Kadar tribespeople seek legal recourse

The Kadar tribespeople of Vazhachal have sought legal recourse against the violation of their legal rights in the implementation of the Athirapally hydel power project.

V.K. Geetha, the oorumooppathy (female tribal chieftain) of Vazhachal, and the Vazhachal oorukoottam grama sabha have approached the High Court separately, seeking to quash the extension of the environmental clearance granted to the project.

They have also sought directions to the authorities not to proceed with the project. “The petitions have been admitted by the High Court,” said P.B. Krishnan, the counsel for the petitioners.

Incidentally, the Vazhachal Community Forest Resource Co-ordination Sangham, which consists of the nine grama sabhas, had unanimously resolved to resist the implementation of the project. The oorukoottam will meet again shortly to decide on the fate of the project following the statements of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Power Minister Kadakampally Surendran.

Forest Rights Act

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 recognised the right of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers in the forest land. The Kadar community, a Scheduled Tribe under the Act, has been given the title to Community Forest Resources in the 40,000 hectares in Vazhachal Forest Division, they contended.

The Act also conferred the Community Forest Rights on the individual village or grama sabhas. The Act also prevents the displacement of a tribal settlement without the concurrence of the grama sabha. The diversion of land is not possible for any development project until recommended by the grama sabha.

The statutory clearances including forest and environmental clearances issued before the Act coming into force cannot be implemented without the clearance from the grama sabha concerned.

The Vazhachal and Pokalappara grama sabhas — within the geographical limits of which the Athirapally waterfall is situated and the catchment area of the proposed dam and the dam site have been proposed — have strongly opposed the implementation of the project, they said.

The attempt to extend the clearances issued, that too with retrospective effect, ignoring the provisions of the Act and the rights of the grama sabhas were illegal and arbitrary, the petitioners pointed out.

The petitioners contended that the project would lead to an infraction of the Kadar community’s constitutional right to life and livelihood and their forcible displacement from the Athirapally area. The Kadars have been displaced and driven downstream earlier for hydroelectric projects and no forest or mountainous area was left downstream for them to shift, the petition pointed out.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 4:11:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/Kadar-tribespeople-seek-legal-recourse/article14377657.ece

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