Centre’s draft forest policy: Three days left to send your suggestions

The last date for submitting responses is April 14.

mumbai Updated: Apr 11, 2018 00:51 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,forest,forest conservation
The major details of the policy includes commercial use of forest produce, creating jobs linked to forest conservation, encouraging private plantations, watershed development, and mitigating climate change impacts through forestry.(HT FILE)

After the Union environment ministry released the Draft National Forest Policy 2018 last month seeking to replace the existing forest policy of 1998, the Centre has asked for suggestions and objections from citizens regarding the policy. The last date for submitting responses is April 14.

Citizens can write to ministry officials with their inputs in the required format.

The major details of the policy includes commercial use of forest produce, creating jobs linked to forest conservation, encouraging private plantations, watershed development, and mitigating climate change impacts through forestry. While the main target of the policy is to bring 33% of the country’s geographical area under forest cover from the current 24.16%, other targets are economic benefits from forests such as setting up timber, bamboo and other wood and forest related industries through a certification mechanism.

Environmentalists and lawyers have objected to some of the provisions under the proposed policy, including private plantations to develop forest cover outside reserved forest and protected areas, management of private forests and inclusion of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, done for the first time under this policy.

“The whole issue of the degraded forests and private forest being opened up to industries is a serious cause for concern,” said Supreme Court advocate and environment lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay. “With more production from forests, we need to ask ourselves and the ministry whether we have enough checks and balances to make the private sector a part of this. However, we need to understand whether this policy respects legislative developments in India with just lip-service inclusion of laws such as FRA.”

Upadhyay will be submitting his suggestions and objections by Thursday. “We will be suggesting ways for the management of private forests, which does not seem to be clear in this draft,” he said.

Other provisions related to compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment and joint forest management have been included in spite of massive evidence on failures documented by research organisations and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), said environmentalists.

“There is still lack of awareness about the details of this policy and stakeholders from all parts of the country, whether it affects them directly or indirectly, need to submit their views,” said Anand Pendharkar, environmentalist, who has been extensively sharing the draft policy. “Economists, socialists, ecologists, politicians, tribal areas, industrialists and businesses all need to be a part of this so that there is no polarisation when the final bill is tabled.”

Pendharkar added that de-notifying forest areas for infrastructure projects and carrying out compensatory afforestation does not mean increasing forest cover. “Simply plantations do not mean rehabilitation of forests. There exists an entire biodiversity, which includes small species to large ones, and at the same time the policy should encompass all landscapes from mountains to beaches.”

Some of the other provisions under the policy include — promoting watershed development in forest areas to recharge the water table, promoting green cover in urban areas, and developing additional carbon sink through public-private afforestation programmes.

City-based NGO Vanashakti already submitted their suggestions and objections on Monday night. “This draft is predominantly human-centric and has very little protection for wildlife or enhancement of wildlife habitats. Forests have not (been) defined properly, neither have the plans for wildlife corridors or species conservation programme been identified. The only focus of this draft is to make land available for corporates for timber. This transfer may happen permanently, which is in conflict with FRA,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.

FEATURES OF DRAFT FOREST POLICY

1) Tackling climate change by increasing green cover:

India has set itself a target of creating additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes

2) Encouraging private plantations:

With the slow pace of increase in green cover, which is hovering around 23-24%, the policy seeks to encourage tree plantation in non-forest areas including private lands

3) Forest fire prevention:

Plans to map the vulnerable regions, bolster early warning systems and improve fire control techniques

4) Boosting agroforestry and ‘green jobs’:

Encourages industries that use forest produce, because they are labour-intensive

5) Watershed development in forests:

Promotes watershed development in forest areas not only to prevent soil erosion but also to recharge the water table.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR SUGGESTIONS AND OBJECTIONS

“All stakeholders including public and private organisations, experts and concerned citizens are requested to kindly send the comments, suggestions, views on the enclosed Draft National Forest Policy, 2018 and such comments should be very specific, crisp, holistic and relevant information indicating para-wise details of the policy so that these comments could be considered by the ministry for finalising the new policy,” read the notice by the Union environment ministry. “Comments should be sent by April 14, 2018. Comments received beyond this deadline will not be considered.”

The comments should be sent through e-mail in word file format including pdf version at digfppolicy-mef@nic.in/ jitesh.kumar@nic.in/toforestpolicyggmail.com (please mention “Draft National Forest Policy, 2018” in the subject of mailbox and provide details of your name/ name of organisation including contact details/email while sending comments).

Link to the Draft National Forest Policy 2018: http://www.civis.vote/resources/dnfp2018.pdf

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 00:51 IST