RECAST AND REWRITE THE FLAWED DRAFT NATIONAL FOREST POLICY, 2018
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The draft National Forest Policy 2018 which is uploaded on the MoEF&CC website for criticism (http://www.conservationindia.org/campaigns/provide-your-inputs-to-the-indian-forest-policy-2018) is shocking and disappointing given the current state of India's forests and natural resources. The confused and contradictory Preamble makes it abundantly clear that the main goal of this exercise is to meet for the nation the "compelling demands from the increasing population, industrialization and rapid economic growth" - a return to the colonial era of "Production forestry". Not learning from the past - pre-1988 or post -, this draft does not encourage community participation and is reversing the little good that has come from the Forest Rights Act 2006. This abuses the very right to existence of the forest and its dwellers - plants, animals, insects and people.
The most degraded lands of our forests in most places can be moved back most of the way to their original state - pioneers in several parts of the country have actually shown this - Given India's diversity of climate, topography and landforms, her vegetation landscape is equally diverse - conserving, as far as possible this diversity is the need of the hour - this is India's genuine 24-carat heritage: her natural ecosystems and their diversity - worth fighting to conserve and restore them - a group of trees planted by us can never ever replace a timeless natural ecosystem - we have already lost much in the name of "development". Protecting and restoring the little we have and we can is not against development, rather it can help turn on its head the very definition of "development" in a wonderful country like India.
There has been much advancement of scientific knowledge since 1988 when the current National Forest Policy was adopted, and much data on the massive threats that forests and all natural ecosystems from upper montane tropical rainforests to coastal mangroves face. The draft policy is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions that have the potential to balance the competing needs of conservation and development. On the contrary, a new and very alarming idea “Enrichment of dense forests” is proposed. This will lead to hitherto untouched forests being tampered with. Where is the need to “enrich” already “dense forests”?
Let alone scientific knowledge, which one could say is "academic" even the alarm bells raised by bodies such as the CAG, parliamentary committees and others regarding failed policies such as compensatory Afforestation, catchment area
treatment and Joint Forest Management still remain as "solutions" in this Draft Forest policy, 2018.
Such “prescriptions” for a "New Policy" will only continue the old evils including rampant corruption in "forest conservation-related projects" and do not reflect this Government's oft-repeated promise of "Good Governance".
It is to be appreciated that the Ministry has given concerned citizens a chance to submit their critique of its Draft policy document by email and given a month's time for doing so. However, it should recognize that the main stakeholders - the people who live in the forests have no access to email and no way of knowing that such a policy is coming down upon them.
Thus this is an appeal to completely recast this policy so that it is of actual benefit to, first the Forests and or Natural habitats themselves and also to the Forest dwellers, be they tribals or other communities that depend on the forest for their survival.
If this Draft becomes policy, my and your right - our right, to leave behind an India with at least some of her truly Ancient forests for the future will be gravely impinged upon.
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