In January 2016, the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM)-Brahmapuri Division started felling trees for plantation in the Wadsa range (the area between Desaiganj, Kurkheda, Armori and Vairagad), which falls under the Fifth Schedule. The forest in this range has a tree canopy density of more than 40 per cent and, hence, cannot be felled under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Farmers in the area had filed claims for community forest rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in 2011, and some of them have also been given land titles. Under the FRA, the consent of the Village Assembly is required before diverting forestland. The Maharashtra Forest Department violated the law and leased 3,000ha of forestland to the FDCM for regeneration, which then began felling the forest trees. The affected communities passed Village Assembly resolutions opposing the transfer and also filed complaints to the district collector as well the forest department. In April 2016, a public interest litigation was filed in the Nagpur High Court. Despite a stay order by the court, the FDCM continued felling trees. The case was transferred to the National Green Tribunal-Pune bench in 2017. The matter is now sub-judice. The petition was filed by the second-in-command of the Dongargaon Gat Gram Panchayat, comprising three villages, although the felling of trees will affect 18 villages. The tribals and other forest dwellers are dependent on the forest resources for their food and livelihood as well as for medicines and materials to build their houses. Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta is representing the case in the Supreme Court.
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), Maharashtra Forest Department
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Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Forest Rights Act of 2006
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