Special Correspondent

‘Many forest-related policies of Government distorted’

Udhagamandalam: The Wildlife (Protection) Act should not infringe on the rights of the traditional forest dwellers particularly the tribals, said the noted Chandigarh-based environmentalist and social activist Madhu Sarin while speaking to presspersons here on Sunday.

Stating that many of the forest-related policies of the government were warped, she opined that they rode roughshod on the rights of the forest-based communities.

Pointing out that conservation measures which trampled on the rights of the people residing in the forests was tantamount to violation of human rights, she said that the number of ‘conservation refugees’ was growing in the world. On eco tourism, she lamented that of late it had become fashionable to throw out the traditional forest dwellers and encourage the setting up of resorts to cater to the needs of the resourceful sections of society.

Eco tourism

Eco tourism would be more meaningful if the tribals were actively involved in its promotion.

Urging the Government to implement the Tribal Rights Act, she however made it clear that encroachers and land grabbers should not be allowed to benefit from it. While the interests of the traditional forest dwellers should be protected illegal occupants should be evicted.

Buffer zone

Alleging that the declaration of the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary as a Critical Tiger Habitat and efforts to declare the surrounding area as a buffer zone was illegal, Ms. Sarin said that there was a lot of opposition to the declaration. She claimed that the Government had not followed the legal process. Later, Ms. Sarin participated in a seminar on ‘Tribal Rights Bill and Protection of Forests’ organised jointly by the Vivasayigal Thozhilalargal Munnetra Sangam (VTMS) and the Mudumalai Pazhankudiyinar Nala Sangam.

The State coordinator, VTMS, M.S. Selvaraj, who presided, said that often forest officials were responsible for destruction of forests and added that the people should be empowered to protect forests.