A new threat to biodiversity rights, complaints from landowners in ‘darshan-ready’ Ayodhya, renewable energy policies and more.

Hey there,

We are excited to kick start the year with our 2024 Seed Calendar! It showcases 12 captivating stories through engrossing illustrations, and offers 12 different varieties of seeds to plant in your backyard. You can read the expanded versions of these stories of communities and individuals surrounding land rights here

The calendar was made for our members, who have supported our research through the past year. To get a copy and support our work, you can consider becoming our member too and get access to exclusive reports, and more.

Biodiversity Rights Abridged, Mass Demolitions in Ayodhya

An investigation into the dilution of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was conducted by our Senior Research Fellow, Priyansha Chouhan for the Frontline Magazine. The amendment, which exempted the industry from compensating tribals for accessing their resources, aka Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), is perceived as benefiting big Ayurveda companies like Patanjali and depriving tribals of their resources. Experts fear this has the potential of exempting the whole of AYUSH industries from paying for the natural resources they use unabatedly. Read the full report to understand the implications for corporate accountability, community rights, and conservation efforts.

Our Writing Fellow Sukriti Vats dug deep into the mega-makeover of Ayodhya ahead of the Ram Temple inauguration. Behind this beautification drive lies 4,000 razed structures and complaints of over 40,000 residents about the unfair compensation and breach of land rights. Nearly 1200 acres of land are slated to be used for redevelopment in the town. Read the breakdown of the emerging land dispute here as well as the detailed case study in our database here.

New Conflicts in our Database

We currently have 765 ongoing conflicts documented in the LCW database. Last month, our team of researchers added eight new conflicts listed below:

  1. Adani's Dharavi Redevelopment Plan ignites fear of eviction and displacement among residents of the largest slum, our researcher Shubham Kothari writes in this conflict report.
  2. Despite a ban on rat-hole mining of coal in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014, illegal coal continues to be extracted and moved across the borders of Meghalaya. The conflict has been reported by East Street Journal Asia. Similarly, in Assam’s Tinsukia district, locals have been demanding stricter compliance with the existing ban on rat hole mining. Read the report here.
  3. In Delhi’s Narela, a new conflict was reported by our researcher Siddhartha Datta where the residents opposed the plan for constructing a defence institute and demanded a sports complex for the community.
  4. In Assam, at least 21 tribal families residing in the villages of Gurmau and Sonamhari were served eviction notices by the Goreshwar Revenue Circle Officer in August, writes our researcher Emilo Yanthan in this report.
  5. Agariyas of Gujarat's Patan district denied entry to Little Rann of Kutch for salt farming despite the government allowing access to the community in the past. Amid allegations of discrimination, HC seeks reply from Forest Dept by Jan 29. The conflict was reported by our researcher Suchak Patel.
  6. Moreover, illegal sand mining in Nainital's Bail Padao raises environmental concerns, writes our researcher Chicu Lokgariwar. December 2023 saw uproar in Uttarakhand over land laws as locals demanded stricter regulations for 'outsiders' buying land. Chicu breaks down the impact - from historical laws to recent bans in this thread.

New Solar Policies: Delhi Leads, Gujarat and Jharkhand Follow

By Priyansha Chouhan

The Delhi government announced the new solar policy, 2024 on January 29. Set to be notified in the coming days, it aims to reduce the electricity bills and air pollution by incentivising setting up rooftop solar panels on government buildings, residential and commercial establishments. 

Gujarat and Jharkhand also published draft energy policies earlier last year. Released in July 2022, draft Jharkhand power policy, 2023, seeks to generate 4000 MW clean energy, doubling the previous target. To achieve this ambitious target, ‘land banks’ would be created to ‘address land acquisition issues’ by aggregating readily available parcels of land. 

Though states like Gujarat and Rajasthan promote leasing and a single-window clearance for approvals and better coordination between government departments and stakeholders, the land banks remain unique to Jharkhand. Experts fear that land banks are a recipe for land conflicts and a roadblock in clearance of pending forest rights in the tribal-dominated state. 

Supreme Court hears cases on classification of forests 

By Anmol Gupta

Earlier in January, the issue of mining in the Aravalli range came up before the Supreme Court. In a preliminary hearing, the Supreme Court reiterated that the Haryana and Rajasthan state government can take measures to stop any mining activities happening in the area. The Central Empowered Committee, a committee constituted by the court to tackle environmental issues, was asked to examine if mining could be permitted in the Aravalli range. Experts have contended that recent amendments to forest conservation laws could threaten the Aravallis which are not yet notified as forests.  

In another case later in January, the Court dismissed a petition filed by the environmental NGO Goa Foundation to broaden the criteria for classifying forests. Presently, land which is at least 5 hectares with 75% coverage of trees and canopy density of at least 40%, is considered as forest land. These criteria were first formulated by the Goa forest department in 1991. The writ petition filed by Goa Foundation challenged the 1991 criteria, suggesting that canopy density be changed from 40% to 10%. The NGO contended that several forests which were originally dense had degraded significantly over the years. Such forests had not been notified as forests, despite the Forest Survey of India including them in their criteria. The Court rejected these arguments, stating that the criteria could not be applied universally across the different states of the country. The Court also vacated its interim order from 2015, which mandated that the government not issue any ‘No Objection Certificate’ for land with tree canopy density more than 0.1 and an area above 1 hectare.

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