is incomplete'

ANI | Updated: Jul 14, 2018 13:40 IST

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) [India], July 14 (ANI): According to the latest report 'Composite Water Management Index -2018,' 60 crore people of the country are facing 'high to higher' level water shortage.
Due to the lack of clean drinking water, two lakh people die every year. Moreover, 54 percent of India's groundwater sources / wells are drying up.
By 2020, groundwater is expected to end in 21 major cities of the country. In India, there are ongoing disputes between the 11 states regarding water, like the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
These crises grew when the government stood in favour of an open and uncontrolled market. On the other hand, Delhi's air has not been viable to breathe. 26 states of the country believe that desertification is growing at a fast pace. Approximately 30 percent of the country has come under the scope of desertification, where dust storms are rising at an unprecedented speed.
All the reports show that forests are being wiped out in the name of development and industrialisation. The way in which rivers, forests and mountains are being wiped out for economic development, the policies are actually taking us towards sure death.
It is a pity that we are doing away with them; preventing the tribals who have been protecting the natural sources for centuries from saving them. Of course, by making laws like forest conservation, we are certainly churning out our responsibilities.
The question arises, is it possible to preserve environment and biodiversity by boycotting tribal society? We have to ask the question, what the purpose of Indian Forest Law in India was in the year 1927? Then why the Wildlife Protection Act was made in 1972? And what was the motive behind creating the Environment Protection Act in 1976?
Not only this, there are more questions in answer to these questions. Who destroyed the forests in India and why? Who killed the cheetahs in India? Who is responsible for tigers reaching the brink of extinction? Hunting was a form of entertainment for the Rajas (Kings), Diwans (Kings Ministers) and Zamindars (land lords). On the walls of their palaces hang the trophies of tigers, cheetahs, leopards and antelope. The communities living in the tribal belts or jungles only do not hunt animals as a hobby.
In view of the protection of social, economic and cultural rights of tribals and other forest dwellers in India, Parliament has imposed Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
This statute says that individual and community rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers who cultivate by acquiring first forest land before December 2005 will be recognised. The law says that during the colonial era and while integrating state forests in independent India, forest rights and their habitat were not adequately recognised on their ancestral land, resulting in those tribes and other residents living in the forest.
Historically, injustice has been done to traditional forest dwellers, which are integral to saving and maintaining forest ecosystems.
But the experience of 12 years of implementation of this law suggests that the state system has not felt the sentiments of this confession made in the law; rather than wandering from the goal. This statute gives the right to use and conserve community forest resources to the Gram Sabha, i.e. the direct role of the community.
At the same time, there is a provision in this also that the Gram Sabha has the right to set up a committee for conservation of wildlife, forests and biodiversity and take its responsibility.
On September 22, 2015, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs had written to the chief secretaries of all the states and had stressed that there is a need to run a campaign to recognise community forest rights.
Although, the process of recognising individual rights has succeeded to some extent, but this process on community forest resource rights is weak. These rights are very important because these resources play an important role in securing the lives and livelihoods of 20 million forest based communities.
Forest Rights Law explains the Residential Rights (Habitat Rights, which means, not only the right to housing, but also the right to a holistic environment). On April 23, 2015, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Government of India) told all the State Governments that they should be used for residential rights of the most vulnerable tribal communities (traditional housing, livelihoods, social, economic, spiritual, sacred, religious and other works), and to make extensive efforts to recognise it.
It is important to mention that the traditional tribal communities have been creating their own system in their respective realm. It is the responsibility of the state to preserve its surroundings.
The document on Sustainable Development Goals, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (No. A/ RES/70/1) vision statement says, 'In these Goals and targets, we are setting out a supremely ambitious and transformational vision. We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, where all life can thrive. We envisage a world free of fear and violence. A world with universal literacy. A world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being is assured. A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and where there is improved hygiene; and where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious. A world where human habitats are safe, resilient and sustainable and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.'
SDG 15 states the following - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; Target 15.5 states - Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species; Target 15.7 states - Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products; and Target 15.c states - Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities.
The forest department established by the British government in India believed that tribal communities only suffer the loss of forests, biodiversity and wildlife. They were not ready to accept the fact that the Vanvasi community had been living on the principle of "coexistence" with the forest, within the forests for thousands of years.
It is a good feeling for the community that destruction of natural resources means destruction of their own. They have been monitoring the forest like it is their God. Why would such a society destroy the environment? We all know that the list of the richest ten thousand people in the world will probably not be the name of one of the tribal families!
The views expressed in the above article are that of Sachin Kumar Jain of Charkha Development Communication Network. (ANI)