Promise and Performance of the Forest Rights Act, 2006: The Tenth Anniversary Report
Andhra Pradesh (AP) had 23 districts till its bifurcation into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014. There are now nine districts in coastal Andhra and four districts in Rayalaseema while the rest 10 districts comprise the Telangana state. Residuary AP has a population of 84,580,777 out of which 27.39 lakh (5.53%) is tribal. The state has 36,914.77 sq. km. of notified forest cover which is 22.73 percent of its total geographical area. There are 16 protected areas including three National Parks, 13 Wild Life Sanctuaries and one Tiger Reserve in the State with a total area of 8,137.08 sq. km. Almost twothirds of the forests in AP are either scrubs or open forests.
Most of the forest areas of AP are located in 4 predominantly tribal districts in the northern part of the state. Historically, tribal communities have depended on forests for their livelihoods- both for cultivation and forest product collection. Many tribal people engage in a form of shifting cultivation in upland forests, called podu.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA henceforth) recognises and vests diverse pre-existing rights over forest land. These include rights over occupied forest land, rights to ownership of Minor Forest Produce (MFP), Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights, rights over produce of water bodies, grazing rights (both for settled and transhumant communities), rights over habitat for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) and other customary rights. The most critical right which has a bearing on forest governance and on the welfare of tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers is over Community Forest Resources which provides Gram Sabhas the rights to conserve, protect and manage forests.
Based on the available data, it is clear that even after a decade, the implementation of the FRA, especially the critical CFR rights provisions remain deeply lacking in Andhra Pradesh. There has been no effort to estimate the actual potential of the FRA’s implementation in the state and to compare it with the achievements. Specifically, there is no analysis of how much forest area will come under the jurisdiction and management of Gram Sabhas under the community forest resource rights provision of the law.