HNA Objects To New Draft National Forest Policy
The writer is a Hamirpur based Himachali settled in Chandigarh
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA), a state level coalition of people’s groups and activists, objection to the new draft National Forest Policy-2018 has raised many questions. While talking to HTW HNA coordinator Guman Singh said that the policy did not address the issue of forest rights of forest dwelling tribal community. These communities have been fighting for long to get their forest rights recognised. Attitude of the forest department during all these years in supporting the law has been discouraging, he added. He has also suggested that Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) money shall be spent without the consent of communities thus not only denying the rights conferred under the Forests Rights Act (FRA) but also undermining the vision of the community conservation and forest management plan.
He says there is no linking process on the technical support to the communities as envisioned under FRA. CAMPA money which is mainly for afforestation is not meant for spending without the consent of the communities using the forest but it should be the inherent part of the forest conservation planning as envisioned in the FRA. According to state forest department, more than 10,000 hectare of forest land on which people have user rights has been diverted to various developmental projects. Of this, 60% has been made available for hydro power projects. He further stated that it seemed to be more corporate and state control policy on the forests rather than bringing the main user in the centre stage. He feels this policy will push back the gradual advancement in the field of conservation and management of forests and adds that in nut shell this is retrogressive policy in the history of NRM and Forest policy.
Environmentalists said how objectives in the draft policy be achieved while most of the objectives incorporate in 1988 policy have not been met so far. The previous forest policies stressed on environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance, the present draft policy focuses on the international challenge of climate change. As many as 26 cases across 11 States show that forest land is being acquired by the government for development projects like mining and dams by forging consent of tribal people or by ignoring it, according to a new analysis.
About 1.8 million land titles have been given over 5.7 million hectares of forest land till October, 2017, ministry of Tribal Affairs data shows. This is just about 14% forest land on which forest dwellers could potentially claim rights. The state governments have rejected more than 43% of the claims filed by forest dwellers. After 30 years the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change came out with a new National Forest Policy with overall objective of safeguarding the ecological and livelihood security of the people based on sustainable management of forests and ensure to protect existing natural forests and their productivity improves along with retaining 1/3rd of country’s total geographical area under forest cover through scientific and technological intervention.
The policy also directs that states/UTs should enforce strict rules to protect the dense cover. They have also objected to involvement of private concerns for a forestation and reforestation activities as envisaged in it will mean privatization of country’s natural resources and creating “private forests.”
“The draft policy stresses itself more on the conservation and preservation of forest wealth rather than regenerating these through people participation,” said they. Steps will be taken for conservation of flora, fauna and total biodiversity. Networking of national parks, sanctuaries, conservation reserves, community reserves; biosphere reserves and wild life corridors and biodiversity heritage sites will be strengthened. Non-timber forest produce will be sustainably managed for improving the income of tribal and other forest dependent population. It is also proposed promotion of trees outside forests and urban greens will be taken up on a mission mode. The policy also formulates strategy reducing threats to forests in any way; prevention of forest fires; enhance quality and productivity of forests and protecting and enriching the catchments.
It is also proposed that budget of the forestry sector of the states/UTs will be enhanced proportionately. The national and state boards of forestry will review implementation of this policy periodically basis and underline the achievements and progress and will be monitored to ensure smooth and time bound translation of this policy.
* The policy did not address the issue of forest rights of forest dwelling tribal community for which these communities have been fighting for long to get their forest rights recognized.
– Guman Singh, National Coordinator, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan