it was an exercise in futility. The recent two-day workshop of state forest ministers and officials on people's participation in forest management failed to serve its purpose. While the meeting -- held in New Delhi -- was organised to solicit suggestions for the joint forest management programme (jfm), recommendations were few and far between. The participants were, in fact ignorant of the core jfm guidelines.
Utter confusion marred the agenda of the workshop. The members eventually adopted the 12-year-old jfm as a model for participatory forest management. Twenty-five states have already adopted jfm and the Union government has come out with two sets of guidelines in the past decade. Officials passed all the previously laid-down guidelines as new recommendations. These included providing legal back-up and registering forest committees under jfm.
Amidst the chaos, the organisers unanimously pointed out that the greatest threat to participatory forest management was fund crunch. Key issues such as benefit-sharing and wealth-generation were relegated to the sidelines. Director general, wildlife, S C Sharma lamented, "It did not quite come out the way we wanted it to." Union minister for environment and forests T R Baalu tried to mask the failure of the event: "The time was less. And I did not mention these issues to the states before. So they could not come prepared."