Ten days after issuing an office memorandum (OM) inviting comments on the Draft National Forest Policy, 2016, the Union environment ministry has backtracked on its decision, saying what it had “inadvertently” uploaded on its website as the draft policy was just a “study”.
Hindustan Times had reported on Saturday how the draft forest policy released by the ministry last week allowed elbow room for the government to invite private companies to carry out industrial plantations in forests, something which is prohibited in the existing policy.
“The ministry is in the process of revising the present National Forest Policy, 1988. A draft National Forest Policy in this regard has been prepared and is enclosed. All stakeholders are requested to send their comments, if any,…by 30/06/2016,” said the ministry’s OM dated June 16.
But the director general of forests and special secretary, ministry of environment, forests and climate change, SS Negi issued a statement on Saturday which said, “The ministry has not issued any draft notification on the National Forest Policy. What has been uploaded on the website was a study done by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. The study has not been evaluated by the ministry. The ministry has not taken any decision on the draft policy. The study report prepared by IIFM, Bhopal, was inadvertently uploaded as the draft forest policy on the website.”
He added, “The ministry has an elaborate procedure for preparing the draft policy document, which takes into account multiple inputs from all stakeholders, state governments, think-tanks and public consultation. No process has been carried out on the document prepared by IIFM, Bhopal, which is only one of the inputs. A draft forest policy will be put in the public domain once due process is carried out and views of all stakeholders are taken into account.”
While the statement was released to the media, the ministry did not clarify if it would withdraw the June-15 OM which was there on the website till the story went to print.