When the State Environment and Forests Ministers meet here on Tuesday, a priority topic on the agenda will be the dichotomy in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. It holds forest rights holders and village communities responsible for protection of biodiversity in the forest, while conferring on them the right to convert forest villages into revenue villages.

Once the status of the villages ceases to remain forest land, this dichotomy may lead to a highly conflicting situation, to the detriment of forests. This is particularly true of the Western Ghats, the Himalayan States and the northeastern States, where forest dwellers are scattered across the well-preserved forest areas, and do not occupy contiguous patches.

While the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs is the nodal agency for the implementation of the Act, the Ministry of Environment and Forests will facilitate identification and declaration of critical wildlife habitats in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

To be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Tuesday’s conference will also discuss the high mortality among tigers this year. Thirty-eight of them were lost till July 1, including 10 in poaching. Furthermore, the increasing incidence of tigers straying into human landscapes and damage to their reserves, because of insurgency and the left-wing extremism, will come up for debate.

The meeting is expected to ensure reciprocal commitments linked to fund flows among the Centre, the States and the tiger reserve management.

Interactive session on pollution

On Monday, Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent charge) Jairam Ramesh will hold an interactive meeting to discuss issues of environmental pollution and the capacities and obligations of the State Pollution Control Boards, and implementation of pollution control laws. The findings of this meeting will also be discussed at the conference.

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