Ambrish Mehta shared his experiences through ARCH-Vahini’s field work with Adivasi forest-dwelling communities in South Gujarat and the challenges they faced around securing land rights. He recalled the landmark Forest Rights Act passed in 2006, which acknowledged the land rights of all forest dwelling communities . However, 80% of the claims filed under this Act were rejected by the government. In this context, ARCH-Vahini carried out a GPS-enabled mapping exercise to determine the extents of people’s land parcels. These maps were then superimposed onto satellite imagery to produce detailed village-level maps, showing the boundaries of different plots. These documents were then submitted as evidence to the relevant district offices, verified by the Forest Department.
Getting the claims over their land approved is a challenge for forest -dwelling communities to this day. The use of geospatial and mapping technologies has helped to clear the fog around surveying and mapping exercises, and in many cases aided the recognition and approval of claims over land cultivated by Adivasi communities.