Spotlight Activity: India’s New REDD+ Strategy Criticized
On 30th of August 2018, India released its National REDD+ Strategy. The government says it has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of UNFCCC, to be eligible to get result based financial incentives for REDD+. According to the government, this Strategy recognises the role of local and tribal communities in getting a fair share of REDD+ benefits. The National REDD+ Strategy of India outlines the facilitative and enabling environment for implementing REDD+, the strategy to be adopted and an implementation framework complying with the various REDD+ agreements under the UNFCCC. India, in its INDC has shown the intention of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level, and has planned to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. National initiatives like Green India Mission, National Agro-forestry Policy, REDD+ programmes, Joint Forest Management, National Afforestation Programme and devolution of about USD 6 billion under Compensatory Afforestation to states will be the important instruments to achieve this task. The National Strategy prepared by a team of forestry expert from the relevant government departments and other organisations provides the framework of action and implementation pathways.
While the strategy rightly observes the role of communities in protecting India’s forest resources, it fails way short in giving them decision making power under the strategy. The strategy mentions that all the existing legal and customary rights of the indigenous communities will be respected as per the existing laws of the land however when it comes to implementation of the forest conservation programmes, it’s too forest bureaucracy centric. While it mentions the Joint Forest Management (JFM) committees, formed under a programme of the government, it grossly undervalues the existence of thousands of Community Forest Management (CFM) initiatives in the country that have been sustainably managing natural forests for hundreds of years. It recognises them only in case of two states (provinces), however when it comes to implement various projects under REDD+ it talks more about new concepts of forming Green Armies and Community Foresters thereby creating a scope of conflicts and confusion.
Status: Standing Still
There are many concerns that we need to raise on the strategy. However, for this alert, we are flagging two. They are 1. The recognition of controversial proposed amendments to the National Forest Policy (1988), and 2. Adhering to the controversial Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules, 2018. Both of these promote top-down approach to forest management by ignoring the decision making authority of local and indigenous communities and hence marginalise the major stakeholders in managing India’s forests. Climate Scorecard therefore gives India’s REDD+ Strategy with two star rank.
In this alert, we ask you to take action and write to India’s Minister of Forests, Environment and Climate Change to modify the REDD+ Strategy to give local, forested and indigenous communities a say in decision making on the way this strategy will be implemented. For this to happen, the existing CAF Rules 2018 needs to be drastically modified and the Draft National Forest Policy (2018) needs to recognise rights of local communities in the forests, promote natural biodiversity rich forest conservation and scrapping of invasive and unsustainable plantation activities. The representatives of community forest management institutions and their networks, and those of indigenous communities should be in all committees starting from local to national levels that are responsible for implementing the REDD+ Strategy.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Minister MoEFCC, Govt. of India
Twitter handle of the Ministry: @moefcc