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Biodiversity & Environment

Review of National Forest Policy, 1988

  • 08 Sep 2020
  • 8 min read

Why in News

Recently the Director General of Forests has advocated for the amendment of National Forest Policy, 1988.

  • The recommendations are based on a research paper published in 2016 in the Natural Resources Forum, a United Nations Sustainable Development Journal which called for sustainable forest management based on certification and a policy characterised by restoration, conservation and production equally.

Key Points

  • Data unavailability: There is a lack of reliable data relating to growing stock, consumption and production of timber, which constrained forecast of supply and demand projections.
  • Focus on TOFs:
    • The potential of timber production from Trees Outside Forests (TOFs) i.e. grown outside government Recorded Forest Areas (RFAs) must be explored and tapped.
      • Recorded Forest Area (RFA) refers to all the geographic areas recorded as forest in government records. Recorded forest areas comprises Reserved Forests (RF) and Protected Forests (PF), which have been constituted under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
      • According to India State of Forest Report (2011), timber production from government forests is 3.17 million m³ and potential timber production from TOFs is 42.77 million m³. India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is a biennial publication of Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organization under the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change.
    • The Supreme Court ruling in the Godavarman Case, 1996 stopping felling of trees in forest areas led to decrease in domestic production of timber.
    • Production forestry should focus on sustainable increase in forest productivity from TOFs and RFAs.
    • To boost production through RFA States must devise working plans and demarcate 10% of the forests for plantations.
    • For TOFs, a synchronised nationwide policy could be developed.
    • Increasing wood production will also push carbon sequestration, and help in mitigating effects of climate change.
    • Increasing timber production from TOFs can revive the rural economy.
  • Review of Import-Export Policy: Since the domestic timber production has declined and imports have increased manifolds, there is a need to review Export-Import Policy.
    • The domestic demand of timber has grown owing to increasing population and per capita GDP. Dependency on imports is not viable as exporters worldwide are shifting to a conservation-based approach.
    • The Export Import Policy should be reviewed to rectify the pricing in the market so that it is economically viable to grow trees on farmlands,
    • Export Import Policy or better known as Exim Policy is a set of guidelines and instructions related to the import and export of goods. The Government of India notifies the Exim Policy for a period of five years under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation Act), 1992.
  • Revision of Indian Forest Policy: The paper emphasized on revising the Indian Forest Policy to boost domestic production.
    • The conservation policies must focus on maintaining ecological balance and improving biodiversity through protected area management.
    • The restoration policies must target reclamation, rehabilitation and regeneration of degraded landscapes and wastelands.

Background

  • India’s forests are currently governed by the National Forest Policy, 1988
  • It has environmental balance and livelihood at its centre.
  • Salient Features and Goals:
    • Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance.
    • Conservation of Natural Heritage (existing).
    • Checking Soil Erosion and Denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
    • Checking extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts.
    • Substantially increasing Forest/Tree Cover through Afforestation and Social Forestry.
    • Taking steps to meet requirements of fuel, wood, fodder, minor forest produces, soil and timber of Rural and Tribal Population.
    • Increasing the productivity of Forests to meet National Needs.
    • Encouraging efficient utilization of Forest Produce and Optimum Use of Wood (Timber).
    • Generation of Work Opportunities, the involvement of Women.
  • Criticism: It has not been updated in a long time while the situation of forests and climate has substantially changed.
    • Key policies regarding forests and forest management are either missing, delayed or left open-ended. For example, at present, there is no clear definition of forest that is accepted nationally and states are left to determine their definition of forests.
  • A draft National Forest Policy was released in 2019. The basic thrust of the draft is conservation, protection and management of forests along with safeguarding the interest of tribals and forest-dependent people.
  • Other Legislations that Govern Indian Forests:

Forestry in India

  • According to India State of Forest Report, 2019, tree and forest cover together made up 24.56% (8,07,276 sq km) of India's area/
  • In landmark 1996 Godavarman Case, the Supreme Court defined forests as all areas that are forests in the dictionary meaning of the term irrespective of the nature of ownership and classification thereof.
    • The court also ordered all non-forest activity like sawmills and mining to be suspended in forest areas and stopped felling of trees in this order.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds are included in the Concurrent List in the (Seventh Schedule) of the Constitution of India.
      • Through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds were transferred from State to Concurrent List along with Education, Weights & Measures and Administration of Justice.
    • Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests and Wildlife.
    • Article 48 A in the Directive Principles of State policy, mandates that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

Source: TH

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