Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday said that the Government is committed to give land titles to all legitimate forest dwellers as they are a part of the forest development strategy.
He was addressing a press conference here on the concluding day of the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the United Nations Convention on Desertification (UNCCD) where the Delhi Declaration was presented. It has called for land based solutions to tackle climate change threats and biodiversity conservation.
Javadekar said his government's stand is clear on the rights of the forest dwellers, a matter which is pending before the Supreme Court.
"The government believes and is committed to give land titles to all legitimate forest dwellers. In the strategy for forest development, tribals and dwellers are a part of it as they live and protect the forest. We have allotted in last five years millions of land titles," the minister said.
On February 13, the Supreme Court had ordered eviction of more than 11.8 lakh tribal families and traditional forest dwellers from forestlands in 16 states.
The order was condemned by conservationists and forests dwellers' movements.
After a nationwide protest, the government approached the court asking it to stay its eviction order.
"When the first decision of the Supreme Court came, we immediately filed the affidavit in favour of forest rights and that decision was stayed by the court itself," Javadekar said.
At the event, the Delhi Declaration adopted by over 190 nations stressed on the needs to consider land-based solutions for climate
action and biodiversity to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
"Promote opportunities that support, as appropriate and applicable, the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and the development of an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework, taking into
consideration land-based solutions for climate action and biodiversity conservation and the mutually supportive implementation of the three Rio conventions," the document said.
UNCCD executive secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw said the Delhi Declaration is a "powerful" document and lists the important takeaways from the convention.
"My first takeaway is that there is a clear link between land, climate and biodiversity. Carbon belongs to the soil and should not have been emitted. Secondly, we need investments on land restoration," he said.
"Thirdly, the issue of drought was taken up seriously at the convention and lastly, that land restoration will not happen without putting people first," he added.