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Mid-way solutions

VILLAGE VOICES, FOREST CHOICES: JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT IN INDIA·Edited by Mark Poffenberger and Betsy McGean·Oxford University Press, Delhi·1996· Price Rs 345

 
By Rajkumar Ghosh
Published: Friday 31 January 1997

-- the destruction of natural forests all over India to meet commercial demands and the needs of an expanding population has had a profound impact on its environment. Although attempts to tighten bureaucratic control to protect forests have often led to conflicts with local communities, it has systematically increased over the past two centuries and marginalised community rights over the forest in the process. Bureaucrats have been providing logging rights to contractors and entrepreneurs at heavily subsidised prices, under political pressure. Tribal communities have been resisting every move to alienate them from their rights.

However, some social forestry programmes in India have begun to open communication channels between foresters and forest dwellers. The Joint Forest Management (jfm) is one such programme that has been formulated by forest departments to build community forest management capabilities. It redefines the role of the state and the responsibilities of local communities to protect and enrich forests lying within public domain. To act as effective managers, communities have to develop the ability to control access and use of forests, settle their own disputes, share forest produce equitably and interact positively with the state. Forest departments need to mould their policies and attitudes to respond positively to the needs of local groups.

The book not only documents the past and emerging trends of forest management, but offers projections as to its future. It predicts further destruction of forests in the near future, especially in areas where forests are still abundant and rich in commercial species like Madhya Pradesh. Farm forestry is likely to expand. In future, as policies to develop the rights and responsibilities of communities will gain greater political support, forest departments shall continue strengthening their custodial position. It has been suggested that by the year 2025, forest departments will have fully transferred reserved and protected forests to locals for management and they themselves will have become agencies, assisting people with the requisite technical services.

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