Draft National Forest Policy is detrimental to effective climate action, says NGO

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 24, 2019 Published on September 24, 2019

For effective climate action, India should withdraw the draft National Forest Policy of 2018, which seeks to usurp the powers of Gram Sabhas over community forest resources, said New Delhi-based NGO Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on Tuesday.

“The draft National Forest Policy of 2018 is nothing but a means to usurp the powers of the Gram Sabhas over the community forest resources and commercialise the afforestation programmes to take control over the compensatory afforestation funds which stood at ₹90,000 crore, or about $15 billion, as on April 2018,” said ACHR Director Paritosh Chakma here.

Chakma, who released a report ‘Draft National Forest Policy 2018: A Conspiracy to Deny the Rights of the Scheduled Tribes’, said as of 2015, a total of 1,18,213 Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) had been set up with control over 2.29 crore hectare of forest area, which is about a third of the country’s forested landscape.

These areas are legally under the control of the Gram Sabhas under the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

But, the forest departments of the States and Union Territories which have been unable to utilise the funds of ₹90,000 crore because of lack of manpower are now trying to bring in private sector and hand over the degraded forests to them for afforestation — a move that would have disastrous consequences”, he said.

“The aim to take the powers away from the tribals and Gram Sabhas through the draft National Forest Policy is clear. The draft policy provides for creation of the National Board of Forestry headed by the central minister in-charge of forests and State Boards of Forestry headed by state minister in-charge of forests with the sole aim to undermine the Ministry of Tribal Affairs,” Chakma said.

“The denial of rights to the indigenous peoples and the Gram Sabhas and commercialisation of afforestation programmed can destroy India’s climate action initiatives,” he said.

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Published on September 24, 2019
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