The Critical Wildlife Habitats have been envisaged in Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. This act defines the Critical Wildlife Habitats (CWH) as the “areas of national parks and sanctuaries where it has been specifically and clearly established, case by case, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of wildlife conservation…”.
The above definition makes it very clear that the Critical Wildlife Habitats are absolutely free of human presence. But the same act duly recognizes the traditional rights of the Forest dwellers.
HOW CWHS ARE DESIGNATED?
The power to notify the rules to designate a CWH rests with Ministry of Environment and Forests. The State Government are needed to initiate the process for notification of a critical wildlife habitat by submitting an application on a case by case basis, to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which is the nodal agency under the said Act. Critical Wildlife Habitats are thus, declared by Central Government ONLY.
CWH AND RIGHTS OF FOREST DWELLERS
The rights of the forest dwellers is a key issue related to the Critical Wildlife Habitats, mainly because they are envisaged as totally inviolate areas. Before a critical wildlife area is notified, not only do the rights of the tribals and forest dwellers have to be settled, but also scientific evidence has to be provided to establish that people’s presence would adversely impact the wildlife in area. We note here that consent of affected Gram Sabha is also required for creating these inviolate areas or critical wildlife habitats. The free informed consent of the Gram Sabha must be given before any relocation of the forest dwellers is carried out.