Repeating Enron in Jaitapur- Miscalculations of the cost of energy from Jaitapur will cost #India


English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

 

Suvrat Raju, Hindu 

 

The tariff of Rs. 4 per unit of electricity is unrealistic unless the government subsidises the cost of the first two Areva reactors by Rs. 22,000 crore

More than a decade after Enron’s collapse, its legacy continues to haunt Maharashtra. In 2006, the Dabhol power project was restructured into the Ratnagiri power project with public subsidies that, by some estimates, amounted to Rs. 10,000 crore. The project has led a troubled existence and in March this year it announced that it may have to stop servicing its outstanding debt of Rs. 9,000 crore because of a problem with its fuel supply. In spite of this reminder of the continuing long-term costs of sweetheart deals to attract foreign investment in the power sector, a team from the Indian atomic energy establishment left for France last week to repeat the same mistakes.

Problem with design

The French company Areva, just like Enron, has been promised a contract for six European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) by executive fiat, bypassing a competitive bidding process. The reactors will be set up in Jaitapur, which is also in Ratnagiri. No one knows the exact extent of this give-way, because no EPR has been commissioned anywhere in the world. Areva started construction on its first EPR in Finland in 2005, with a promise to complete the reactor by 2009, at a price of just over €3 billion. After eight years, the reactor is still incomplete but cost estimates have ballooned to €8.5 billion —almost thrice the original figure. Areva has various excuses, but similar delays and cost increases in the second EPR under construction in its own country point to a more fundamental problem with the EPR design.

There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore. So, the price of the two reactors that the government hopes to commence in the Twelfth Plan period will equal the total plan outlay on science and technology including the departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, and research labs throughout the country.

What does this imply for consumers? In 2010, the then CEO of Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, told this newspaper that the tariff would be “below the Rs. 4 figure.” More recently, Areva suggested that this “tariff holds true,” except for small escalations because of the delay in operationalising the project.

Both Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have doggedly refused to explain the origins of this number. In the same 2010 interview, Lauvergeon said that “I am not going to give you the details … it is not for me to give the price if the customer does not want to give it.” The government has also refused to divulge information in meetings with local activists or even in response to parliamentary questions, where it has fallen back on the story that the final price is still under negotiation.

However, it is possible to independently estimate the cost of electricity using a study on the economics of imported reactors that the government produced in preparation for the India-U.S. nuclear deal. This was later updated and published by NPCIL.

When M.V. Ramana and I applied this framework to the Jaitapur reactors, in a paper for theEconomic and Political Weekly, we concluded that the true cost of electricity is likely to be almost four times as high as what the government claims. The figure of Rs. 4 per unit comes from a combination of unrealistic assumptions and a revenue model that provides massive public subsidies to the project.

The single most important factor in determining the tariff is the capital cost of the reactor. The government claims that the Indian EPRs will be cheaper because construction forms “about 40 per cent of the total cost.” Estimates suggest that construction costs in India are about 60 per cent lower than Europe. So, under best case conditions, the government could hope for about a 25 per cent reduction in the total cost.

However, the capital cost assumed in the government’s study is not 25 per cent lower, but literally 25 per cent of the figure for European reactors! It is this assumption of an unrealistic capital cost that underpins the Rs. 4 figure.

The study also reveals how the government plans to set out an exceedingly generous revenue model for the project. For example, it assumes that the project will have access to long-term debt at an interest rate of only 6 per cent. This is inconsistent with the serious concerns about the project’s viability. Moreover, since the yield on 10-year Indian Government bonds has been consistently higher than 7 per cent, even the full backing of the government will not bring the rate down to this level in the open market. So, the government will have to arm-twist public sector banks or itself provide a long-term loan to the project at this throwaway rate.

Another subsidy is built into the government’s plan to inject equity during the first few years of construction. In the government’s revenue model, this money will sit idle for more than a decade until the reactor becomes operational. Assuming, optimistically, that the EPRs are constructed as fast as the Kudankulam reactors, this delay will bring the government’s return on equity down from the advertised rate of 14 per cent to an effective rate of only 7.7 per cent. Further delays, which are likely, will reduce this further.

When these parameters are corrected, and combined with a realistic estimate of the cost of fuel, the government’s own methodology leads to a first year tariff of Rs.15 per unit, even without including transmission and distribution costs. Obviously, this cannot be passed on to consumers, and so the state will have to subsidise the electricity. To bring the tariff down to Rs. 4 will require a subsidy of Rs. 22,000 crore each year for the first two reactors. This “Areva-subsidy” is a quarter of India’s entire food subsidy bill.

There are other serious questions about the project. For example, Areva’s reluctance to accept even a small amount of liability is in sharp contrast to its unscientific claims that it has precisely computed the probability of a serious accident in an EPR, and found it to be once in 1.6 million years.

But the economics of this project are so appalling that it is possible to separate these issues and even the broader question of the role of nuclear energy in India. Even the nuclear establishment accepts, as WikiLeaks revealed, that the “NPCIL [has] paid a ‘high’ price”. The justification for the project cannot be Maharashtra’s electricity shortage either since at this price it is possible to find several alternative solutions to that problem.

Jairam Ramesh admitted that for the government, the “venture is significant not just from an energy generation but also from a strategic point of view.” Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, explained that India had to “nurture” French “business interests” because France helped India when it wanted access to international nuclear markets.

Back-room deal

This is an admission of an unsavoury back-room deal. However, a moment’s reflection also brings out the circularity of this argument. France supported India’s efforts because it wanted to sell reactors to India. Why should the country return this self-centred help by paying through its nose?

There is a simple but significant political aspect to this entire issue. It is clear that this deal and the concomitant negotiations to purchase reactors from American companies are being driven by pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The reason that negotiations with Areva have taken on an urgent note is because the government’s prospects in the next elections are uncertain. If the next dispensation does not have the same ideological commitment to imported nuclear reactors, these deals may flounder.

Our system concentrates enormous financial powers in the hands of the executive. However, just because the government has the power does not mean that it has the right to rush into a deal that could bleed the country for years to come.

— SUVRAT RAJU

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/repeating-enron-in-jaitapur/article4834435.ece

 

 

 

Criticised, Odisha weighs expanding scope of locals in deciding Vedanta fate #goodnews


 BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar  June 14, 201

Faced with flak from the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) and activists from Niyamgiri for its decision to limit gram sabhas to just 12 villages,Odisha is mulling legal opinion over the possibility of expanding the scope of such meetings.

“We are exploring legal angles to suggestions by MoTA on expanding scope of gram sabhas. If required, views of the law department will be taken,” said Santosh Sarangi, secretary, SC&ST development.

Defending the state’s stand to conduct gram sabhas in 12 villages on Niyamgiri hill slopes, he said, “A close scrutiny of the Supreme Court order dated April 18 would suggest it was referring to the 12 hill slope villages where the meetings were held earlier for settlement of claims under the Forest Right Act (FRA). It would not be feasible to hold gram sabhas in all villages of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. Besides, the process would also be very time-consuming.”

Earlier, the SC&ST department had consulted the law department to interpret the order on holding of gram sabhas, citing lack of clarity.

In line with the views filed by the law department, the state decided to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of bauxite extraction from Niyamgiri hills in 12 villages. These included seven villages in Rayagada district and five in Kalahandi district.

In his letter to MoTA, Odisha Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said: “At the time of filing of claims, neither the ministry of environment and forests nor MoTA had raised an issue before the court regarding coverage of villages over and above the 12 hill slope villages.” He added a reading of the court’s observation would make clear the reference was to the 12 hill slope villages for which affidavit was filed by Odisha. However, refusing to agree to the state’s contention, MoTA held limiting gram sabha proceedings was not in line with the order and the directions by the ministry under section 12 of FRA.

“The list of villages where rights of forest dwellers are guaranteed under FRA or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected, cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people (palli sabha) where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine gram sabha that has a legitimate claim is left out of the process. This is in line with para 59 of the apex court judgement,” Vibha Puri Das, secretary, MoTA, wrote to Odisha chief secretary Patnaik recently.

 

#India lags in transparency laws on drug firm-doctor dealings #healthcare



Rema Nagarajan,TNN | Jun 10, 2013,=
The trend towards greater transparency in interactions between the healthcare industry and healthcare providers, including doctors, is catching on globally with France being the latest in enacting a law to make disclosures of relations between healthcare professionals and industry.

The French law, dubbed Strengthening of Health Protection for Medicinal and Health Products, was brought into force in the last week of May laying down disclosure obligations, which affect all agreements concluded between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and companies, as well as every benefit in kind or in cash exceeding 10 euros. According to the decree implementing the law, a free public website with all the disclosures will be maintained by a public authority. This law is similar in intent to the US Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which came into force earlier this year.

Several other countries are ramping up their transparency laws regarding payments between healthcare companies and physicians even as India continues to have no laws to regulate companies that give doctors freebies. If caught, only doctors are penalized, not companies.

Disclosure under the French law will include all contracts such as R&D contracts, contracts for clinical trials or observational studies, consultancy agreements for being speakers or on advisory boards and invitations to scientific or medical events for which the costs such as registration fees, travel costs, meals and accommodation expenses are paid by the company. This disclosure obligation applies to every payment and contract issued from January 2012 onward.

The US law requires the healthcare industry to report annually to the secretary of health and human services certain payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. All the information is to be posted on a public website expected to be ready by next year.

Slovakia, too, is reported to have enacted a similar law. Belgium is looking into the possibility of introducing a similar law. Already, in Belgium, companies that have marketing authorisation for medicines have to keep a record of all gifts or benefits offered to doctors.

In Germany, there are no similar transparency laws but insurers are demanding prison sentences of up to three years for doctors who accept bribes or other favours. This demand followed cases of doctors being allegedly paid to prescribe a company’s drugs and the publicizing of many doctors earning huge amounts of money for supposedly conducting observational studies, where pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to observe the side effects of new drugs, often a cover-up for paying them to prescribe certain drugs.

In the midst of this clamour internationally for greater transparency in drug industry ties with healthcare providers, the Indian government continues to ignore recommendations of the parliamentary committee on health, the Medical Council of India and several doctors

“To those who believe in resistance , who live between hope and impatience and have learned the perils of being unreasonable. To those who understand enough to be afraid, and yet retain their fury”

 

Bob Dylan approved for France’s Légion d’Honneur #Music


Dylan’s nomination for honour is approved after reportedly first being rejected over his drug use and opposition to Vietnam war

Bob Dylan
 Bob Dylan, who has been nominated by Aurélie Filippetti, the culture minister, to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur. Photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

Reuters in Paris

American singer Bob Dylan may soon be awarded France’s highest distinction, the Légion d’Honneur, after his nomination was reportedly first tossed out over his marijuana use and opposition to the Vietnam war.

The green light given by the Legion d’Honneur’s council means France’s minister of culture may soon decorate Dylan – a symbol of 1960s counterculture – with the five-pointed star of the top “Chevalier” order.

He would join the ranks of singers such as Britain’s Paul McCartney and France’s Charles Aznavour to be so honoured.

The 17-member council determines whether nominations put forward by government ministers conform to the institution’s principles. Its grand chancellor, Jean-Louis Georgelin, confirmed it had approved Dylan’s nomination.

In a letter to the daily Le Monde published on Sunday, Georgelin called the singer-songwriter an “exceptional artist” known in the United States and internationally as a “tremendous singer and great poet”.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé reported in May that Georgelin had rejected Dylan’s nomination on the basis of his opposition to the war in Vietnam, where France was a former colonial power, and his presumed pot smoking.

Georgelin acknowledged to Le Monde that he had originally thrown out the nomination and cited what he called a “controversy” but did not elaborate further.

Culture minister Aurélie Filipetti had nominated Dylan – who in 1990 was given a lower rank of the award – for the highest “Chevalier” distinction.

The singer was awarded the top civilian honour in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in May 2012.

 

Jaitapur villagers oppose investors’ meeting, hidden from Locals


PUNE, June 4, 2013

Staff Reporter, The Hindu

Konkan Bachao Samiti says this meet was hidden from the locals to avoid furore

Even as officials of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) left for France for a crucial meeting between European investors and French conglomerate Areva to gather funds for the 9900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant, farmers and fishermen of the Jaitapur have written to the potential investors expressing their opposition to the project.

According to sources, a team of senior officers of both the DAE and the NPCIL will attend a meeting in France on June 5 and 6.

According to members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti, this meeting was kept hidden from the local population, to avoid furore and further protests.

“Deluding investors”

The letter by the Konkan Bachao Samiti states, “NPCIL and government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information, twisting and distorting the facts and are trying their level best to delude you [investors] , in order to make you agreeable and secure loan finance for this mega disaster project.”

Rajendra Phaterpekar of the Samiti stated that the exact cost of the project was still not made public, adding to the government’s non-transparent attitude.

According to earlier projections, the cost of the project was to be Rs. 1,20,000 crore, which is alleged to have increased three-fold over the last two years, he said.

“We, the fishermen and farmers of Jaitapur and adjoining areas, want to make it very very clear that our diehard opposition to the proposed nuclear power project is total, fierce and will not be subdued by any means or ways possible,” the letter says.

Added to this, the villagers of Jaitapur will stage a protest on July 4 to register their opposition, yet again.

 

France becomes the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage


French President Francois Hollande signs gay marriage into law

samesex
AFP May 18, 2013, 10.01AM IST

PARIS: France became the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage on Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed it into law following months of bitter political debate.

Hollande acted a day after the Constitutional Council threw out a legal challenge by the right-wing opposition, which had been the last obstacle to passing the bill into law. The legislation also legalizes gay adoption.

French justice minister Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament, has said the first gay marriages could be celebrated as early as June.

But opponents of the measures have vowed to continue their campaign, with a major protest rally scheduled for May 26 in Paris.

The issue has provoked months of acrimonious debate and hundreds of protests that have occasionally spilled over into violence.

Hollande made “marriage for all” a central plank of his presidential election campaign last year.

On Friday, in the wake of the Constitutional Council ruling, he warned that he would tolerate no resistance.

“I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages,” said the president.

It was “time to respect the law and the Republic”, he added.

 

French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill


By SCOTT SAYARE
Published: April 12, 2013
PARIS — The French Senate on Friday approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children, leaving France poised to join the small group of nations that have fully legalized gay marriage, despite an unexpectedly vocal campaign by conservative opponents.

A final vote on the legislation, which figured among the campaign promises of President François Hollande, has been scheduled for next week in the lower house of Parliament, where the Senate’s minor amendments are expected to easily pass. Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party holds a strong majority in the lower house, which approved an earlier version of the text in February.

Should the bill pass, parliamentary conservatives have vowed to challenge its constitutionality, though precedent suggests that a rejection by the Constitutional Council, which rules on such matters, would be unlikely.

The French debate over legalizing gay marriage comes as the Supreme Court of the United States is examining a law that prohibits it; one possible ruling in that case, concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, would require all 50 states to allow such unions. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several American states, some areas of Brazil and Mexico and 12 countries, half of them in Europe.

In France, the left has broadly supported the bill on gay marriage, which many supporters prefer to call “marriage for all.” The country’s largest conservative party, the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, has opposed it. There have been a few dissonant voices at both ends of the political spectrum. On Friday, the Senate vote fell largely along partisan lines, 179 to 157.

“You have consolidated and reinforced the republican pact,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told the Senate after the vote. In opening marriage to same-sex couples, Ms. Taubira said, “we are simply recognizing their full citizenship.”

There has been marked opposition, however, in a country that remains largely Roman Catholic, with deeply rooted conservative convictions in much of the populace. Opponents of the bill, many of them rallying under a movement called La Manif Pour Tous, or Protest for All, have marched in the hundreds of thousands in Paris and across the country in recent months. Organizers have called for a mass protest next month.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have also called upon the faithful to protest the legislation, which many opponents cast as a danger for future generations of children who could be raised by homosexual parents. Indeed, opposition has largely focused on the provision, now approved by both houses of Parliament, that would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

It is legal in France for someone who is gay or lesbian to adopt a child, but gays and lesbians may not adopt as couples, with equal parental rights.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 13, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill.

 

The Man Who Planted Trees #Sundayreading


KATH13 Ole!

 

 

The Man Who Planted Trees (French title L’homme qui plantait des arbres), also known as The Story of Elzéard BouffierThe Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met, and The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness, is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953.

Simply written, but powerful and unforgettable, The Man Who Planted Trees is a parable for modern times. In the foothills of the French Alps the narrator meets a shepherd who has quietly taken on the task of planting one hundred acorns a day in an effort to reforest his desolate region. Not even two world wars can keep the shepherd from continuing his solitary work. Gradually, this gentle, persistent man’s work comes to fruition: the region is transformed; life and hope return; the world is renewed

It tells the story of one shepherd‘s long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provencethroughout the first half of the 20th century. The tale is quite short—only about 4000 words long. It was composed in French, but first published in English.

The story begins in the year 1910, when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through ProvenceFrance, and into the Alps, enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness.

The narrator runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilization except old, empty crumbling buildings. The narrator finds only a dried up well, but is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, the narrator stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined landscape of the isolated and largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, makes holes in the ground with his curling pole and drops into the holes acorns that he has collected from many miles away.

The narrator leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War. In 1920, shell-shocked and depressed after the war, the man returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through it where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain. The narrator makes a full recovery in the peace and beauty of the regrowing valley, and continues to visit Bouffier every year. Bouffier is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become abee keeper instead.

Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden. By the end of the story, the valley is vibrant with life and is peacefully settled. The valley receives official protection after the First World War. (the authorities mistakenly believe that the rapid growth of this forest is a bizarre natural phenomenon, as they are unaware of Bouffier’s selfless deeds), and more than 10,000 people move there, all of them unknowingly owing their happiness to Bouffier. The narrator tells one of his friends in the government the truth about the natural forest, and the friend also helps protect the forest.

The narrator visits the now very old Bouffier one last time in 1945. In a hospice in Banon, in 1947, the man who planted trees peacefully passes away.

 

 

Download the book – the_man_who_planted_trees

 

#India- Tribal affairs ministry against MoEF move to dilute forest rights Act #CSR


 

MoEF notification on 5 February says linear projects such as roads, canals wouldn’t require gram sabha consent
Liz Mathew   |  Neha Sethi  ,           First Published: Fri, Mar 29 2013. 10 28 PM IST, livemint.com
 
The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas, according to the text of the forest rights Act. 
  
New Delhi: A move by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to exempt promoters of so-called linear projects such as roads, pipelines and canals from seeking the consent of village councils in forest areas will likely be a non-starter unless the government moves to amend the forest rights Act (FRA).
MoEF issued a notification on 5 February that such projects, including power transmission lines, wouldn’t require the consent of gram sabhas, or village councils. It acted in the face of criticism over the delay of many infrastructure projects for want of environmental approvals.
But the measure won’t have any constitutional validity until FRA is amended, an official in the tribal affairs ministry said, indicating a possible face-off between MoEF and his ministry.
The person did not want to be identified given the sensitive nature of the ongoing debate within the government.
The tribal affairs ministry has raised its concerns in a letter to MoEF asking it to revise the 5 February notification.
“The concern of this ministry is that it be made amply clear that the rights of FDSTs (forest-dwelling scheduled tribes) and OTFDs (other traditional forest dwellers) on forest land proposed to be diverted must get recognized and vested under the FRA (without any exception) before forest clearance is granted to any such proposal,” said the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
The 5 February notification, posted on the MoEF website, states that the decision was taken after consultations with an inter-ministerial committee. However, the tribal affairs ministry contends that it hadn’t been consulted.
The matter was raised at the last meeting of the cabinet committee on investment, but no decision has been taken. “The matter is still unresolved,” said the official cited above. The cabinet committee on investment has been set up to speed up the clearance of big infrastructure projects and is headed by the Prime Minister.
A top environment ministry official said he wasn’t aware of the reservations of the tribal affairs ministry. “The notification that we issued was done after consultation with the tribal affairs ministry, then why will they have a problem?” said the official, who requested anonymity.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, stipulates that projects such as schools, hospitals, anganwadis (child and mother care centres), fair price shops, electric and telecommunication lines, tanks and water bodies, water pipelines, rainwater harvesting structures, minor irrigation canals, vocational training centres, roads and community centres require the permission of village councils.
“The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas,” according to the text of the Act.
While clearance for projects is given by MoEF, and the tribal affairs ministry doesn’t play a role in that, it comes into the picture if there is a dispute over gram sabha approval or if “someone contests the clearance given”, said the tribal affairs ministry official cited in the first instance.
In such cases, the tribal affairs ministry will have to go by FRA, the official said.
Clause (11) of FRA states that the tribal affairs ministry is the nodal agency for the implementation of its provisions, the same person said. That’s why the Act will have to be amended for the notification to come into effect, he said.
“How can a memorandum or a notification from a ministry repeal an Act passed by Parliament?” the official said.
The MoEF official cited above said nothing was done by the environment ministry on its own. “It was only after a meeting that the Prime Minister had with both the environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, and the tribal affairs minister, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, that it was decided to issue the notification,” the official added.
To be sure, it was unlikely gram sabhas would oppose development projects such as roads, electric transmission lines or drinking water pipelines. FRA, one of the United Progressive Alliance government’s landmark items of legislation in its first term, was passed by Parliament in 2006, said the second official.
Only the nodal ministry, in this case the tribal affairs ministry, can issue fresh guidelines or notifications amending the rules.
“However the tribal affairs ministry has not yet issued any such notification that calls for changing the provisions in the Act,” the same official said.
Tushar Dash, a researcher with Vasundhara, an Orissa-based not-for-profit organization that’s working on forest rights and conservation, said a group of states and non-governmental organizations had raised the issue of the dilution of tribal rights with the tribal affairs ministry earlier this month.
“We had told them to intervene in this matter and make sure that the forest rights Act does not get diluted,” Dash said, adding that if the tribal affairs ministry had written to the environment ministry, then it was definitely “a good move on their part”.

 

 

Violation of law in land allotted to tribal people, claims study on Forest Rights Act


MEENA MENON, The Hindu,  mUMBAI mARCH 25,2013

 Sloppy implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) has resulted in large tracts of forests being cut down and claimed as cultivated land in Maharashtra, according to a study. Data shows that in Jalgaon district alone, more than 79 per cent claims over cultivated forest land were apparently on ineligible lands and about 25 per cent had forest cover. In Thane, adjacent to Mumbai with a high land value, about 12 per cent of the land allotted to tribal people was ineligible according to the eligibility criteria under FRA.

Maharashtra government had, a few years ago, relaxed the measurement for land claimed by tribal people and this has caused discrepancies in settling claims under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA). A study done by a private company in 2012, at the behest of the State Forest Department, used a database from the Tribal Research and Training Institute (TRTI), Pune, and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad. Satellite maps and GPS data were collated to examine changes after 2005 in tree cover, vegetation and land-use in forest land under forest rights (FR) claims and those which have recognized rights of cultivation.

TRTI has the data of 1,89,400 forest plots under Forest Rights (FR) claims, which are measured using GPS and uploaded on its website. Each land under claim has a unique 13 digit code comprising alpha numerical identification for district, tehsil, village and initials of the claimant.

Of the 3, 44,330 claims received in Maharashtra, 2, 34,242 claims were rejected, according to latest data from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs website. Only 1, 05,930 claims have been approved, of which 99,368 titles were distributed for about 2, 50,000 hectares . Activists and tribal people have been contesting the delay in allotting rights and the high rejection of claims.

However, Thane district, with one of the highest number of claims in the State, did not provide details of the 13 digit-code for all claimants, and in fact, cleared cases without GPS measurement, the study says. The government blames the high rate of false claimants for the rejections. Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Nasik, Raigad, Gondia and Bhandara districts also provided little data. Overall, data only for 40,428 approved cases was made available for the study from 19 districts covering 1705 villages.

In 2,433 cases, out of a total of 36,640 cases analysed, there was a road/ river/nallah within the plot. The highest number of such cases is in Dhule and Nandurbar districts. As seen on 2005-06 satellite images, about 15 per cent approved cases are on lands having forest or no agriculture. Data using Cartosat-1 satellite images of 2005-06 and 2007-08, shows that in 789 cases out of 35, 044 approved FR cases, land-use changed between the years 2005-06 to 2007-08. Large numbers of such cases with land-use change are in Jalgaon, Nandurbar, and Dhule. Out of 539 FR cases from Jalgaon district, 321 cases are from three villages of Chopda Taluka — Umarti (118), Satrasen (113) and Melane (90).

The data reveals that there was a huge trend of putting barren forest land to agriculture between 2005 and 2008 to stake claims. About 37 per cent of barren area was converted into agriculture and 33 per cent was converted from forest cover to agriculture. Jalgaon has the highest area so far of forested areas and barren forest land converted to agriculture. An analysis of 5,373 FR cases on satellite images of 2007-08 shows that in these 789 approved FR cases, land-use change occurred after 2005. The study says this implies that people first claimed rights of cultivation, irrespective of the fact whether it was under cultivation on December 13, 2005 (as mandated by FRA) or not and later that forest land was cleared for cultivation. Though the percentage of land-use change detected is less than one per cent in terms of total area, about 641 hectares forest land appears to have been converted from barren land to agriculture and about 580 hectares of forests to agriculture.

In a separate set of data, since satellite images of 2011-12 were available for six districts, only 26,807 finalized FR cases were analyzed, covering 45,034 hectares in Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Thane, and Gadchiroli districts. It was found that 39,996 (89 per cent) hectares is under cultivation within the approved plots in 2011-12 which is a four per cent increase from 2007-08, Forest/tree cover and barren land has reduced from 910 to 433 hectares and 5476 to 4605 hectares respectively between 2007-08 and 2011-12. This means that people have cleared forest cover and started cultivation after FRs have been recognized on these lands, the study points out.

In these six districts, at least 5037.88 hectares of ineligible forest land on which Forest Rights have been recognized is still not converted into cultivation as per 2011-12 satellite images. In FR cases’ analysis on Cartosat-1 satellite images of 2007-08 and 2011-12, it has been observed that in 827 cases out of 26, 807 finally recognized FR cases, land-use changed between 2007-08 to 2011-12.

The percentage of land-use changes in finally recognised FR cases shows an increase in 2011-12 (3.1 per cent) compared to 2007-08 (2.3 per cent). In an analysis of claims applied for but not recognised, it increased from 12.4 per cent to 18.3 per cent. Land use changes violate the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and data from all districts needs to be revisited for verification of claims and ensuring forests are not cut down, said a forest official.