13/11/2018

The Disappearing Essence, National Forest Policy

An Article by Saumya Rawat

Forest, the benefactor forms one of the most efficient ecosystems. The arrangement is such that whether it a food chain or a food web all are exactly balanced. India’s natural heritage ‘natural forests’ have a coverage of 21.34% of the total land (recently about 1% area was added). Whether it is the richest biopersity of northern area Himalayan range or western Ghats, be it the flora-fauna of the seven sisters in the east or the Thar desert, the perse nature and beauty cannot be denied.

National Forest Policy, 1988 gave the nation an introspection of the conditions of the forests within its boundary. The obligation was laid on the government for clearing forests for mining, construction of dams, buildings and more. Safeguards included careful examination by a specialist panel if a necessary clearing of a certain forest area was required.

The policy ‘totally safeguarded’ the tropical rainforests - forests of Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala and the Western Ghats, northeast regions. The policy made it certain that degraded areas have to be reforested. The most important part was the involvement of locals i.e. communities which have a strong bonding with the flora-fauna through Joint Forest Management Programme.

Now as 2018 has dawned the tables have turned with the Draft National Forest Policy, 2018 ready. A rough walk through the draft makes you realize the fading glimpses of the strong Act that is already implemented. The prominent point being the deletion of ‘totally safeguarded’ regions. The new policy does not throw any light on this section thereby raising the persion of forests. Clearing of forests after passing of this draft will not require the involvement of any specialist panel. The degraded land will be covered by timber to encourage commercial plantation, where the real motive can be instigated for the various non-forest purpose like mining, laying roads and building dams. The responsibility and involvements of local communities find no mention either.

Though the new draft covers important aspect dealing with human-animal conflict with the making of dedicated teams having a quick response time, prevention of forest fires with remote sensing technology and few more. For our future generations to sustain it is high time that we as an educated class should have a right to keep our opinions about the new policies being designed for our environment. A sustainable development will only happen when we as a society enlighten our governments with new ideologies.  As neglecting the important points will not only engulf the current protected status of forests but also increase the burden on our natural heritage as our ‘watan’ keeps taking steps closer to the devastating effects of global warming.

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