Tthe framework for the protection of its natural resources remains largely confined to the realm of law, dependent on the commitment and conviction of environmental activists and members of the Dahanu Authority. Even as competing lobbies continue to push for the removal of the Dahanu Authority and de-notification, for the environmentalists its a tight rope attempting to protect the natural resource base of the region.(Michelle Chawla, Geetanjoy Sahu, EPW, December 3, 2011)
Michelle talks about protest by big farmers/orchard owners and fish workers against the thermal power plant that began in 1990s and later metamorphed in to an opposition to the proposed port at Vadhvan which was proposed, shelved and is now being taken up again.
On the other hand, the struggle for forest rights by a coalition of Adivasi groups in the same area was basically on the right to cultivate the vacant plots of forest land denuded by the forest department and contractors. Their demand was accepted by the government with the GR of 1978 regularising the encroachments on forest land. (Encroachment: Problem and the Adivases of Thane, How, 01/08/1979,)From this emerged for the rights of forest dwellers to their forests and coalesced with similar demand from all over the country and the end result was the 2006 Act. (Save Forest Conference, How, 01/01/1981See)
Though in Pradeep Prabhu’s view ‘one of the most critical interventions that we began as KKS (Kashtakari Sangatna in 1978) was protection and promotion of people's livelihoods. And since they were forest based communities, their livelihoods being intimately linked to the forest. So there were two parts, basically, to that understanding of forests Forest as a source of survival and forest as an integral part of our human consciousness. And that forest struggle that was launched by the Sanghatna in 1978 finally reached fruition close to thirty years later in 2006 in the Scheduled Tribes Forest Rights Act... Therefore this whole struggle that we took up in 1978 then matures finally in 2006 and actually 2006 is the beginning of a new struggle because a law doesn't become, you know, efficacious unless it is enforced by people ( in TISstory: A Journey since 1936, Divya Cowasji,(2011) School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India)
The adivasi movement in Thane was for establishing the rights of adivasi to the forests and was never articulated in the terms of conservation (at least in Dahanu-Palghar). as Pradeep points out, `in Thane district the only instances where you'll find of people actually protecting and managing the forests are against the timber thieves.
Today as it stand, a section of the adivasis are mobilised by CPM for the lifting of the Green Zone and along with a few of the fisher folk (the younger lot) also support this as this `development’ will bring them jobs and usher in the larger neo-liberal economy.
This emerging opposition to the Vadhvan port has to be seen in the above background and in the context of the notification, which provides a official umbrella for the environmental protection the region. The demand of the adivasi section mobilised by the Adivasi Ekta Parishad (of which Bhoomi Sena in a part) calls for the continuation of the Status of the Green Zone, as well as the cancellation of the proposed port at Vadhvan, and special highway dedicated for cargo which is proposed to connect the port with Mumbai and a train track connecting Nasik with Dahanu. All these developments will make Dahanu an export-import hub and totally change the profile of the region and the impact the traditional life style of the majority of the adivasis.
It appears that the demand of the Parishad encompasses a view that rejects the model of development being imposed on them, and sees the adivasi community as people close to the nature who depend on it and are only community who will protect and nurture it. This position reinforce of the argument that, 'adivasi beliefs and practices constitute an alternative vision of an ecologically sustainable and socially just model of development'.
Both the environmental lobby and the adivasi organisations have a fairly long tradition of engagement with the environment. As Michelle put it, 'The need of the hour is to demonstrate alternative and sustainable forms of development that are economically and ecologically viable'.
-draft note by