The increasing growth of ‘Community Reserves’ in the North-East is posing various challenges to the local residents (lack of livelihood options) as the subject of land goes from being governed by local village councils to being under forest department.
The North East of India has seen a boom in the number of ‘Community Reserves’ in the last 11 years. A community reserve is usually created by the local village council and the forest department signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU). The provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act apply to the area once a community reserve area is created.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change defines protected areas and community reserves as such protected areas in India that generally form buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve and protected forests. works in.
The State Government may designate any community land or private land as a community reserve if the members of that community or the persons involved in it offer such areas for the protection of fauna and flora as well as their traditions, cultures and practices. agree to. The purpose of designation of such an area is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people living in such areas while conserving the wildlife.
Why is it a matter of concern to declare such large amount of land areas in the Northeast as Community Reserves?
Village council members who agree to sign MoUs are mostly illiterate and do not understand the nuances of agreements. Most of the community members are not fully aware of this policy.
Rural communities were unaware that the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of India become functional once a community reserve is formed in an area. After a forest has been converted into a community reserve, people cannot hunt there, nor use it for agricultural practices, or engage in jhum farming.
It is also not clear whether the traditional owners of community forests are eligible for compensation in such a case as they do not have a claim letter.
According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, community reserves come under protected areas along with marine protected areas, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation reserves.
According to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Protected Areas and Community Reserves are protected areas of India that generally act as buffer zones between national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and India’s reserve and protected forests. A Community Reserve Management Committee oversees these reserves. There will be no change in the land use pattern within the Community Reserve unless a resolution is passed by the Management Committee and approved by the State Government.