IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

31st December, 2020 Environment

Context: Tribal communities have been protesting and urging center to withdraw the Centre’s notification classifying 121 villages around the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Narmada district as eco-sensitive zones.

  • Tribals, especially from the Tadvi and Vasava communities, have been on the edge ever since Kevadia, a sleepy village in Nandod taluka of Narmada district, was developed into a tourism circuit around the Statue of Unity.

Why are tribal communities protesting against the notification?

  • Firstly, as per the provisions of the notification, land falling in the eco-sensitive zone — including land belonging to the forest department, horticulture department, that used for agricultural use and plots reserved for parks — cannot be transferred for non-agricultural use for commercial, industrial or residential purposes.
  • Any land that needs to be transferred can be done so only after approval from the state government.
  • Second, a process has been initiated to include the state government as the co-owner of the land in the 121 villages.
  • Third, the notification, has left tribals in a state of mistrust and fear. They feel the simultaneous implementation of the two government decisions could dilute the “power” vested with villagers under the Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, implemented in areas notified under Schedule V of the Constitution.

What is PESA?

  • Gujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of the state.
  • While the provisions of the law deem the gram sabhas as “most competent” to deal with matters related to their territories for safeguarding their customs, traditions as well as the natural resources in the tribal areas, the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit.
  • The PESA Act is totally rooted in the cultural and traditional practices of the tribal community and vests ultimate power to the gram sabha to make administrative decisions. But that is not the ground reality.