The Indian Forest Rights Act 2006: A critical appraisal

The objective of the recently enacted Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act is to undo the effects of the historical injustice that has been suffered by communities that reside in and depend upon forests for their bona fide livelihood needs. The provisions of the legislation, which grant forest rights to these communities and envisage a role for local government in the decision making process, have been lauded by pro-tribal and social activists. On the other hand, environmentalists and conservationists fear that the implementation of the Act would result in potentially severe adverse impacts on India 's natural resources and their conservation efforts. In an attempt to accommodate the concerns of these various interests, the Act has left several questions unanswered. The continued dominance of government committees in the decision making procedure is unlikely to achieve the decentralisation objective. Moreover, buckling under pressure from environmental lobby, the government has notified certain areas as critical habitats, even before the Act was operationalised. In contrast, the Act envisages notification of certain areas as critical wildlife habitats only after the determination of a reasonable resettlement package for the inhabitants of those areas, who were also holders of forest rights under the Act.