India’s Degrading Forest Cover, Odisha Villagers Oppose Steel Plant and Threat to the Aravallis

Do you know that in just two years, Indian forests equivalent to the size of Nagaland were either chopped down or thinned out? Did you know that the degradation of forest cover was so severe in 9,117 sq. km, an area about six times the size of Delhi, that the forests turned into scrubs or barren lands?

Despite government claims of an increase in forest cover across India, an analysis of the recent India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 by our researcher Prudhviraj Rupavath revealed a different picture. Read the detailed report here.

More Conflicts in Our Database

Last month, we saw new conflicts emerge in different parts of the country.

A crackdown by the Odisha police on protesting villagers in Dhinkia made news across the country. The villagers, who once opposed a plant by South Korean steel giant POSCO, were protesting another proposed steel plant by Jindal Steel Works on their land. Our Odisha researcher, Jagat Dora writes about what transpired on the ground.


We also added conflicts from Delhi and Manipur.

In Delhi’s Dwarka, village chiefs and residents, joined by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, protested the proposed construction of a Haj House in the area claiming it will disturb “brotherhood, harmony and peace”, researcher Aditi Patil reports. In Manipur’s Kakching, locals protested an eviction order issued by the district administration, terming around 25 villages on the Pumlen Pat wetland as encroachments. Researcher Anurag Das brings more details.

Land, Law and Courts: In India and Abroad

­­­­­The Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition filed by farmers from Bihar’s Rajgir last month. They had lost 2,900 acres of land in 1999 to an artillery factory, acquired under emergency provisions – a deviation from typical acquisitions – of the old Land Acquisition Act. The farmers had sought enhanced compensation under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

And in Canada, the Supreme Court of British Columbia recently rejected a petition by two First Nations (term used for indegenous people) for the restoration of the natural flow of river Nechako – obstructed by a dam built in the 1950s – but found that Aboriginal fishing rights were violated. This is a landmark ruling on the nature of rights over resources traditionally held by indigenous communities and relevant to jurisprudence in Commonwealth countries like India.

Looming Threat to the Aravallis!

­­­­­The Draft Regional Plan 2041 proposed for the National Capital Region (NCR) is being dubbed as a plan which can spell doom for the Aravallis, one of the oldest mountains in the subcontinent.

Not designated as forests, most of the Aravalli range currently enjoys protection as a Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) in the existing plan. This changes with the new plan.

The NCZ is now redefined as a Natural Zone and no longer includes the extension of the Aravallis and forest areas, making the Aravallis vulnerable to mining and construction activities.

In the current plan, construction in the NCZ is prohibited unless being done for recreational activity and in less than 0.5% of the area. This is crucial for the ecological balance, but it has been omitted in the new plan.

Several areas in the NCZ are village common lands which have been privatised. Legally, these lands are required to be vested with the gram panchayat and should be included in the definition of NCZ. If not done, it would result in the exploitation of ecologically sensitive land by private entities.

We submitted our suggestions to the National Capital Region Planning Board which had called for objections and suggestions in December 2021. You can read our full submission here.