By Andamans amid doubts
the very outsiders for whom forests were cleared to enable them to settle in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are now being expected to play a pivotal role in protecting the union territory's (ut) rapidly receding green cover. The ut is set to adopt the Joint Forest Management (jfm) programme to regenerate forests, lost mainly due to encroachment and commercial logging encouraged by the authorities.
The decision was taken during a workshop conducted by the Union ministry of environment and forests in the Andamans in September. Significantly, jfm will be limited to non-tribal areas because indigenous communities have strongly opposed the "alien" concept. "The tribal residents are emotionally attached to forests; hardly any deforestation is reported from their areas," concedes S S Choudhury, the ut's chief conservator of forests.
But non-governmental organisations have raised questions about jfm's efficacy in the local context. They feel that its success is underpinned by the bonding between people and forests. Samir Acharya of the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology explains: "The people residing near forests (who will be involved in jfm) are settlers brought from outside to carry out developmental work. For them, forests are simply a place to extract resources without giving anything in return."
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