Nowhere to go

A Rs 56-crore World Bank (WB) plan for ecodevelopment in the Nagarhole national park has been criticised by tribal activists. The 6,888 adivasi families living in the forests see the WB plan as a threat. Though it does not insist on displacement of tribal families, the plan encourages a voluntary relocation scheme. This implies that the tribals will be resettled outside the forests with the promise that they will have incentives to take up agriculture and other income-generating activities. But the Karnataka Tribal Joint Action Committee says that despite being attractive on paper, past experiences of tribals resettling outside forests have been nightmarish. Besides, the WB plan does not leave any provisions for the tribals to live in the forests, and in the absence of a plan for their livelihood, they will eventually be "squeezed out' of the forests.

They cite the example of the families from 18 tribal hamlets that were ousted from forests in the 1970s to make way for the Kabini river project. None of the oustees received any compensation and were left with nowhere to go. The tribal committee argues that the WB plan strives to conserve biodiversity through development, and is not very different from that of the state forest department, offering some additional facilities to the oustees to settle outside.

For their part, the activists have proposed an alternative plan that requires only Rs 3 crore. And it is not just the cost. The alternative plan will not need the tribal families living within the park to be displaced, they claim. The alternative plan proposed by the tribal activists essentially visualises dividing the Nagarhole forests into three regions.

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