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Orans as Deemed Forests: Rajasthan's Conservation Move



  Mar 07, 2024

Declaring ‘Orans’ as Deemed Forests in Rajasthan



1. What are ‘orans’?

Orans are sacred groves recognized by communities in Rajasthan for their cultural, religious, and ecological significance. These areas serve various purposes, including cattle herding, pastures, and sources of forest produce like gum, timber, and wild vegetables.

2. Why is there opposition to declaring orans as deemed forests?

The main concerns stem from fears of losing access to forest produce and livelihoods. Villagers worry that the declaration will restrict their ability to use these areas for grazing, collection of forest produce, and conducting cultural and religious practices. Some community members also fear the loss of homes located within or near these orans.

3. What does it mean for an area to be declared a deemed forest?

A deemed forest is an area with the characteristics of a forest but not officially recorded as forest land in government or revenue records. The Supreme Court of India, through its orders, has directed states to identify such lands to protect them from degradation, ensuring all forests, including deemed forests, fall under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

4. Will the declaration affect community rights and access?

According to legal experts, declaring sacred groves as deemed forests is not intended to hinder community rights. It is designed to protect these lands while still allowing access for grazing, worshipping, and other traditional uses. However, non-forestry activities like mining, deforestation, and construction would require permission from the central government.

5. What are the steps taken by the community in response to this proposal?

Community members, through organizations like the ‘Gauchar Oran Sanrakshak Sangh Rajasthan,’ have raised objections to the decision. They have submitted letters and representations to authorities emphasizing the intertwined nature of village life and oran usage. Concerns have also been raised about the lack of consultation and discrepancies between previous reports and the current notification.

6. What are the legal implications of declaring orans as deemed forests?

The declaration aligns with the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which aims to conserve forest land by restricting non-forestry activities. However, specific guidelines or rules for managing these deemed forests, particularly concerning community access and rights, have been highlighted as areas needing clarity.

7. How is the government addressing these concerns?

As of the latest updates, the Rajasthan government has not publicly clarified how community rights will be protected under the new deemed forest status for orans. Legal and conservation experts suggest that the government should provide clear information and assurances that traditional rights and activities will not be adversely affected.

The situation underscores the importance of balancing conservation efforts with the rights and livelihoods of local communities. It highlights the need for transparent communication and consultation processes to address the concerns of all stakeholders involved.


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