Campaign for Survival and Dignity release: The Rajya Sabha has passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016. This Bill essentially gives carte blanche to forest officials to spend gigantic amounts of money (over Rs. 40,000 crores) without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed by their activities.
Today was a black day for forest dwellers’ rights.
The Rajya Sabha has passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016. This Bill essentially gives carte blanche to forest officials to spend gigantic amounts of money (over 40,000 crores) without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed by their activities.
The Congress moved an amendment (see here for the text) that would have been the bare minimum necessary to protect the rights of millions of people – our country’s poorest communities.
The government said we won’t do any of that. We respect forest rights so much, we’ll make an Act that doesn’t say a single word about them. Our officials will continue to facilitate corporates grabbing people’s forest rights. We’ll just give you a paper assurance that we “will deal with it in the Rules.” Much of the opposition lined up for this sham; the Congress dithered and flip-flopped on its own amendment. And, driven by the greed of State and Central bureaucracies, the Bill was passed.
But this issue will not be settled with this. For 150 years the forest dwellers of this country have fought a criminal and oppressive colonial system for their rights. It was their democratic struggle that resulted in the Forest Rights Act. It is their struggle that will halt the forest bureaucracy in its tracks – no matter how much the NDA government tries to bend over backwards to please its bureaucrat allies and its corporate masters. The Environment Ministry will be held to its assurance today.
Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Rajya Sabha passes controversial Compensatory Afforestation Funds Bill
Institutions and companies that cut trees in forest lands for development activities are required to pay the government to plant a certain number of saplings as compensation in a different area. Companies also pay the government the “net present value” of the forest, which is supposed to account for the monetary value of the ecosystem lost because of this activity. Activists have argued that the Bill overrides the Forest Rights Act by permitting forest authorities to decide on afforestation projects without any structural safeguards that could ensure that they do not take place on land already used by forest communities, most often adivasis. There is also no provision to channel these funds to the locals.
The CAMPA Bill: Whose forests are these anyway?
Neera Singh, The Indian Express
The current bill does not take into account any of the criticism voiced against an earlier version, proposed under the UPA government in 2013; it continues to ignore the Forest Rights Act. Instead of using the CAMPA funds to empower local communities to carry out afforestation, forest enrichment activities and ecological restoration, the Bill places its faith in the colonial-era forest bureaucracy. In considering the use of these funds, it makes sense to ask: Whose forests are these anyway? Who suffers when forests are diverted for non- forestry purposes and what is the best means of ensuring meaningful compensation of this loss — both ecologically and socially.
The CAMPA Bill Will Scuttle The Forest Rights Act
The Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill is now being considered in the Rajya Sabha. Civil society organizations are greatly concerned about the implication of this bill on the rights of forest dwelling communities. The Bill in the present form is fundamentally opposed to the Forest Rights Act by not addressing the legal rights of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) recognized and vested under the law and by not requiring the consent of the Gram Sabhas for implementation of compensatory afforestation on their customary lands. (Also read: Women farmers oppose Campa bill, demand amendment)
VIEW PETITION (For reference only)
The Compensatory Afforestation Bill 2015 must be revised and recast