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Aboriginal tribes resist land development in Orissa

Tribal groups have been protesting, with some success, the seizure or illegal development of local forest land, which threatens their livelihood and can force them out of forest areas.

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"Forest rights for tribes in the state of Orissa have risen to the forefront in the recent months, and will have an impact on the state in the future. Due to a combination of issues, including mining operations in the state, the encroachment of non-tribal people and extensive deforestation, several tribes indigenous to the state in different districts face the threat of losing their land, and by extension, their livelihoods and their culture."

There is evidence of resistance. In Orissa, The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has taken a courageous decision to deny the Orissa Mining Corporation (a joint venture between the Government of Orissa and Vedanta Alumina) permission for mining bauxite in 660.75 ha of forest land in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Orissa. Many local tribal groups have resisted the mining operations of Orissa, which devastate local forests and displace many tribal peoples. Elsewhere, on July 30, 2010 hundreds of Juang and Bhuyan adivasis (a term given to aboriginal populations in India) swarmed the office of the DFO (divisional forest officer) in Kendujhargarh, the district headquarters, demanding justification for mass planting of acasia and eucalyptus, which doesn't support the basic livelihood of the tribes in the way native trees do.

Implications

IFTF writes that the core question is whether these protests and the pro-adivasis deicsion by the MOEF mark a real turning point or if development will simply continue. The Strategic Foresight Group also points out that as tribal populations are displaced, losing their land, way of life, and traditions, they are driven to the urban areas, where they lack skills necessary to acquire employment. In addition, fears over land rights manipulations by the government have spread ethnic strife, as different groups fear land will be seized and redistributed to others.

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Sources:

Strategic Foresight Group, Dec 2010, page 4:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_Dec2010.pdf#page=4

‘Niyamgiri Triumph’. Economic and Political Weekly. 28 August 2010: http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/15106.pdf
Sahu, Subrat Kumar. ‘Treasure hunt in the Kendujhar Forests’. InfoChange India. August 2010: http://infochangeindia.org/201008288483/Environment/Features/Treasure-hunt-in-the-Kendujhar-forests.html

Sahu, Subrat Kumar ‘Supporters of the forest rights law intimidated in Orissa’. InfoChange India. August 2010: http://infochangeindia.org/201008048438/Environment/Features/Supporters-of-the-forest-rightslaw-intimidated-in-Orissa.html