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Tribals in Indian state use GPS to claim forest land rights

India: The tribals of Gujarat have started using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to mark and measure the lands they till in the forest areas and to substantiate their claims over the land under the Forest Rights Act.

The process of such mapping had begun a couple of years ago, but today it has become a regular exercise in several pockets in south and central Gujarat to map plots cultivated by tribals. The publicity of the experiment has pushed activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Bihar to test the methodology. Madhya Pradesh has also sought a formal presentation on it to implement the process in its six tribal districts, reports claimed.

The tribals started geotagging the areas after their claims were challenged by officials. The Gujarat high court then had stated that satellite imagery other than that by Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space Applications and Geo-Informatics (BISAG) will be admissible. Reportedly, the reason for discrediting the BISAG's images was that it was collected via an agency and the work was not convincing.

The tribals have so far measured 25,000 plots in this manner in over 250 villages. As many as 36 GPS instruments costing about Rs 14,500 each have been put into use for the process. To offset the cost, a claimant of land has to pay a mere Rs 60 to get the land surveyed using GPS.

Source: Times of India