During the valedictory session of the first Indian Forest Congress on 25th November, 2011, Ranjan Chatterjee, Consultant, Planning Commission said that forests are meant for every body and we need to keep a balance between environment and forests. Chatterjee said, “Forests are under pressure because of lack of understanding. Forests are not merely to preserve, but we need to work towards more greening with joint efforts.”
“At Planning Commission, we are ready to allocate money for each task, but it must have monetary evaluation, Chatterjee added, “this evaluation is necessary to achieve targets, to know whether the things have been completed appropriately and carry out any course corrections, if necessary”. He appealed participants to understand “the problems of forests, GIS Maps, tribals and their rights and other problems at grass root level and address them”.
The deliberations during four-day Congress were in favour of special provision in the 12th five year plan for restructuring the frontline organizations of the forest departments across the country in order to meet the emerging societal expectations. Forestry issues at the national level need to be taken up in our planning and developmental process for holistic and sustainable development and to incorporate forestry in policy and decision making processes.
The Congress demanded inclusion of non-tangible benefits of forestry sector to India’s GDP, second generation reforms in Joint Forest management programs and creation of more research organizations. The delegates of the Congress, therefore, adopted ‘Forest Charter 2011’. It suggests that sufficient investments are made in the forestry sector.
The contribution of the forestry sector to India’s GDP is around 2 per cent, which needs to be properly authenticated and assessed. A system of natural resource accounting, which accounts for the increased capital creation in forests, needs to be set in place and accordingly the investment in forestry sector should be enhanced to levels commensurate with the forests contributions.
The Central Board of Forestry which was established in 1950 should be revived as an apex body to be headed by the Prime Minister to ensure involvement of all stakeholders for policy formulation. There is a need to give a push to futuristic research frontiers like tree genetics and breeding, genomics, proteomics, genome mapping, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, bamboo fibre and medicines and nutraceuticals from forest resources.
The new futuristic management regimes for the forests demands that proper assessment of ecosystems services provided by the forests and NTFPs should be undertaken to correctly assess the contribution of forests in the economy. ICFRE and other research organizations should network and develop a focused research program on forest vegetation and hydrology change monitoring. It would be necessary for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Special focus should be given to convergence between forestry activities, and non-forestry land use/schemes, for the regeneration of degraded fringe forests and upliftment of poor people particularly the tribal’s in the fringe villages. The Joint Forest management program has clearly established as an agent of overall socioeconomic development of poor forest dependent communities and it requires second generation reforms.
Two models were praised for their achievements, the Chhattisgarh model as a case in point for replication for overall socioeconomic and ecological rejuvenation and the Bundelkhand package as a role model for inclusive development.
A federation of joint forest management committees (JFMC) should be created under the Union Minister of Environment & Forests for better coordination and policy inputs. The JFMCs should be maintained as a separate entity. JFMCs need to be adequately empowered to manage the forest resources, their capacity built up and legal backing given to them in order to be successful.
Eco-development activities in and around protected areas should be taken up in the twelfth five year plan on priority with sufficient allocation of funds to ensure sustainable wild life management. The Wild life Institute of India should bring out biannual assessment of the national parks and sanctuaries on the lines of the ‘State of Forest Report’ by Forest Survey of India.
Establishment of a well equipped research organization to support forestry activities, strengthening of scientific human resource at ICFRE to cater to the new emerging areas of research and networking with allied organizations all over the world were included in the charter. The Charter notes, “For sustainable mining it is necessary that mining in forest areas be done on scientific lines. Presently, there is neither foolproof system of scientific rehabilitation plan, nor expert organizations are involved. This is leading to serious environmental degradations.
The mining of minerals and restoration of mined out areas should go side by side. The feasibility of underground mining in forest areas should be studied through three-dimensional subsidence analysis especially for coal bearing forested regions so that better technology is employed for exploitation of resources.”
The provisions of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 aims at addressing the long standing insecurity of the tenure in cultivated lands in forest areas and legal right of the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers over the NTFPs.
GIS/MIS based maps be prepared clearly demarcating the land of the beneficiaries so that there is no scope for encroachment. There is a need for extensive research in ecotourism viz. its potential, carrying capacity, socio-economic aspects, etc.
Forest officers from various states, officers and scientists from ICFRE and its institutes and representatives from NGO’s, farmers, forest based Industries participated in the Congress. (Source: PIB.25.11.11)