Settling rights


back to issue

THE concept of state-owned natural reserves came into its own in 1872 with the creation of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Although established on utilitarian grounds and for protecting natural curiosities and wonders, it soon became the precursor of a protected areas system which swept across the post-Rio world to preserve depleting natural habitats and for the conservation of the genetic diversity of biological life.

In India, the protected areas network was actualised in 1972 with the enactment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which created two categories of state-owned protected areas: national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. State-owned natural habitats in India though came into existence earlier in the late 19th century, with the creation of reserved, protected and village forests by the British and with the passing of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Historians commonly accept that the Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted primarily for economic and trophy hunting reasons with ecological considerations playing a minimal role.

The role of the state as landlord or estate owner created a dual problem. On the one hand, it imposed the British legal system on an ethnocentric legal order based on customary usage and norms and guided by ecological parameters. On the other, it paved the way for a western model of conservation inherently established on the duality of man and nature.

Post-colonial India has expanded the boundaries of state property, ostensibly for saving the remaining vestiges of natural habitats and genetic heritage for posterity, but has sustained the splitting of man and nature initiated by the British. The consequences are devastating, for residing within and around these state-owned natural habitats are millions of people dependent for their lives and livelihood, home and hearth on their natural surrounds and its resources. People who, culturally and emotionally, have evolved with nature and who perceive nature, wildlife and human life to be coexistent rather than discordant. State management undoubtedly has failed to stop the receding forest cover, the dwindling of biodiversity, the yawning expanse of conflict between the dependants of nature and the state. Instead, the chasm has grown.

The areas of conflict are wide and they range from the alienation of forest dwelling and dependant communities from the state and urban conservationists/wildlifers, the abrogation of the customary rights of these communities, including the spectre of displacement to the alleged harassment of the local people by officials of the forest department. There are rumours of forced evictions, loss of livelihood, lack of effective rehabilitation and compensation.

Simultaneously, a growing trend of deleting chunks of forests and protected areas for industrial and commercial purposes has been steadily undermining India’s last vestiges of natural wealth. To this must be added the menace of contractors, middlemen and poachers, who mercilessly seek to plunder both the people and wildlife. A primary cause has been the incoherence and inadequacy of law, an important dimension being the procedural aspect of law of which the provisions for the settlement of rights in Sections 19-25 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 have created maximum confusion and distress, both for the local communities living in and around the forests and for wildlife.



Rights and property: The procedures for settlement of rights enshrined in the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 have been adopted from the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which enabled the state for the first time to acquire large tracts of land for ‘public interest’ as government property. The notion of ‘property’ and ‘rights’ as described in modern law did not exist in India prior to the advent of the British. Natural resources were shared in common by the rural and tribal people, i.e. those who inhabited land in and around forests as well as noblemen, royalty and the townsfolk. The notion of legal ownership as understood in modern law was absent and forest dwelling and forest dependent communities enjoyed their rights over natural resources even in forests that fell within the purview of the various local kingdoms. The payment of revenue, where it existed, was incidental and did not contravene the usufructory and ownership rights enjoyed by the common man.

Property, therefore did not occupy any space in the Indian imagination, whether in conceptual or concrete terms, with the exceptions of hunting reserves or shikargarhs/shikarkhanas of the Mughal rulers and Indian princes, and select patches of forests reserved as sacred groves. The notion of rulership did not include the concept of property and the land or the kingdom was therefore not the private property of the ruler or the king. The question of conflicting ‘rights’ between the state and the community over the resources of the land as we know it today did not arise. Even in the case of sacred groves, the restricted area was said to belong to the Divinity and was known variously as devbhumi, devottar sampatti, devvani, or deorai.

The absence of the notion of property did not necessarily imply an absence in the idea of ownership. Dwelling in and ‘working’ the forest over years bestowed upon the local communities occupancy rights or communal native titles derived from their ancestral dominion of land. An existence of ownership titles not formalized in any government statutes, notices or proclamations, nor recorded in any land revenue or land settlement codes, was nevertheless enjoyed by the locals as a kind of community right which entitled them to feel that they owned and possessed the forests.



The British introduced the concept of property with the imposition of a colonial legal system on an already existing pattern of forest use and protection, an age-old tradition governed by customary usage and common law. They created forest laws for the specific purpose of appropriating natural resources and the easiest way of extracting and controlling these resources was by establishing absolute rights over them. This was made possible by having absolute rights over the land where these resources existed. The idea of property was therefore introduced by the British as absolute rights legally vested in a body or an individual over any land and its resources.

Consequently, the Bengal Regulation I, 1824 was enacted, the precursor of the omnipotent Land Acquisition Act of 1894, by which the Crown could acquire land. The latter conferred power upon the state for the acquisition of land for public purpose, enabling the subsequent enactment of the Indian Forest Act and the Indian Mines Act respectively.



With the creation of forest law, the British, exercising arbitrary powers as conquerors, extended their absolute sovereign rights over the forests. This single act of the imperial government annexed all forests as the property of the Crown, obliterating in the process existing ownership titles held in common law, as well as customary rights to access and use the forest for forest products, pasture land and shifting cultivation. This new law further empowered the Crown to treat the erstwhile owners and rights holders as ‘encroachers’, trespassers in the state’s newly acquired vast and rich private property. This was a usurpation of the right to domicile, a natural right arising from the habitation of a geographical territory by individuals or groups.

The argument put forward for such appropriation of land and resources was the extension of eminent domain, the authority or power of the state to acquire the property belonging to individuals for reasons of public interest, provided due compensation was paid to the former proprietors and rights holders. It is clearly proved that a change in sovereignty does not imply the extinguishing of the right to domicile or other existing customary rights enjoyed by the local communities concerning access and use of forest resources. The British were not only disrespectful of any communal title over land which was held in common law, but following the accession of forests as state property, proceeded to extinguish existing use rights and the right to domicile. Moreover, there was no attempt to compensate the rights holders, a mandatory principle wherever eminent domain is applied. Finally, and crucially, eminent domain is only for reasons of public welfare; it is very much in question whether acquisition of forest lands as state property was done in the interest of the populace.



Rights in modern forest laws: The imperial forest department was set up in 1864 and the first Indian Forest Act drafted in 1865 stated clearly that forests could be reserved as government land provided it did not affect or alter any existing rights of individuals or communities. The government found the 1865 Act inadequate as the prevalence of customary rights hindered the imposition of total state control over forests. After a lengthy debate, a new version of the act was drafted in 1878, which after undergoing several amendments assumed its final and present form in 1927. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 embodies the basic structure and spirit of the 1878 Act and remains the seminal law on forests in India. The debate undertaken during the transition from the 1865 version to the 1878 one is important as it determined the fate of the innumerable forest dwelling and forest dependent communities and is relevant to the present discussion.

There were three contending views in the debate, two extreme positions advocated by B.H. Baden-Powell, a civil servant and the Madras Revenue Board respectively, and a moderate position spearheaded by Dietrich Brandis which tried to bridge the two polarities. B.H. Baden-Powell’s position was that of total state control over the forests of India with the extinction of existing customary rights, norms and practices and the denial of access to the land and resources of the forest. He did not accept the authority of common law and hence did not acknowledge any rights or norms arising from customary usage. Monarchical claims of land ownership were deliberately perceived as legal titles and customary ‘rights’ to use and work the forest were seen as ‘privileges’ granted by the monarch to the subjects in his kingdom. Forest officials hold this argument even at present. In this interpretation, the only rights recognised were legal rights granted by the state.



At the other extreme, the Madras Revenue Board believed that ownership of forest lands were held in common by tribal groups and villagers. It strongly upheld the customary ownership and use rights of these village and tribal communities and pointed out the existence of an inherent notion of ownership. More importantly, the Board realised the linkages between these customary practices and the dependence of livelihood, which could never be monetarily compensated.

Dietrich Brandis’ comparatively moderate stance advocated state control while simultaneously recognising the existence of customary rights. He opted for state ownership of forest lands, but recognised the need for a space whereby degraded forest land and small patches of forests situated on the periphery of villages could be managed and controlled by the local communities. Brandis chastised any arbitrary extinction of customary rights, as proposed by Baden-Powell and as practised by some Indian rulers, but instead spoke of a just method of settlement of rights including the granting of due compensation to the deprived communities.

The 1878 Act was eventually a Baden-Powellian model tempered by Brandis’ moderation. It categorised three types of state ownership of forests – reserved, village and protected forests – and incorporated a protracted method of settlement of rights. In a single stroke the colonial government obliterated centuries old customs and culture and erased the traditional livelihood patterns of hundreds of rural Indians.

Colonial forest management changed the forest dweller’s relation with the forest, in particular beginning the disintegration of tribal culture. It degraded extensively India’s finest teak, sal and deodar forests and wiped a large population of wild fauna in pursuit of trophy hunting. The consequences have been irreversible and the damage is yet to be redeemed.



The dictat of the 1927 Act continued for a very long time, especially as it was adopted by the new government of independent India without any changes or amendments. Prior to Independence, many of the provincial legislatures made their own laws modelled on the 1927 Act together with additional laws for felling, duties on timber, sawmills and so on. This trend continued in the post-1950 period, when the Indian government included forests as a state subject. A National Forest Policy was formulated in 1952, which on paper spoke of ecological aspects of forests, such as the need to check denudation in the mountains and erosion on the treeless banks of great rivers and the need to establish ‘tree-lands’ and ‘small woods’ for grazing and firewood. In reality, these policy decisions were not translated into action plans or legislation.

In 1977, with the 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, forests became a concurrent subject, which means both the Parliament and the state legislatures were empowered to legislate on the said subject. A new National Forest Policy in 1988 for the first time spoke about the conservation of biological and genetic diversity, the restoration of ecological balance, the preservation of the remaining natural forests and the establishment of an extensive protected areas network. The policy further spoke about the intrinsic relationship between forests and local communities, the protection of their customary rights and recognised the importance of forests as a means of livelihood. It spoke about afforestation and social forestry programmes, but primarily focused on the conservation of eco-systems, wildlife and biodiversity and the restoration of ecological balance.



This apparent shift in government policy from economy to ecology occurred because of extensive diversion of forests for commercial and industrial use and increasing rate of genetic loss and habitat destruction and the spread of global environmental consciousness. In 1980, the Parliament enacted the Forest (Conservation) Act, primarily for stalling the diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes. It was the first conservation-oriented forest legislation in India. India became a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international environmental conventions.

Since the 1988 policy envisaged the participation of people in the protection and regeneration of forests, the state issued the Joint Forest Management Notification in 1990 in order to involve village communities and NGOs for the regeneration of degraded forests. In 1992, the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, which formalised the constitution of panchayats as micro institutions of governance, empowered these self-governing bodies to deal with matters concerning forests and other natural resources related matters. Finally, the Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 and the Panchayati Raj Act, 1998 conferred ownership of minor forest produce to gram sabhas and panchayats.

The JFM notification and the 73rd Amendment were small steps towards bringing back people within the ambit of Indian forest law, and the panchayat laws of 1996 and 1998 were infinitely bolder and more positive steps towards social justice. Despite lauding joint forest management over the last several years, the government is yet to translate JFM into statutory law, whether as a separate statute or as incorporated within any existing law. For a complete reorientation, however, the colonial inheritance has to be shed and the Indian Forest Act, 1927 disposed and the Wildlife (Protection) Act amended.



The Conservation of Forests and Natural Eco-systems Bill was tabled in the Parliament in 1994, but NGOs, intellectuals and environmentalists have been critical of both the bill and the 1988 policy. The bill is unable to discard the colonial trappings and forecloses any space for people’s involvement in the matter of forests. Joint forest management as a concept is absent and the customary rights of local communities of access and use of natural resources are denied, with a few exceptions. The orientation, though shifted from economy to eco-logy, has not made any significant alteration from absolute state control. Many feel that in actuality the forest department does not want to lose this lucrative source of revenue and any changes suggested by the government are merely cosmetic.



An expert committee headed by C. D. Pandeya (Order No. 1-4/97-FP dated 21.10.97) for reviewing the 1988 policy has in its report recommended that:

* Substantial changes are not considered necessary in the National Forest Policy, 1988.

* Participation of local communities is essential for protection and development of degraded forests. JFM, village eco-development, community welfare and individual beneficiary schemes and such other strategies should be encouraged and integrated with forest management, specially in hinterlands and tribal areas.

* Customary rights/concessions/ usages cannot be sustained indefinitely unless productivity of the adjoining forest land is increased. The fulfilment of the rights and concessions should have a bearing on the responsibility of beneficiaries towards forest protection particularly against fire and grazing. Community participation should be mobilized for this purpose by rationalizing existing rights/concessions/usages and bringing them within the framework of JFM. Revenue and community wastelands should be constituted as village forests for meeting bonafide rights of the local communities. MoEF should issue appropriate guidelines to the state/UT in this regard.

The debate over rights continues and questions about access to and ownership of forests still remain unanswered. The new forest act would undoubtedly have to be a comprehensive and intricate legislation taking into account the conservation and protection of the ecosystem, the flora and the fauna, question of ownership and management of land and resources, traditional knowledge and practices, settlement of rights, local institutes for governance and penalties for violation. Meanwhile, the government has a new National Forestry Action Plan, which speaks of acknowledging the tenurial rights of the forest dwelling communities, a new Biodiversity Action and Strategy Plan and a new Biodiversity Bill modelled on the CBD. The development of these initiatives would be interesting to follow.



The provisions: The procedure for settlement of rights for reserved, village and protected forests are provided under Sections 4-20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and for national parks and wildlife sanctuaries under Sections 19-25 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The acts stipulate two categories of rights settlement. One for the three different kinds of forests under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the other for parks and sanctuaries under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The differences between the sub-categories are minimal and as far as rights are concerned there are only marginal differences between a national park and sanctuary.

Briefly, once an area is notified as a park/sanctuary under Sections 18, 26A, 35, 38(1) or 66(3), the collector is to inquire into and determine the nature and extent of rights held by the people in or over the notified land (Section 19).

The collector is to publish in the regional language ‘in every town and village in or in the neighbourhood of the area’ (Section 21) specifying the boundaries of the notified land and informing rights holders to make a written claim of their existing rights describing in detail their nature and extent, with a detailed estimate of any compensations due in case their rights are extinguished. A period of two months is given for making such claims. In most cases, the people are unaware of the publication of such notices and ignorant of the provisions of the law and such claims therefore are rarely brought to the collector.

After the issuance of a notification, the act bars new rights in the newly ‘protected’ area ‘except by succession, testamentary or interstate’ (Section 20).

The collector is to then inquire into the claimed and unclaimed rights ascertaining them as far as possible by government records and by the ‘evidence of any person acquainted with the same’ (Section 22). For the purpose of inquiry, the collector is vested with the powers to conduct any survey on any land and make maps and demarcations (Section 23). These inquiry covers all rights mentioned under Sections 19 and 21.



Those who do claim rights under Section 19 may have their rights either rejected or admitted and the collector is to pass an order to that effect. The claim may be admitted in whole or in part and the collector may exclude such land (over which there are claims) from the notified area or ‘allow, in consultation with the chief wildlife warden, the continuation of any right of any person in or over any land within the limits of the sanctuary’ [Section 24(2)(c)]’ (emphasis ours). Sub-clause 2(c) of Section 24 is not applicable for national parks. The claimant may even relinquish his rights dependent upon an agreement with the government. In such a situation, the claimant is to be compensated in land or money or both as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

It must be noted that ‘in case of the stoppage of a public way or a common pasture, the collector may, with the previous sanction of the state government, provide for an alternative public way or common pasture, as far as maybe practicable or convenient’ [Section 25 (1)(f)].

Further, the chief wildlife warden may regulate, control or prohibit grazing and movement of livestock [Section 33(d)]. This too is not applicable for national parks; however, authorised persons may use livestock as a vehicle to enter the parks [Section 36(7)].

The only difference between national parks and sanctuaries is, therefore, Section 24(2)(c) and Section 33(d).



The Gujarat High Court judgment dated 22-24 March 1995 of SCA 6061 of 1994 (Centre for Environmental Law, WWF-India v. Union of India) has declared that despite the word ‘intended’, Section 18 of the amended act should be read as a final notification. The word ‘intended’ had been introduced to accommodate changes that might be brought about in the notified area under Section 24(2), after the rights over such area has been inquired into and determined by the collector. In case of any changes another notification is required demarcating the altered map of the sanctuary, hence the proviso for the final notification. The judgments holds that for all practical purposes Section 18 of the amended act should be read as the proviso declaring the establishment of a sanctuary. It was an oversight on the part of the lawmakers that Section 26(A) was substituted with Section 18 instead of being added on in the definition of a sanctuary under Section 2(26) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The model adopted for the Indian Forest Act, 1927 is that of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and the basic structure is similar to the one described above. The exception is that the forest settlement officer may pass orders allowing the continuation of rights provided it does not affect the maintenance of the reserved forest. Shifting cultivation, right to pasture and right to forest produce may be admitted after consideration by the FSO.

Despite the draconian nature of the laws, forced displacement is not legitimised anywhere in the above-mentioned provisions, nor do they speak of absolute discontinuance of rights. Sanctuaries and reserved forests in fact provide for their continuance at the discretion of the chief wildlife warden and the forest settlement officer. However small the space may be for manoeuvrability, space exists with the exception of national parks and there is cause to believe that the law is open to interpretation which a sensitive judiciary may do so for the benefit of local communities.

In reality, these procedures are not complete in a majority of the national parks and sanctuaries. Nor is the task practical or simple, providing in addition enough ground for misinterpretation of law. Following a recent case filed by WWF-India in the Supreme Court, wherein the state governments were given directives to complete the settlement procedures as rapidly as possible, the matter has become convoluted as investigations reveal that in most cases the lower level forest officials are not conversant with the law. This has given rise to several impromptu innovations to the settlement procedure, prompted by the flurry to meet court deadlines and a wide variety of settlement reports are emerging from the district collectorates in different parts of the country.



The following are the primary obstacles, chiefly legal ones, which add to the imbroglio. Unrecorded land rights: As mentioned earlier, rights in pre-colonial times did not follow the tradition of written records of modern law and remain they mostly unrecorded. Forest and wildlife laws in India have ignored (and still ignore) rights enjoyed by the inhabitants of a specified area under traditional law, norms and practices laid down by customary usage. Customary law is now recognised and accepted in many countries of the world, specially where native community titles to land existed, such as among the aboriginals of Australia and New Zealand.



Even after forest laws were introduced by the British, the forest settlement officers did not initiate any process of keeping complete records and no up-to-date records exist 1865 onwards to the present day by which one can trace the history of land titles and other rights. Often there have been multiple conversions between forest and revenue land and villages have been shuttled back and forth between the two government departments, as in the case of Melghat tiger reserve and sanctuary. These ‘grey’ areas of law are continuously manipulated to sometimes displace, sometimes alter boundaries and sometimes as a needless cause for violence.

In an ongoing litigation, the battle over permission to construct a potentially dangerous jetty among other contentions has converged over the issue whether the disputed construction falls within revenue or forest land. These anomalies in the legal status of land and the boundaries of the protected natural habitats are misused both by the forest department and more crucially, by the industry.

Conflict between centre and state laws: Before Independence, provincial legislatures made their laws modelled on the 1927 Act together with additional laws for felling, duties on timber, sawmills etc. This trend continued after 1950, when the Indian government included forests as a state subject. This enormous body of state laws varied in the matter of rights and sometimes differed with the provisions of the 1927 Act. The M.P. Forest Rules, 1960 for example recognises forest dependent communities as part of the forest, specially by taking into account the usufructory rights of the local communities. It elaborates on nistar and paidawar, traditional laws governing the use of timber, dry fallen wood, dry and green bamboo, grasses, thorns, leaves, bark, surface boulder, murrum, sand, chhui, clay, edible roots, fruits, flowers, gum, honey and wax.

The M.P. Forest Rules, 1960 is thus cognisant of the fact that the forest includes communities who have an established relationship with their environment created over many years. The M. P. Land Revenue Code, the M. P. Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam, 1993 and documents like the Wazib-ul-urz also take into account the rights of the local communities. The M. P. Tendu Patta (Vyapar Viniyam) Adhiniyam, 1964, on the other hand, denies the local communities their nistar rights.



Conflicts between laws: There are contradictory provisions regarding rights amongst the various laws. The stringency of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for instance is countermanded by the Panchayati Raj Act, 1998 and Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 which grants the local communities ‘ownership’ rights as opposed to the usual usufructory rights, which is access and the right to use natural resources in notified areas. The Panchayati Raj Act, 1998 and the Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 read together with the 73rd Amendment and the JFM order, have special significance for the natural resources rights of tribal communities and particularly for states like Madhya Pradesh. This poses a conflicting picture vis-a-vis forest and wildlife laws.

Legal provisions alien to people: The information regarding the notifications declaring an area as park, sanctuary or reserved forest usually does not reach the people who are unaware of the legal provisions discussed earlier. Matters of claims and compensation are usually alien to them.

The above list though not exhaustive covers the main legal problems contributing to the matter of rights of the local communities over natural resources. The legal status of India’s protected areas and forests are unrecorded and unknown, thus disabling real solutions to any problems.



The problems relating to rights over natural resources in customary law and the relationship of such law with the modern legal system are complex and of enormous magnitude. Circumstances have been stressed, to say the least, for the millions of people residing in and around protected habitats and for the wild flora and fauna living therein. India’s disappearing forest cover and its decimation of species and the vulnerability of its fragile eco- systems have duly concerned many individuals and the government. The natural genetic heritage of the country is to be conserved for future generations by extending a hand to protect non-speaking biological life. Correspondingly, the protected areas network has expanded rapidly.

In comparison with other nations, wildlife laws in India are considered among the ‘progressive’ in the world, but they have failed to stop the drain of nature. The assumption at the governmental level and among many urban wildlife conservationists is that the presence of humans and their usufructory relation with the forest is contributing to the degradation of the environment. Some concede reluctantly that though historically ‘eco-system’ people had a ‘symbiotic’ relationship with nature but presently their population has increased, as have their cattle and goats that graze the downy undergrowth in competition with the herbivorous ungulates of the wilds. Political and financial reasons, inertia and ground realities have so far prevented the government from taking any action towards permanently disassociating these people from their natural surrounds. Additionally, there is mounting pressure from the affected people themselves with the support of select community based social organisations.

Environmental degradation including species depletion is caused by industrial and commercial intrusion in natural habitats. This includes mining activities, constructions such as jetties, large roads, bridges, tourist resorts, factories and refineries, large mechanised trawlers and other infrastructures for aquaculture, plantations and farm forestry and the nefarious operations of poachers, timber traders, contractors and middlemen.



Forestry projects akin to the ones launched by the World Bank in several parts of India are claimed by many to be logging and agroforestry operations under the guise of biodiversity conservation. Such projects destroy diversity by introducing monocultural species for better productivity and by clear felling virgin habitats apparently reserved for wildlife. Yet, these projects speak of removing villages and denying people their legitimate access to forests, continued since the time of their forefathers.

The ‘biotic’ pressure on natural resources stems from the city dweller, in their multifarious needs of modern, urban sophistication in which they are willy-nilly ensnared. The urban population does not pay the price but expects the forest’s dependants to bear the burden of their needs by giving up their life, their customary rights and by withstanding psychological stress. Stress that is created by their lost homes or the prospect of losing homes, the disintegration of their culture and the alienation from the very world wherein they have evolved.

The question is raised of the morality of keeping developmental benefits away from the impoverished, hard-working tribal communities and some opine that the choice be left open to the concerned society. The needs of ‘forest people’ are usually simple and undemanding. All they ask for is the freedom to roam unencumbered as owners of a habitat that they rightfully consider their own and some basic amenities, which would lighten the toil and hardship at an existential level.



Ambiguities in law would continue insofar as the state retains its inherited colonial attitude of an estate owner of India’s forests. It would need to evolve an Indian model of conservation which perceives man as a part of the communitas of biodiversity, learning about living with nature and from the knowledge it imparts about the flora and fauna. It has to move from the domain of ownership to that of stewardship.

Management of forests cannot be learnt from international training programmes, for they hail from a society founded on the dichotomy of man and nature and which destroyed its natural habitats long ago. It would stem from re-educating ourselves about the ways of nature and trying to find a link with our modern lives, from looking at a plurality of cultures, equitably and democratically. The question of rights can be settled only then.