New National Forest Policy, 2018
Forests are the lungs of the world and are extremely crucial for the world’s existence. Hence, we shouldn’t ignore their well being at any cost. India has been following its National forest policy of 1988 and has taken necessary steps to ensure increase in the forest cover and worked on various other forest related important issues. However, In the present scenario due to the dynamic nature of the forests, the Union environment ministry of India has come up with a “Draft National forest policy, 2018” on March, 14.
The “Draft National forest policy” has thrown light on the following aspects: –
- Climate change
- Forest fires
- Dramatic rise in man and animal conflict
- Declining investments
- Lack of reliable and compatible data in the forest sector
Apart from the above-mentioned areas the policy also pays equal attention to the requirement of water conservation. There was depletion of few Himalayan forests due to usage of water for hydroelectric projects rather than the forests in this region. With prevailing issues like floods or droughts, drying up or depletion of various streams there arises an urgent need to take serious decisions in order to conserve and manage water resources effectively.
It has been also observed that various animal species are showing decline in their numbers. These species are migrating out of their natural habitats I.e. the forests.
This policy talks about Carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to mitigate or defer global warming.
Need for New national forest policy: –
Forests are changing with time and climate change is one of the reasons for it. Population pressure is causing dynamicity in requirement and dependence of people on forests. And other pressures like developmental projects, opening up of new roads, etc have all made it necessary for the government to draft a new law on forests.
Policy effects: –
- One major outcome to be noted is in that in the previous policy which was brought in 1988, various things are yet to be implemented even after a span of 30 years. So, one needs to ensure that even if we are drafting a new policy, the main target should be on its proper implementation.
- Compensatory forestry: CAG’s report denotes that 40-60% compensatory forestry are yet to be done by the industries. This policy emphasizes on this issue and strengthening of the technical aspects but monitoring aspect is not mentioned.
- State and central funding:
Central government funding: It has shown decline or stagnation.
State government funding: It has remained more or less the same or has only slightly increased.
- Inadequate funding is a major loophole and necessary regulations and supervision need to be made to improve funding from state as well as central government. Though the government is earning a lot from forests, it is not giving back as much as it should to the nature. This is what the government needs to look after.
- However, a positive measure was the idea of making National and state Forestry boards. Its efficient and proper functioning can pose great advantage to the forests.
- Some ambitious targets like achieving forest cover of around 33% is difficult because of the exponential rise in population and hence, pressure on forest resources is increasing day by day. According to environmentalists and experts, the amount of growth that has taken so far shows that only the green cover is increasing but not the forest cover actually. Although the number of trees planted might be on rise but quality of forests has deteriorated. Tree cover is being mistaken with forest cover. Therefore, it’s important to make clear distinction because both of them can’t provide the same ecosystem services.
- The policy has laid special emphasis on the North eastern states. These states possess almost 80-90% of their geographical area covered with forests but problems like shifting cultivation and encroachment are highly prevalent in these states.
- Tribal areas are considered to have the richest forest and mineral resources. But forest produce management is contentious issue because of Forest rights act. Even though the tribes were given certain rights to procure the forest resources but forest officials lacked keenness on this matter. Balance between mining and forest resource management is also highly crucial.
- Most of the emphasis is being given on commercialization and utilization of the forests. Tribal community are going to suffer because their daily wages and life depends on forest produce. Timber produce will be dwindling because of natural death of these trees and the thrust on this kind of plantation.
- Co-operation of people on the ground is required on a large scale.
- This policy is concentrated mostly on sequestration. Therefore, it’s domain is partial and has a very limited aspect. Forests have much more capacity and hence need to be explored properly.
- Recycling of water: The policy mentions the factor of conservation of water with the help of forests but practically, forests aren’t yet capable of this. The technological and scientific backup for this procedure are lagging in India.
- Illegal forest trade and cutting of timber should be traced.
What’s new in this policy: –
This policy speaks on certain new topics like: –
- Climate change
- Management plans
- Digitization of forest boundaries.
- Focus on North east and tribal areas
- This policy speaks a lot about economic use of Timber.
- The policy does not talk about how the balance will be achieved. Therefore, it lacks clarity and straightforwardness.
- Most of the forests in North east are under private groups and hence involving them in this policy will be a cumbersome task.
It is necessary to increase area under forests and the Government of India is also aware of the fact. Experts infer that even if we achieve 30-40% of the objectives under this policy, it can prove to be a boon and help us achieve forest cover targets qualitatively as well as quantitatively.