Arunachal Village Alleges Foul Play in Elephant Corridor Project, Refuses to Surrender Land

Reported by

East Street Journal AsiaLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

September 22, 2021

Location of Conflict

Mer village, Mebo sub-division

Kotga Area, Mebo sub-division

East Siang

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Protected Areas

(

Wildlife Sanctuary

)

People Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

1500

ha

Starting Year

2021

State

Arunachal Pradesh

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

Residents of Mer village in the states East Siang district are adamant not to give up their community land for the Daying EringDibru Saikhowa Elephant Corridor Project. The project was proposed in 2016 by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). While some have demanded scrapping of the project, others continue to oppose it despite numerous threats and have alleged foul play in the project execution.** ** They claim that the government and the WTI are trying to grab community land of at least 1,000 hectares in the name of donation for conservation but in doing so have not taken the consent of the people. Reportedly, only six individuals from the village were approached by the authorities to represent the community and were offered a deal in return for their consent. These six individuals were appointed members of the recently formed nonprofit, Kotga Gora Community Conserve Reserve Society (KGCCRS). Uryak Noroh, a youth leader and former panchayat member of Mer village, told LCW that no one from the Pasighat Territorial Forest Division, the WTI or the KGCCRS took prior consent of the Village Assembly to start an elephant corridor on their land. According to him, the land in question is used by the villagers to grow cash crops and for cattlegrazing. We will not cede even an inch of our community land. We have communicated our decision to the minister of forest and environment, the principal chief conservator of forests and to the district forest officer during a meeting held on April 29, 2021, Noroh told LCW. He added that the village representatives had also blacklisted the KGCCRS in the meeting as it was formed to meet the selfish needs of a few individuals. The nonprofit has refuted the allegations.   Village heads, local journalists and wildlife conservationists have written several letters to the WTI and government officials, seeking transparency in the execution of the project, but they have not got a single response from either party, and no details of the project have been made public yet. The proposed elephant corridor will connect the Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh with the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam. More than 300 elephants are estimated to move through community lands, settlements and flood plains of the Siang, Dibang and Lohit Rivers, which lie between these two protected areas.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Complaint against procedural violations, Refusal to give up land for the project, Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Scrapping of the project

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Grazing Land), Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Other, Land Reform Laws, Case Laws

Legislations/Policies Involved

  1. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

    Section 2(12A) [Definition of forest officer as appointed under the Indian Forest Act]; Section 24(2)(b) [Collector can pass order to acquire land if owner has agreed to accept compensation]

  2. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

    Section 3(1)(d),(f),(i) [Forest rights, including rights of communities, rights over disputed lands and right to protect community forest resource]; Section 4(2)(e) [Consent of gram sabha needed for resettlement of forest rights]; Section 7 [Offences by authorities under the Act]

  3. Arunachal Pradesh (Land Settlement and Records) Act, 2000

    Section 2(d) [Definition of community includes residents of village]; Section 11 [Assignment of land for special purposes such as forest reserves by Deputy Commissioner]; Section 40 [Jurisdiction to decide record of rights]; Section 43 [Decision as to the record of rights in case of conflict]; Section 99(b)(3) [Power to make rules as to decision of rights]

  4. Hospitality Association of Mudumalai v. In Defence of Environment and Animals and Ors. Etc. (Civil Appeals No. 3438-3439 of 2020)

    The power of the state government to notify elephant corridors under Chapter IV of the Wild Life Protection Act was held to be legitimate by the Madras High Court in WPPIL/10098/2008, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-implementation/violation of the FRA, Violation of free prior informed consent

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Threats/intimidation

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

No

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

In a letter to the Additional Deputy Commissioner, village representatives claimed that members of the non-profit KGCCRS threatened the residents of Kebang village to forcefully obtain their signatures to show their consent to the elephant corridor.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Mer Village

Nature of Protest

Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials , Campaigns (Grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Pasighat Forest Division

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Yes

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

LCW called R.K. Singh, principal chief conservator of forest, for comments but he did not respond. LCW also spoke to Tassang Taga, principal secretary (environment and forest) and district forest officer (DFO) of the Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary. He said: "The project was proposed back in 2016 by the former DFO of Pasighat, Tashi Mize. The village residents are misled in the name of project conservation and plantation schemes. Only gaon burhas (village heads) involved during the meeting proceedings were allowed to comprehend the decision-making." "There seem to be inconsistencies between the state government and the Wildlife Trust of India concerning the project and investments. That is why details have not made it public," he added.

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
No Images Available

Documented By

East Street Journal Asia

Reviewed By

East Street Journal Asia

Updated By

East Street Journal Asia

Edited By

East Street Journal AsiaLand Conflict Watch
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