The new draft National Forest Policy takes into account the paradigm shift in present realities due to climate change
The Central government has come up with a new draft National Forest Policy (NFP), 2018, which takes into account a reality that has become the defining feature of the world today—climate change. This latest development suggests that a new forest policy is on the anvil after 30 years.
The previous NFPs were focused on production and revenue generation of forests (NFP, 1894 and NFP, 1952) and environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance (NFP, 1988). NFP, 2018 talks about climate change mitigation through sustainable forest management.
“The overall objective and goal of the present policy is to safeguard the ecological and livelihood security of people, of the present and future generations, based on sustainable management of the forests for the flow of ecosystem services,” the draft says.
To address the issue of climate change, NFP, 2018 contributes to the forestry-related Nationally Determined Contribution Targets and by integrating, “climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in forest management through the mechanism of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus) so that the impacts of the climate change is minimised”.
The draft policy document also talks about degraded land and how it can be improved by undertaking afforestation activities using public private partnership models.
“The lands available with the forest corporations which are degraded and underutilised will be managed to produce quality timber with scientific interventions. Public private participation models will be developed for undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded forest areas and forest areas available with Forest Development Corporations and outside forests,” the policy document says.
While the role of forests as climate change mitigation factor has been recognised, the draft NFP is vague on the issue of forests rights for forest dwelling communities. The document proposes creation of a community forest management mission for the community resource management under Forests Rights Act.
“As far as community forest resources management under Forest Rights Act is concerned, the new policy will address the same under participatory forest management and the same will be addressed through the proposed community forest management mission,” the policy document says.
The ministry had brought out a draft policy in 2016, which was withdrawn for unknown reasons. The 2016 draft had attracted heavy criticism from forest rights groups for proposing a parallel community forest management arrangement along the lines of joint forest management. The previous draft was also criticised for ignoring the fact that a new community forest governance regime under the Forest Rights Act has been emerging across the country. “It seems that the inclusion of Forest Rights Act in the 2018 draft has stemmed from that criticism. But the manner in which this inclusion will happen is not clear now,” says Shruti Agarwal, Senior Research Associate, Environmental Governance (Forestry), Centre for Science and Environment.
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