National Forest Policy – Smoke in the Woods

National Forest Policy - Smoke in the woods

Read the Highlights of New National Forest Policy 2018…

Issue :-

  • Govt drafted National Forest Policy 2018. The new draft Forest Policy 2018, however, ignores the lessons from the previous period and returns to the state-managed forestry of the 1950s.

Importance of Forests :-

  • India’s diverse forests support the livelihoods of 250 million people, providing them firewood, fodder, bamboo, beedi leaves and many other products.
  • The timber currently benefits the state treasury.
  • Forests also regulate stream flows and sediment, benefiting downstream communities.
  • They also provide global benefits of biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Forest Policy focuses on :-

  • Primarily, it focuses on which benefits (and beneficiaries) to prioritise, where and through what process.
  • Secondary, It focuses on to decide when and through what process to allow diversion of forest land for “non-forest” activities such as dam building, mining and agriculture.

History of Forest Policies in India :-

Colonial Period :-

  • It focused on maximizing products and revenues for the state through the imperial forest department as sole owner, protector and manager of the forest estate.
  • Forests were seen as sources of raw material for industry and local communities were simply treated as labour.

Post Colonial Period :-

1988 Forest Policy :-

  • It recognized the multiple roles of forests and prioritized environmental stability over revenue maximization.
  • It also acknowledged that the needs of forest-dependent communities must be the “first charge” on forest produce.
  • The policy also emphasized people’s involvement in protecting and regenerating forests.

Post 1988 Forest Policy Experience :-

  • Joint forest management (JFM) :-
    It was initiated in the 1990s to implement the concept of people’s involvement. But it ended up in a mockery as :-
    ♦  Foresters created thousands of village forest committees but severely limited their autonomy and jurisdictions.
    ♦ Donor money was spent on plantations but activities were stopped once funds ran out.
    “People’s participation” by executive order was too weak.
    Instead what was required was substantive devolution of control over forests.

1990 Supreme Court Judgement :-

  • To regulate forest diversions, it introduced a high ‘net present value’ (NPV) charge on the lands diverted. But the court refused to assign any role to local communities affected by such diversion, not even a share in the NPV received.

Forest Rights Act (2006) :-

The Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 created a historic opportunity for such devolution.

  • Its community forest resource provisions gave communities rights to both access and manage forests.
  • It also democratized the diversion process by requiring community concurrence for forest diversion once community forest rights are recognized.

2018 Forest Policy :-

  • It identifies “Production forestry” and plantations as the “new thrust area”.

Definition of Production Forestry :-

The practice of forestry with object of producing maximum quantity of timber, fuel wood and other forest produce is called Production Forestry.

Past of Production Forestry :-

  • It led to replacing natural oak forests with pine monocultures in the Himalayas
  • Natural sal forests with teak plantations in central India
  • Wet evergreen forests with eucalyptus and acacia in the Western Ghats. 
  • Forest development corporations are to be the institutional vehicle. But they will now enter into public-private partnerships (PPPs) to bring corporate investment into forest lands.
  • It talks about the term “Community Participation”.
  • It talks of “ensuring synergy” between gram sabhas and JFM committees. when the need is to replace JFM committees with statutorily empowered gram sabhas, and revamp the colonial-era Indian Forest Act by incorporating FRA provisions. 

Impact :-

  • All this has decimated diversity, dried up streams and undermined local livelihoods.
  • PPPs will entail more such destruction, with even the profits ending up in corporate hands.

So, what is the impetus behind this new draft policy?

  • Granting the private sector access to public resources is one. But an additional driving force seems to be India’s commitment made in Paris in 2015 to seize 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in our forests. The accumulated 50,000 crore of NPV money (called CAMPA, or Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, funds) provides the means to achieving this carbon target.
  • “Carbon neutral timber” is listed as the first benefit from forests and a subsection on integrating climate change concerns highlights its importance.

Conclusion :-

The CAMPA Act and its recently released rules demonstrate the government’s intent to fall back on state-managed forestry to meet new “national” goals. The Draft Policy ropes in the private sector as well. This overlooks the ecological and social implications of carbon and production forestry and the need for decentralised democracy.

Read the Highlights of New National Forest Policy 2018…

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