RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh government on Monday distributed community forest resource rights (CFRR) certificates to tribal groups living in an urban area, empowering them to protect, regenerate, conserve and manage customary forest area within its traditional boundary, officials said.

This has made Chhattisgarh the first state in the country to recognise community forest resource rights of tribals in urban areas, they said.

During a virtual programme to mark the International Day of World’s Indigenous People at his official residence here, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel distributed CFRR certificates to three ward sabhas of Nagri Nagar Panchayat, an urban body in Dhamtari district, a government official said.

Besides, Baghel distributed CFRR certificates to gram sabhas of five villages located in the core area of the Udanti-Sitanadi tiger reserve, he said.

Speaking at the function, the chief minister said, “The indigenous people living in urban municipalities of the Fifth Schedule areas have kept their forest well preserved and intact. It is, therefore, important to recognise their pre-existing community resource rights over these forests in order for them to continue doing so.”

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with administration of scheduled areas where tribal communities are in a majority.

Ensuring the rights of local communities on resources, including water, forest and land, and raising their standard of living is one of the top priorities of the state government, Baghel said.

The government has been taking continuous steps towards the cultural development of tribal communities as well as their socio-economic upliftment, he said.

“World Tribal Day is a big festival for us and it is associated with self-respect, pride, culture and dreams of about 31 per cent tribal population of the state. Therefore, a government holiday has been declared on this day,” Baghel added.

Commissioner of state’s Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development department Shammi Abidi informed that Chhattisgarh has become the first state in the country to recognise the forest resource rights of tribal communities in urban areas.

Nagri Nagar Panchayat, surrounded by forests and located around 65 km away from Dhamtari district headquarters, was constituted by clubbing three villages – Churiyara, Tumbahra and Nagri – which have now become wards.

The resource rights of these three wards have been recognised over their 10,200 acres of forests, Abidi said.

The CFRR of five villages have been recognised over 13,700 acres of forests which is spread within the core area of the Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, located across two districts -Dhamtari and Gariaband, she said.

With these rights recognised under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the ward sabhas and gram sabhas would be able to protect, conserve, regenerate and manage the entire forest area falling within their traditional boundary, Abidi added.