REDD: What would it mean for the tribal communities?

At a first glance Reducing Carbon Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) seems to be the ideal solution for conserving the forest environment and tackling climate change, what with its attractive incentives, mutual benefits and ‘green’ goals. With its innovative approach, it plays by the rules of the free market. REDD aims to increase the value of trees as standing rather than cut, the idea being that if people are rewarded for managing the forest, they will have more incentive to sustain it.

Tribal man in Chhattisgarh - What will REDD do for him?

REDD is an initiative adopted by several countries and could rapidly become a global strategy, as the likes of UNEP and World Bank are encouraging countries to employ it.

The Indian government is very keen to use REDD strategies to sustain its forests. But have they considered the sustainability of the livelihoods of adivasis, where forest produce is their sole source of income?

Living on the fringes of society tribal people struggle to make sure that their rights are fulfilled. For instance, the 2006 Forest Rights Act gives land rights, use rights and protection and conservation rights to forest dwellers and people dependent on forest resources. These individual and community rights are either not acknowledged or are simply repressed by the government officials, which indicates that REDD will merely increase the rate of land grabbing and illegal eviction of indigenous people, leaving them even more deprived and vulnerable than before.

What the REDD scheme overlooks is the motivation factor i.e. financial gain. This is an arena waiting to be exploited by large corporations and corrupt government officials. Rewards of finance and carbon credits will encourage government agencies to repress the community voices and interests in order to give private companies access to the forest lands.

Further commodification of forest resources, according to REDD’s strategy, is not the solution. An effective method for tackling these issues would be to ensure that the government of India implements and respects the existing legislations in India.

Astami Sarder - Will she be able to participate in devising REDD strategies?

REDD is rapidly becoming an influential strategy. But who will reap the benefits? The impoverished communities who are marginalised from mainstream dominant society or the powerful players who would be able to manipulate the game and exploit the loopholes for financial profits?

Participation of tribal people in any decisions made about forest management is the legitimate way to control climate change. Otherwise, however noble the intention may be, climate justice will inevitably lead to grave injustice to the tribal people.


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