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Experts find satellite-based study of forest rights faulty

India: Forest rights campaigners have slammed the satellite image-based study on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Indian state of Maharashtra as “deeply faulty and obviously biased,” arguing that it manipulates data and facts to make a case against the Act.

Countering the report which a private company prepared at the behest of the State Forest Department, a critique by Madhu Sarin and others of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity says the study does not highlight its own data that only two per cent of claims it investigated could actually be “false” even by its incorrect interpretation. Furthermore, the satellite imagery it uses is highly unreliable and is not even internally consistent, making it impossible to verify what is actually growing on the land in question.

The Campaign says the study suffers from two major problems: a faulty and incorrect framework for analysis; and the use of satellite imagery as the exclusive basis for assessing the legitimacy of recognised forest rights.

The study, however, is based on the wrong interpretation that rights can only be recognised on land that on a satellite picture is fully covered with ordinary crops as on December 13, 2005. Worse still, the critique says the study, using this faulty framework, has sub-divided the land over which rights have been recognised into land under cultivation, barren land, land with forest cover, or a mixture of these three. It has categorised all recognised rights having land uses other than pure cultivation as faulty or illegal. Despite this, out of 35,044 finally recognised forest rights cases analysed, 85 per cent were found to be under cultivation in 2005-06, covering a total area of 40,116 hectares (an average of just over one hectare per forest right claim).

Source: The Hindu