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Why Forest Rights Act, 2006 is the way to go in Himachal

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Forest-Rights-Act,-2006 in Himachal PRadesh

SHIMLA– To address historical injustice faced by the forest-dependent communities in India, UPA government had passed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of) Forest Rights Act in 2006. But the Congress, at least in Himachal, has failed to make use of this legislation to provide relief to tribal population. In fact, Himachal is one of the worst performing states in FRA implementation.

People dependent on forests for livelihood are imminently facing the threat of eviction. For instance, consider the moving story of Byaso Devi of Panchayat Kand Kandiyana in Kangra District.

The right of title over occupied forest land by an individual or a group under Forest Rights Act 2006 is important for people like Byaso Devi. Her husband Chaukas Ram, who is no more, was landless and was in possession of barely 10 kanal of land (Khasara no. is 532/3) allotted to him by the revenue field staff of the HP government in 1976. This was done under the Himachal Pradesh Nautor Act 1976, which provided allotment of land to landless for agriculture so as to give them ownership over minimum land considered requisite for respectable survival. He constructed his home on part of this land and farmed on the rest. However, before he could obtain the title on paper for this land, all such common pool land, was transferred to the Forest Department.

Chaukas Ram sent numerous letters to the government to issue requisite certificates/document for the allotment and the revenue department forwarded his letters to the forest department. With the enactment of FCA 1980, where diversion of forest land without due permission from the central government was not possible, the chance of getting a title ended for Chaukas Ram. He saw an opportunity of getting ownership in 2002, when the state government declared a onetime amnesty for people with common land encroachments.

Chaukas Ram filed an affidavit under this policy. But the policy never could see light of day, instead, thousands of people who filed for claims were exposed to the threat of evictions as they now declared their ‘encroachments’. Chaukas Ram’s family has been living under threat of eviction orders since 2004. This is not a one of a kind case. 45 such cases can be found in Byaso Devi’s village, and another 40 cases from a nearby one, and many more all over Himachal, where the rights of local communities have not been settled.

Now, ahead of HP Assembly election in 2017, state government has introduced a new law for land regularization policy to provide relief to the small and marginal farmers who have occupied forest land in Himachal. The policy formulation came as a response to a High Court order which sought eviction of farmers who had such ‘encroachments’. Unfortunately the committee set up by the state government to provide legal relief to evicted people has chosen a failed route.

Watch Video to Know More about Forest Rights Act, 2006 Awareness and Implementation in Himachal

State Govt. isn’t empowered to divert forest land for non-forest use

First of all, state government can’t frame any policy related to diversion of forest land for non-forest use as two Central Laws, namely the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, prohibits it.

Additionally, a series of Supreme Court orders makes such diversion impossible without Central Government consent.

Secondly, if the government really wanted to protect the small and marginal farmers, there is already a Central legislation in form of “Forest Rights Act 2006” (FRA). The key provision and objective of this Act is to recognise the claims of local communities on the forest lands on which they depend for their livelihood. This piece of legislation has high significance in the context of Himachal where two third of total geographical area is designated as forest land and 90% population is dependent on forest land for the livelihood.

Till now, the government has focused on implementation of development rights conferred under section 3 (2) of the FRA, where one hectare of forest land can be diverted for 13 different types of village development activities. This is a boon for Himachal where villages are surrounded by forests and no land other than forest land was available to construct a PHC, school, water schemes and roads etc.

The process under section 3(1) of the act is in initial stage, and in the absence of adequate training and knowhow for ground level government machinery, not much progress has been made in the implementation of this section, which in a way is at the heart of the FRA.

The section 3 (1) (a) of the FRA Act would be a ray of hope for people like Byaso devi. This Act is historical because it provided the much needed relief to those who had years of “occupation” on forest land for their day to day survival, but were under threat of evictions.

People given permits, but their rights not recorded in Jamabandi

On FRA, the position of the Himachal government has been shaky, as it has argued that “rights of communities have already been settled in Himachal”. True that rights have been settled in the forest settlement records and permits issued to the communities as ‘privileges and concessions’ to use forest land for various purposes. However, these are not recorded in the Jamabandi, or the revenue record as a title or right. Section 3 (1) of the FRA to settle the “community forest rights” facilitates this.

This is important because till the record of rights does not become part of the jamabandi, the forest use will be seen as a ‘privilege’, which can be taken away without consent. In the case of Kol dam project, for instance the grazing land of 15 sheep and goat herders got submerged under the dam. When they sought compensation for the grazing rights lost due to project construction, the project proponents said that all the compensation was given according to the ownership titles under ‘Jamabandi records’ not by the grazing permits issued to them.

The scope for extension of community forest rights is estimated to be over 3.2 lakh acres in Himachal but till 2016 no CFR titles were issues under FRA 2006 in the state.

Opposing interests of local communities and forest department

Another major issue is that of management and protection of forests. This, since colonial times has been the domain of the forest department. The goal of the forest department has been to increase the forest cover. As a result it always tends to choose to propagate pine species which cannot be browsed (eaten) by livestock. On the other hand for the local community, forests are meant for grazing. These opposing interests required that the local community be made a partner in protection and management of forests. The earlier efforts at such partnership, under JFM and Social forestry programs have failed because they never gave legal tenure to community. The FRA does.

In the interest of the forests as well as the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, there is no other route but the FRA. The sooner the Himachal government sees this, the better it will be for the health of the state’s environment and people.

Authored by Prakash Bhandari and Manshi Asher

(The authors are members of Himdhara, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh)

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Baddi MC turns site of Rs 9.7 crores proposed Waste Management Facility into illegal dumpyard

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dumpyard of Baddi MC

“We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard.”

Solan: While the Centre and State Government of Himachal Pradesh are claiming improvement on every front including waste management under Swacch Bharat campaign, as another infamous achievement, the State Government has turned the site of a proposed waste treatment plant for the Baddi town of Solan district into an illegal dump yard.

Due to the increased pollution and hazards due to the illegal dumping of Municipal Waste and the dysfunctional common effluent treatment plant (CETP) in their area, the residents of villages under two Panchayats, Malpur and Sandho, are compelled to form a front ”Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti to take the fight for the right for clean air and water to the door-steps of authorities.

The BBNDA was supposed to build a 9.7 crore ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility’ on this spot where today they have created a foul-smelling open dump. This is totally illegal,

Sukhdev Singh, a resident of Malpur and Vice Chairperson of the Samiti said.

Baddi waaste management facility

Members of the Samiti of local residents

The BBNDA had in 2015 received an environment clearance for an ‘integrated solid waste management’ project provided 36 conditions were satisfied. (Read More Details in the Annexures Uploaded after the story)

The components of the project, expected to cost about Rs 9.7 crore, included a receiving facility, a compost plant, a recycling plant, a secured landfill, and a leachate collection unit

The aggrieved residents allege that none of this exists on the ground. Since 2016, the Municipal Council of Baddi started throwing waste on the site where this project was to be set up.

The illegal dumping came to the notice of the Environment Ministry ’s regional office during their half-yearly compliance monitoring visit about a year ago

The scientist, Dr Bhavna Singh, who visited the site had reported the violations and recommended an immediate suspension of dumping given non-compliance. However, the Pollution Control Board took no action on this front and the dumping continues to this day.

On July 19, 2018, we approached the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Deputy Commissioner of Solan, Secretary, Urban Development, the Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment about this gross negligence and have demanded that this illegal dumping be stopped and the site be immediately cleared,

said Rafiq, Deputy Secretary of the Samiti, also a member of the Gujjar Community.

The unscientific garbage dumping is posing a serious threat to not only the environment around but also to the 32 members of Gujjar families settled right in front of the dump yard. The Gujjar community is a scheduled tribe that practices their traditional livelihood of cattle rearing and are dependent on the public lands for purpose of grazing.

Baddi MC Dumping site

In addition, the dumping site is a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc. and has caused an alarming increase in the incident of illnesses even to people who live in the neighbouring villages.

We are also writing to the Scheduled Tribe Commission and will go to the court if there is no action by the authorities,

added Rafiq.

Members of the Samiti in the last month have initiated a mass RTI campaign asking authorities for information about the dump and the actions taken by them.

We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard,

added Dharampal, secretary of the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti.

Meanwhile, the BBNDA has gone into damage control mode and has made announcements about fogging the area regularly to prevent smell and flies.

These are superficial steps and they do not change the fact that for the last two years the authorities have been sleeping when actually they had ample time to construct a proper waste management plant if they wanted to. Our demand is clear that the waste can no longer be dumped here. The area needs to be cleared of all the dumped waste

, said Charan Das, a resident of Sandholi and Chairperson of the Samiti.

Annexure I – Environmental Clearance

Annexure II – Indemnification of Project and Project Proponent

Annexure III Monitoring Report by Dr.Bhawna-Singh

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PCB report on garbage discharge into Ashwani Khud points out Shimla’s poor SWM

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Ashwani Khud Inquiry report

Shimla: The seven-member committee constituted to probe the matter pertaining to a video that showed an enormous amount of plastic/solid waste floating in Ashwani Khud – the main drinking water supply source to Solan – could not ascertain the origin or culprit responsible for it.

The committee headed by the Environmental Engineer of the Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board (HPPCB), Surender Shandil, was formed after the National Green Tribunal took suo motto cognizance of the disturbing video clip shot by a local youth Abhay Sharma and uploaded on social media by the Healing Himalayas – a non-profit organization.

The video had gone viral on the social media and reached the national media. The video was retweeted over 1,000 times.

Abhay is self-employed and is also a member of the NGO, who took up the issue despite fearing that the administration might come after his business following the consequences of the blowing whistle. Abhay decided to fight for the cause and came ahead to rubbish government’s claims that the video was fake.

This whistleblower indeed made a difference. This video clipped had shocked everyone who saw it. It won’t be wrong to say that he sounded an alarm for all the Himalayan water sources/rivers.

Following it, the Tribunal had asked the Board to file a report regarding it within a week.

While district administration of Shimla and most of the government agencies had washed their hands off by simply terming the video clip as a fake, the team first verified that the video was indeed real. The video was recorded in Neri village and the panel has recorded the statements of the locals too.

In fact, the people were not able to believe that it could happen in a State like Himachal. They prayed the video to be fake but to their demise, it was not.

The locals have confirmed that it has become a routine to see solid waste floating in the Khud, but the situation was way far intense this time.

The PCB’s Engineer told Himachal Watcher that the inquiry was completed, and  its report would be submitted to the Tribunal. Though the report is not made public yet, Mr Shandil suggested that there is a high probability that the waste could have entered the stream from a large number of nullahs in the catchment area located in Shimla district.

The catchment area of the Khud is so large and there are so many nullahs within it that it was hard to spot a specific source. It has been raining heavily and there could be several reasons for the flooding of waste in it,

Mr. Shandil told HW.

He further suggested that during their visits to the catchment area, they did see garbage being washed away by rainwater and entering the nullahs.

The report would be finalized by today evening and submitted to the Tribunal,

he added.

The panel has also suggested that the waste could have emanated from the dumping ground in Slogra in Solan.

Earlier, the panel was suggesting that the garbage could have been dumped into the stream from a spot like Sadhupul through dumpers. 

However, there was no word regarding the discharge of the sewerage that was reported by Abhay. Abhay had told HW that the video could only show the solid waste floating on the water and could not give an idea of the smell of sewage that the water of the Khud was carrying with itself in addition to the garbage.

HW had posted additional video clips recorded on the same day by different individuals. One of the clips shows the water had turned dark in colour, which Abhay said, was due to sewage. 

Sewage in Ashwani Khud

The probe in the deadly jaundice outbreak in 2015, in which about three dozen people were killed, had revealed that the contractor of the Sewage Treatment Plant in Malyna, Shimla, was releasing a large amount of untreated sewage into Ashwani Khud, which was the cause of the outbreak. 

The Shimla Municipal Corporation had suspended the supply from Ashwani Khud following this deliberate genocide.

However, during the water scarcity in May-June this year, the SMC had resumed the supply from the Khud despite the fact that water samples were failing quality tests.

It is to be seen whether the PCB has also included sewage discharge in its inquiry report or not.

Further, as per the whistle-blower, the garbage flooded the Khud only when it rained heavy in Shimla. 

HW had also posted a video showing two nullahs located below the Krishna Nagar colony in Lalpani of Shimla city, which were entirely covered with solid waste. A number of nullahs including the one near the lift on Cart-Road could be seen filled with garbage, which flows down to the Khud with rainwater.

Other than that, the former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, had also pointed out the nullahs in the catchment area where a large amount of solid waste collected from panchayats is dumped.

However, the Deputy Commissioner of Shimla, Amit Kashyap had told HW that there is no such problem in the areas of Shimla falling under various panchayats. The waste management was perfectly fine in both the rural as well as in the city, he had claimed.
The PCB’s report, if the initial information is to be believed, largely suggests that poor or no solid waste management in Shimla’s catchment could be blamed for it.

The Ashwani Khad episode has raised concerns about the ill attitude of the locals, tourists, and the government towards the growing problem of managing solid waste in the State.

Littering by tourists along National Highway 21 also produce a large amount of garbage which ends up in nullahs. The civic body or the local administrations hardly have any strategies in hand to deal with littering and unlawful dumping of garbage. 

At the same time, the matter also questions awareness and the inaction of State PCB regarding poor solid waste management and improper dumping in the State.  

 

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Public health in Shimla town still at risk as MC’s drinking water samples again fail quality tests

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Shimla water samples in 2018

Shimla: An advisory has been issued by the Shimla Municipal Corporation to boil drinking water as a precaution as samples of several sources including tanks and tube wells have been found contaminated with Citrobacter, Klebsiella oxytoca and Pseudomonas ssp bacteria.

These bacterias are associated with serious health problems including physical diseases to infections in various parts of the body.

As per the latest report released by the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Citrobacter bacteria was found in the samples taken from the public tap on Sanjauli Chowk and in Tibetan colony in Nabah and water tank in Phagli.

The samples taken from the water tank in Sector 3 of New Shimla were contaminated with Klebsiella oxytoca bacteria.

Despite spending on the installation of Ultra Violet water treatment technology, the samples of the Ashwani Khud keep failing the quality tests. The treated and untreated samples taken from Ashwani Khud contained Pseudomonas spp and Citrobacter, thus, failed the test.

Scroll Down to Read About Diseases/Infections Causes by These Bacterias

As a matter of serious concern, a video of showing the gigantic amount of plastic/solid waste and sewerage floating in the Khud that had gone viral on social media shows that the degradation of this source had only increased.

 

Further, samples taken from a hand pump in Chalaunthi and Engine Ghar were also found contaminated.

The Chau\launthi bawari and Bir Khana bawari in Kanlog also failed the test.

The samples were collected between 14 to 17 July.

The SMC, on the other hand, suggested that there could be some error in collecting samples and the water would be tested again.

The promises of the current SMC to provide clean and regular drinking water supply have fallen flat on their face. The Corporation is spending on water treatment technologies blindly without going into details of the causes that are leading to water contamination.

Former Mayor of Shimla and leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sanjay Chauhan, condemned the act of putting public health at risk by supplying contaminated water to the citizens. He also questioned spending on expensive Ultra Violet Technology to treat water of Ashwani Khud as the samples of the same are still failing.

We can see in the reports also that samples of UV treated water have failed,

Sanjay pointed out

Malyana STP is almost redundant and about 4.5 MLD raw and untreated sewer water is released in the Ashwini Khud from this STP. It can’t be even treated with UV treatment,

he said when asked why spending on UV technology was in vain.

Moreover, it can’t be foolproof because of our lousy handling of plants and pumping stations. Nowhere in the world sewer treated water used for drinking. It’s used for agricultural and other purposes,

he added.

The SMC is still rationing water supply. While most of the localities are supplied water after a gap of one day, some localities complained they were still receiving even rationed supply regularly, he said.

Currently, the city requires 30 MLD water per day to meet the total demand and MC is receiving 40-45 MLD water per day, but still the public is not receiving regular water supply, Sanjay said.

The water pumps at the supply schemes are shut down for several hours as storage tanks of the Corporation remain full, which could be easily avoided if the town is given daily supply. 

Further, Sanjay also pointed out that the SMC has decided to cancel the Greater Shimla Water Supply & Sewerage Circle (GSWSSC) and to hand over the water supply in the municipal area to a newly formed private company. However,  no attention was paid on improving the quality of the water, he said.

The MC should learn from the way the privatization of sanitation works is already heading towards a failure even before it could be implemented in the entire town.

The CPI(M) has demanded supply of clean water supply to the town and the revival of the GSWSSC instead of handing the supply to private hands, which, it expects, would only worsen the situation.

Otherwise, the party warned the government of public protests.

The Ward Councilors and the Deputy Mayor recently visited Kerala as a study tour, if the SMC to be believed. The MC claimed it studied the methodology of the civic bodies of the State to learn how to supply 24×7 water. It further claimed, it would implement the same in Shimla town and by October, some of the Wards would start to get non-stop supply.

In reality, that credit would go to the ongoing Kol Dam project that has faced a delay of over five years before it was taken up following the severe scarcity of drinking water in the town.

Currently, the civic body needs to focus on the issue of contamination of drinking water supply. The public money must be spent judiciously while buying more technologies for the treatment of water. The government departments need to take up the task of conducting research studies/surveys to comprehend the real problem and buy a suitable technology or take steps accordingly.

Diseases Caused by Citrobacter Bacteria

The members of this species can cause several infections and diseases primarily in neonates and individuals with a weak immune system. It can cause nosocomial infections of the respiratory tract, urinary tract, and the blood. Further, Citrobacter is the well-identified cause of sporadic pneumonia, Hepatic, biliary and pancreatic disease, and neonatal sepsis and meningitis.

The mortality rate of Citrobacter meningitis is unacceptably high, with death rates of patients ranging from 25 to 50 %. About 75 percent of the survivors face serious neurological problems.

Diseases/infections caused by Klebsiella oxytoca

Klebsiella also targets individual with a weak immune system including diabetic patients, alcoholics, those using catheter tube, antibiotics for long time and ventilators.

Klebsiella normally lives inside the human intestine but it does not cause any disease in the intestine. Klebsiella causes a range of illness to the human body including, pneumonia, wound infection, surgical site infection, bloodstream infection, urinary tract infection and meningitis.

Diseases/infections caused by Pseudomonas ssp bacteria

As opportunistic pathogens, Pseudomonas spp. often invades the host tissue and cause infection and bacteremia in immunocompromised hosts (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, burns, malignancy, or diabetes mellitus)

The common site of infection is the lower respiratory tract, and severity ranges from colonization without immunological response to severe necrotizing bronchopneumonia.

It’s also a common cause of nosocomial ventilator-related pneumonia. Infections also include endocarditis, osteomyelitis, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, meningitis, and, commonly, septicaemia.

The symptoms depend on the location of the infection in all three cases. However, some of the common symptoms include fever, flu symptoms, breathing issues and cough.

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