DRAFT INDIAN FOREST ACT
20, Apr 2019
Why in News:
- The draft Bill reinforces the idea of bureaucratic control of forests, providing immunity for actions such as use of firearms by personnel to prevent an offence.
Background: / Indian Forest Act, 1927:
- This Act recognizes forest dwellers’ rights and makes conservation more accountable.
- The Act basically does two things:
- Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws, and
- Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation. The law recognises three types of rights:
- Land rights are given to people, who have been cultivating land prior to December, 13, 2005.
- The law provides for rights to use and/or collect the minor forest produce things like tendu patta, herbs, medicinal plants etc “that has been traditionally collected, use of grazing grounds and water bodies and use of traditional areas by nomadic or pastoralist communities i.e. communities that move with their herds, as opposed to practicing settled agriculture.
Right to Protect and Conserve:
- The law gives rights to protect and manage the forests to people of village communities. The Act also categorises forests into three categories:
- These forests are the most restricted forests and may be constituted by the State Government on any forest land or waste land which is the property of the Government or on which the Government has proprietary rights. In reserved forests, most uses by local people are prohibited, unless specifically allowed by a Forest Officer in the course of settlement.
- The State Government is empowered to constitute any land other than reserved forests as protected forests over which the Government has proprietary rights. Under ‘Protected Forests’, the Government retains the power to issue rules regarding the use of such forests and retains the power to reserve the specific tree species in the protected forests. This power has been used to establish State control over trees, whose timber, fruit or other non- wood products have revenue-raising potential.
- ‘Village forests’ are the one in which the State Government may assign to ‘any village community the rights of Government to or over any land which has been constituted a reserved forest’.
Why draft forest policy: / Objective:
- The draft forest policy, 2018 will be an overarching policy for forest management.
- It aims at bringing a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest
- or tree cover.
- It seems to address the concern of decline in forest productivity.
– The draft has introduced some new concepts such as: economic valuation of ecosystem services
- forest certification
- national forest ecosystem management information system
- Approach – The 1988 forest policy had a local community- and ecology-centric approach.
- From this, the new draft shifts the focus to timber and forest-based industries.
- It identifies “production forestry” and plantations as the new thrust area.
- Tribal to Timber – The importance offered to the rights of local, forest-dependent communities are being diluted.
- It is substituted by the demand for raw material from forest-based industries.
- The draft aims to use degraded land available with forest corporations to produce “quality timber”.
- This goes against the emphasis on “fuelwood and fodder development” as in 1988 policy. Production forestry – The 1988 policy had sections called ‘Rights and Concessions’ and ‘Tribal People and Forests’.
- These are replaced by ideas of ‘Production Forestry’, increasing the productivity of forest plantations and facilitating forest industry interface.
– The draft stresses the need to stimulate growth in the forest-based industry sector. It encourages forest corporations and industrial units to step up growing of industrial plantations.
- Livelihood – The current draft mentions about the livelihoods of local communities –
- As passive recipients of benefits accruing from wildlife tourism as labour for forest-based industries in relation to non-timber forest produce (NTFP)
The draft proposes a public-private partnership model for afforestation and reforestation activities.
- This will be in “degraded forest areas and forest areas available with Forest Development Corporations and outside forests”.
- Plantation choice – The draft recommends ‘commercially important species’ like poplar and eucalyptus. Both of these are non-indigenous plantation species.
- Protection measures – The policy proposes to restrict schemes and projects which interfere with forests that cover steep slopes. Catchments of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, geologically unstable terrain and such other ecologically sensitive areas are also covered.
- The ecologically sensitive catchment areas shall be stabilized with suitable soil and water conservation measures. Planting suitable trees and grass like bamboo in these areas is also suggested.
– It suggests setting up of two national-level bodies for better management of
- the country’s forests.
- These are the National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and the National Board of Forestry (NBF). NBF will have to be headed by the central minister in charge of forests. The state boards of forestry will have to ensure inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, etc. The state boards of forestry will have to be headed by state ministers in charge of forests.
- Besides, efforts will be made to achieve harmonization between policies and laws like Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
– Efforts to ensure synergy between gram sabha & JFMC (Joint Forest Management Committee) will be taken up.
- This is for ensuring successful community participation in forest management. The CFM mission will address participatory forest management.
– The compensatory afforestation fund which is being transferred to the states will provide for management of forests. It will source afforestation and rehabilitation works in degraded forest areas and for bringing new areas under forest and tree cover. Efforts for tapping funds from other national sectors will be taken up. This may include rural development, tribal affairs, national highways, railways, coal, mines, power, etc.
- Forest fire – The draft policy includes measures to safeguard ecosystems from forest fires, which include:
- Mapping the vulnerable areas
- Developing and strengthening early warning systems Remote sensing technology to control fire
- Improved community participation
- Climate change – Forests are natural carbon sinks, assisting in climate change mitigation. Climate change concerns will be factored in all forest and wildlife areas working/management plans and Community Ecosystem Management Plans.
- Wildlife rich areas and corridors outside protected areas would be identified and maintained for ensuring ecological and genetic continuity.
– Quick response, dedicated teams of well-equipped and trained personnel would be developed. Health and veterinary services, rescue centres, speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims are other short- term actions. Monitoring and management of population of wildlife would be adopted as part of long-term measures.