Activists angered by Indian move

From Global development | The Guardian Fri Feb 15 2013, 06:07:50

The government's decision to allow major infrastructure projects to go ahead without obtaining consent for forest clearance paves the way for the violation of village land rights, say rights groups

Land and tribal rights in India have been dealt a new blow after the government announced last week that major infrastructure projects will be exempt from obtaining consent for forest clearance from tribal communities living in the forest, a decision that undermines the importance of the country's Forest Rights Act.

Tribal and forest rights activists say the decision by India's ministers leaves village councils (gram sabhas) powerless to reject the building of roads, railways, transmission lines, canal systems, pipelines or other projects that potentially violate their land rights.

"This is serious breach of trust and a huge step back in ensuring the dignity and survival of traditional forest-dwelling people across the country. Forests are going to be cleared to make way for a particular kind of economic development; it will adversely impact communities and the environment," said Dr Swati Shresth, from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

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