New guidelines to resettle tribals near tiger parks
New Delhi, Sunday 29th May 2011

NEW DELHI: Scarred by the controversy over the environment ministry's attempt to brazenly relocate tribals from wildlife sanctuaries and parks, Jairam Ramesh has now proposed guidelines to resettle people specifically from tiger reserves.

The environment ministry had to withdraw the controversial regulations when it came under flak from tribal groups and re-issue a fresh set of rules.

The guidelines issued on Friday are specifically intended for tiger reserves. The relocation of people from tiger reserves as well as other sanctuaries has always been a controversial process but this got mired in greater conflict when the Forest Rights Act was promulgated. Just before the Act was enacted, the environment ministry moved swiftly to amend the Wildlife Protection Act and create a special dispensation for tiger reserves as different from other wildlife parks and sanctuaries.

The overlap of the two laws created a piquant situation requiring the government to get the existing wildlife parks and sanctuaries to be re-christened as 'critical wildlife habitats' if the forest department wanted to keep them free of people through a process set in the Forest Rights Act. This process is yet to begin.

For the tiger-bearing areas – whether national parks or sanctuaries – the environment ministry is required to get them declared as 'tiger reserves' by demarcating the lands and resettling people after settling the rights of the people under the Forest Rights Act.

The regulations are intended to set a formal protocol for such relocations from the identified tiger reserves. In the last meeting of the apex National Tiger Conservation Authority, several non-official members had raised concerns about cases where rights of the people were not respected while attempting to relocate them and declare the site as tiger reserve.