Rehabilitation package for Buxa Tiger Reserve villagers

The West Bengal Government announced a rehabilitation package for relocation of villagers living within the core forest area of the Buxa Tiger Reserve here on Tuesday.

“We have decided to provide a package of Rs.10 lakh to the families that will be relocating from the Buxa Tiger Reserve,” Anant Roy, the State's Forest Minister told The Hindu.

The relocation, which will be done under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, will affect 18,000 villagers of whom there are members of several tribes – Rawas, Mechs, Santhals, Oraos and Garos.

Discussions over relocation have already been initiated with them, said Dr. R. P. Saini, field director of Buxa Tiger Reserve.

Two rehabilitation packages were offered – one to provide individual families with compensation and the other to relocate the entire village on land provided to them by officials of the State Forest Department, explained Dr. Saini.

“Of the 10 villages inside the reserve, eight have opted for the compensation package and another has asked to be relocated in entirety. The villagers of Pana village have not yet agreed to the terms offered to them, but discussions are still on,” he said.

There are another 28 villages in the buffer zone of the reserve, but there are no plans for their relocation as of now, Dr. Saini added.

Currently the work of allocation of land rights for the tribals is in process, which is nearly complete. Once this is done, the process of relocation will begin, he said. However the tribal identity is not essential for the inhabitants to avail of the compensation. There are some residents who are not tribals but will get the compensation, he added.

A rehabilitation package for the people living in the area designated for the extension of Kolkata's Alipore Zoological Garden was also announced.

“Each family living in the 123-acre area in Bhagwanpur will be provided with Rs.4 lakh,” Mr. Roy said.

The area at Bhagwanpur in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district is not very far from the city. The area is a wetland and zoo authorities are planning to develop it as a park exclusively for the aquatic animals, which is a part of attempts to decongest the existing space in the southern part of the city.

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