Context:

  • A draft of the National Forest Policy (NFP), 2018 has been recently released.

Background:

1952:

  • First National Forest Policy of independent India took effect.

2018:

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released a draft National Forest Policy, 2018.
  • Environment ministry has sought comments and suggestions from all stakeholders by 14 April, 2018.
  • Once finalized, the policy will guide the forest management of the country for the next 25-30 years.

Objective:

  • Safeguard the ecological and livelihood security of people, of present and future generations, based on sustainable management of the forests for the flow of ecosystem services.

Provisions of the National Forest Policy (NFP), 2018 are:

  • Target of 33% of India’s geographical area under forest and tree cover and in the hills and mountainous regions.
  • Maintain two-thirds of the area under forest and tree cover.
  • Restrict schemes and projects which interfere with forests,
  • Stabilize ecologically sensitive catchment areas with suitable soil and water conservation measures, and also by planting suitable trees and grass like bamboo.
  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund will be a major source of funds for taking up afforestation and rehabilitation works.
  • Funds from other national sectors like rural development, tribal affairs, national highways, railways, coal, mines, power, etc., will be taken for appropriate implementation of linking greening with infrastructure and other development activities.
  • Setting up of two national-level bodies, National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and National Board of Forestry (NBF)
  • It is to be headed by the central minister in charge of forests.
  • Establish State boards of forestry for ensuring inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, among other things
  • It is to be headed by state ministers in charge of forests.
  • Threats to Forests due to encroachments, illegal tree fellings, forests fires, invasive weeds, grazing, etc. will be addressed within the framework of the approved Working Plan/Management Plan and also by ensuring community participation in forest management.
  • Development of Public-private participation models for undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded forest areas and forest areas available with forest development corporations and outside forests.
  • Achieve harmonization between policies and laws like Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
  • Establish National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission.
  • This mission will have a legal basis and an enabling operational framework.
  • The national, state and local level development programmes shall be converged.
  • All efforts to ensure synergy between gram sabha & JFMC (Joint Forest Management Committee) will be taken for ensuring successful community participation in forest management.
  • Promotion of trees outside forests and urban greens taken up in “mission mode”.
  • Safeguard ecosystems from forest fires, map the vulnerable areas and develop and strengthen early warning systems and methods to control fire, based on remote sensing technology and community participation.
  • Climate change concerns will be factored in all the forest and wildlife areas working/management plans and Community Ecosystem Management Plans.
  • Identify and protection of wildlife rich areas and corridors outside protected areas for ensuring ecological and genetic continuity.
  • Short-term and long-term actions to tackle rising human-wildlife conflict.

Short-term actions:

  • Quick response, dedicated teams of well equipped and trained personnel, mobility, strong interface with health and veterinary services, rescue centres, objective and speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims.

Long term actions:

  • Monitoring and management of population of wildlife.

Concerns raised against the provisions of Draft National Forest Policy (NFP), 2018 are as follows:

  • Identifies threats to forests but does not provide systems for community involvement.
  • Talks about increasing forests, including for commercial purposes, through public-private partnerships, it does not create a mechanism for including those who live around forests.
  • Also fragmentation of forests due to the ill-planned intrusion of developmental projects is being left unattended.
  • People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) and Biodiversity Management Committees are not integrated which in turn will fail in setting up a system of efficient natural area monitoring.
  • In the context of ground-truth, an area that looks green, such as tea estates and commercial plantations, have been counted as forests.
  • Even if forest cover is being increased, it is also simultaneously being lost, and new forest may also be subsequently lost.

For example:

  • Forest cover had increased in India by 0.21% in 2017 from 2015, and some areas had become ‘Very Dense Forest’ in this period.
  • But at the same time, between 2014 and 2017, India lost, or legally diverted, 36,575 hectares of forest area towards 1,419 development projects.

Conclusion:

Thus, with rigorous measures like integration of the forest policy and decentralisation of forest wealth, the new forest policy will be able to solve the lacunas of the former ones.

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