There was and still is a lot India can learn from Nepal. Nepal's success in increasing power availability in remote areas through community participation and micro-hydel schemes is laudable. Therefore it doesn't make sense that Nepal is putting an end to an enlightened Community Forest Management Programme and trying to follow in the footsteps of the Indian forest bureaucracy. Nepal is now planning to turn its forestry programme upside down. The Forest (second amendment) Bill, 2001 to be soon placed before Parliament will take away the autonomy of more than 9,000 forest user groups. The only reason why the forest was given to communities was because the forest bureaucracy could not manage it.
Therefore when the trees were thinly scattered in 1993, the government of Nepal allowed some 9,874 forest user groups to salvage the woods. The government, however, did not receive any revenue from them. Until 1970, the Nepal government had generated more than 30 per cent of its annual revenue from forest products. Today the government's earning has declined to less than two per cent. The increased revenue from forests benefitted villagers who in turn protected forests and enhanced productivity.
The proposed amendment is to the present forest act (1993), which secedes government control of the forests to communities. After this bill is adopted, the communities will have to give away 65 per cent of the earnings from the forest regenerated by them to the forest department. (see: pp20-21 Betrayed) Therefore revenue collection seems to be the motive behind this latest move, a logical end to the forest department's two-year-old plan to take control of community forests which are now generating a lot of wealth for the users groups. In July 1999 the government changed the definition of community forestry to mean just fulfillment of minor forest produce for the community. In May 2000 the Cabinet took a decision to stop handing over forests to communities in the Terai except for severely degraded forestland. Obviously Nepal has learnt nothing from projects like Sukhomajri in India where the forest department's greed scuttled the programme. The success of forest regeneration programmes depends upon giving rights to the local people. Nepal was years ahead of India in its vision. Now it might in the process lose all the support and the respect it had gained from the international community. Once again prime minister we urge you not to take advice from your neighbour.
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