BHUBANESWAR: To keep tiger reserves and sanctuaries inviolate, the Odisha Government has enhanced compensation to encourage relocation of villages and human settlements besides easing the process for forest dwellers willing to move out by just intimating the gram sabha.
Under its revised relocation guidelines, each family will now be entitled to a financial assistance of Rs 15 lakh for relocation from protected areas (PAs) such as sanctuaries, national parks (NPs), tiger reserves and inaccessible forest areas. Financial support provided to such families under the existing State Relocation Policy 2016 was Rs 10 lakh.
A Rs 5 lakh hike in the assistance component apart, the Forest, Environment and Climate Change Department has also decided that individual families moving out without availing the rehabilitation package can also get an incentive of Rs 5 lakh. Rehabilitation package included a dwelling unit, water and electricity connection besides other support services from convergence of government schemes.
A roadblock in relocation from sanctuaries, NPs and tiger reserves was complete shifting of human settlements and villages. “Our experience in the past has been that though a majority of dwellers agree to shift but a handful of them unwilling to move stall the process,” said a senior officer.
The decision to incentivise individual families willing to move out has been incorporated for the first time for this purpose. Besides, such families will no longer have to seek consent of the gram sabha. They can just inform the body and shift, as per the new guidelines.
Provision of additional incentive has been made to ensure that the family relocating to other place does not face hardship in the absence of the rehabilitation package which is usually extended during relocation of the entire settlement. “The process has been kept humane,” said the official.
Importantly, the government under the fresh guidelines has also extended this incentive and assistance to families willing to be relocated from “inaccessible forest areas” including the locations connecting wildlife habitats. This is a significant move as there many areas close to wildlife habitats where human settlements exist. Their relocation is important to safeguard the habitats.
The Department had faced obstacles in relocating families from Jamunagarh village in the core of Similipal Tiger Reserve (SRT). Of 63 families in the village, all but three have moved. In Satkosia, around six villages are yet to be relocated. After tiger relocation project folded up, the department is now focusing in shifting villages from the reserve. However, finding alternative suitable land for relocation of the entire settlements is a major challenge.
At least 819 forest families in the State reside within the core and buffer areas of tiger reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries of which around 420 are from within Bhitarkanika National Park.
819 families reside within core and buffer areas
420 from within Bhitarkanika National Park
Rs 15 L for relocation from protected areas