Campaign for Survival Dignity (CSD), Odisha, has opposed implementation of the State government’s proposed Ama Jungle Yojana (AJY) or the Community Forest Protection and Management Programme (CFPMP) saying it is an attempt to side step the Forest Rights Act.
“Hundreds of Gram Sabhas are already protecting and managing the forest sustainably on their own without any legal and financial support from the State government for years. There will be stronger forest protection, conservation and management if the community will get legal rights of the forest under the FRA,” said Gopinath Majhi, convenor of CSD, Odisha, in a petition submitted to the Union Tribal Affairs Secretary.
The Forest and Environment department of the Odisha government has proposed to take up conservation of forest under the AJY over the next six years from 2016-17 to 2021-22 at an estimated cost of Rs.1,170.02 crore. The amount will be sourced from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning fund.
At present, there are more than 12,500 joint forest management committees which have been assigned for protection and management of more than 11,68,000 ha of forests. Under the new scheme, it is proposed create 7,000 Van Surakshya Samitis (VSS) located in 30 territorial and wildlife divisions of the State.
According to Mr. Majhi, these Samitis will have to agree to maintain the plantation areas and forests as per the working plan prepared or modified by the Forest and Environment Department.
An area of up to 50 hectares will be assigned to each of the Samitis covering a total area of 3,50,000 hectares.
According to the CSD, while nearly 40 per cent of the State’s geographical area constitutes forest land and nearly 30,000 villages out of 50,000 villages of the State are eligible to get community rights over forest, Odisha lags behind in recognition of the CFR under the FRA implementation during the past 7 years.
“Instead of promoting the AJY, the government should take more proactive initiatives towards the proper recognition of the community forest rights. Once the right is recognised, the forest, wildlife protection, conservation and management committee, constituted by Gram Sabha under section 4 (I) (e) will take care of their own forest with technical support of the Forest department,” the CSD convenor mentioned in the letter.
The CSD urged the Union Tribal secretary to direct the State government to withdraw the AJY and avoid possible resentments from the tribal community.
“Community Forest Protection and Management Programme an attempt to side step the Forest Rights Act”