Make Improvements in Draft Forest Policy 2018

The landmark 1.5 Degree C report of IPCC has almost put to rest the remaining climate deniers. The Science is now clear, the world is on a fast track mode to destruction unless unprecedented actions are taken by nations. For a country like India that has already warmed up more than the global average, and is losing 1.5 percent of the GDP due to climate impacts, the message is clear. It has to take drastic actions to reduce its own carbon emissions and develop the resilience of the communities while at the same time lead global efforts to pressure historical emitters to take accelerated actions to limit the global warming to 1.5 Deg. C as suggested by the new IPCC report. India’s, and other country’s, current Paris Goals are not enough.

India has great potential to respond to this crisis with the Draft Forest Policy 2018 by recognizing the role that local and indigenous communities play in conserving and maintaining vast stretches of natural biodiversity rich forests across the nation. This new Forest Policy will replace the existing Forest Policy promulgated in 1988 and it should be more progressive. The 1988 Forest Policy signified a historic shift in India’s forest governance as it recognised the primacy of the ecological value of forests and the first claim of tribal and other forest dwelling communities over forests. The 1988 Policy was followed by the emancipatory Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, which recognised legal rights of tribals and forest dwellers over forests. Unfortunately, the 2018 Draft Forest Policy walks back on the gains of 1988 Forest Policy and the Forest Rights Act and seeks to go back to a state and private sector-based forest governance. It does recognise the challenges of “Climate Change” but its strategies have been criticised for being tilted towards giving more power to forest bureaucracy, excluding communities from forest governance and promoting private sector involvement through plantations of monoculture.

If India takes the revision of its Forest Policy as an opportunity to promote inclusive and local natural forestry, it can cater to the suggestions of the IPCC 1.5 Deg C report in many ways. The IPCC recommends balancing land-use between sustainable agriculture, bioenergy production, and carbon storage. Inclusive and biodiversity rich natural forest conservation will not only help achieve this by promoting natural carbon sinks but also by promoting social justice and equity. The IPCC report says, “social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

Climate Scorecard Rating: * Falling Behind

The Draft Forest Policy 2018 is a retrogressive, state centered policy in intent, even as concepts like climate change and REDD+ are liberally sprinkled in the text. It is similar in intent and purposes to the Compensatory Afforestation Funds Act, 2016 scored by us earlier, in that it seeks to enhance the control of forest departments over forests at the cost of communities. Given the past record of forest bureaucracy in India, there is little hope that this exclusionary, bureaucracy centered forest policy will yield any positive results in mitigation and adaptation of climate change, and likely will have very negative outcomes.

The Draft Forest Policy 2018 has been given ONE STAR by the Climate Scorecard Project because it contains strategies for climate change mitigation which are unworkable; fails to recognise the rights of tribal and forest dweller communities of forests; and promotes industrial plantations by the private sector that may not aid India’s climate actions relevant to IPCC 1.5 Deg. C report recommendations.

Take Action:
We urge you to write to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

Call for large scale debates on the Draft Forest Policy and invite tribal communities and other forest dwelling communities, community forest management groups, local self-government representatives, civil society members, experts in forest conservation and tribal rights and others concerned to discuss and provide input regarding the proposed Draft Forest Policy 2018. Ask the Minister to make the necessary changes in this Draft Policy to ensure that the rights of tribal and other indigenous communities over the forests and their role in planning and implementing forest conservation projects are ensured. Also ask that the new Forest Policy provides for the protection, regeneration and plantation of local biodiversity rich forests; that commercial monoculture is discouraged; and that private investment in natural forests and forest lands is stopped.

Please address your emails/tweets to:
Deputy Inspector General of Forest (Forest Policy), MoEFCC, Govt. of India or or
Twitter handle of the Ministry: @moefcc

For further details, contact:
Ranjan K Panda, Country Manager for India, Climate Scorecard Project
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

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