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Identifying, mapping and understanding orange areas for tenurial security of more than 1.5 million families in central India

For more than six decades, more than half the villages in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states of India have grappled with a peculiar land tenure problem called the orange areas dispute. As a result of this dispute, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests are not fully protected by law. At the same time, more than 1.5 million tribal and poor households are vulnerable to the threat of eviction. The issue is rooted in double counting of land by different agencies of the state government, leading to conflicting legal claims and allocation of the same parcel of land to incompatible land uses. In the 1960s, these areas were coloured orange in the cadastral maps. Hence the term, orange areas. This tenurial ambiguity impacts livelihoods of communities, forest protection outcomes and constrains the achievement of biodiversity, water and climate targets.

Political and administrative commitments to resolving the orange areas issue have so been unfulfilled, primarily because the required data is dispersed, fragmented, and dated. Over a period of two years, WRI India has collated data from over 4,000 villages and reviewed over 30,000 documents to create the first of its kind web-based platform that provides credible information necessary for resolving the orange areas dispute.

The platform supports efforts to bring in clarity on the orange areas by government agency, civil society organisations and community based initiatives. In its current version, MAPTenure provides a database of villages in four districts of Madhya Pradesh- Sidhi, Singrauli, Shahdol, Anuppur and Umaria.

As a next step, based on feedback from users, WRI India plans to improve the functionality of the platform, translate MAPTenure to Hindi, add information on at least 15 more districts in collaboration with grassroots organisations, and create training/dissemination materials.

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