Mendha Lekha in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district will become the first village in India to exercise its community right to harvest bamboo under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). In the presence of Jairam Ramesh, Union environment and forests minister and Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra. Thousands of villages across the country are waiting to follow Mendha’s example.
Historically, bamboo has been considered a tree or timber, which gives the forest department exclusive rights to harvest it. FRA has changed that by categorising bamboo as a minor forest produce that can be harvested by communities. Naturally, the department is not pleased.
Bamboo is useful because it has immense economic value. Over 15 million people in India depend on it for their livelihoods.
Key question: Is this freedom really happening? While the community may have got the right to harvest bamboo, has it been given the right to take the harvested crop out of the village and sell or use it? Has the forest department agreed to give transit passes?
Since 1857, bamboo has remained shackled within the grips of India’s forest bureaucracy, which has refused to let go of this money-spinning forest product.
Over 150 years after, the Forest Rights Act is enabling the villagers of Mendha Lekha to undo this historic wrong and liberate bamboo – by being the first in the country to exercise their community rights granted under the Act to harvest this and other minor forest produce.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan will formally preside over this momentous event. Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) will also be present on the occasion.
CSE has sent this media alert to you to inform and prepare you for this historic occasion. Please join Mr Ramesh, Mr Chavan and Ms Narain at Mendha Lekha to witness and report on this revolution.