The draft forest policy, 2018 has been released recently. But, it has attracted more criticism than compliments. Critically analyse the various contentions leveled against the policy. (250 W/ 15 M)

Mentors Comment:

It has been in news since 2016 and new draft has been released this year. Its an important question for Mains- 2018.

The question requires you to discuss the significance, consequences, shortcomings etc of draft national forest policy.

In the introduction write 2-3 lines why there was a need for new forest policy and how the new policy might address some important issues today.   

In the body, divide answer into 5-6 categories – Role of private players, urban green, economic value, forest management etc. Within them write significance, consequences, and it will be your positive side of the arguments for the draft.

Then mention various shortcomings that have been raising against the policy.

In the conclusion, press the need for implementation of these policies along with the addressing the genuine concerns of the stakeholders against some features of the draft policy.


Model Answer:

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) recently released the draft National Forest Policy 2018. The draft forest policy, 2018 will be an overarching policy for forest management. Currently National forest policy of 1988 is being followed. The new policy is in line with the present realities of climate change , wildlife and forest management.

Key Features:

  • It aims at bringing a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover.
  • Institutional Setup: The Draft suggests establishing two institutions National Community Forest Management and National Board Of Forestry for better management of country’s forest resources.
  • Soil and water conservation measures: The draft suggests stabilising sensitive catchment areas by soil and water conservation measures and planting suitable trees and grasses that help in conservation and water recycling.
  • Agro-Forestry Industry: The draft aims at promoting agroforestry and farm forestry industries that would generate employment and also would be beneficial for conservation.
  • Programme Integration: The draft bill aims at integrating programmes that satisfy both aspects-forest management and climate control.
  • PPP Model: The draft suggests that the surplus land that is degraded and underutilised will me managed to produce timber under ppp model for afforestation and reforestation measures.
  • Urban Cover: The draft aims at increasing urban cover to deal with urban problems such as climate change and pollution.

Concerns with the policy:

  • Draft forest policy recognises the challenge of climate change but persists with the outdated approach on plantations.
  • The draft NFP 2018 mentions major forestry issues ailing the forest sector, but it doesn’t provide answers to them as to how these objectives will be achieved considering the competitive demands for forestlands.
  • NFP ignores FRA, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests.
  • There are concerns for launching a parallel forest managing committee, National Community Forest Management. The parallel management goes against the spirit of FRA.
  • This move will bring back the forest department as the final authority over using forest resources instead of forest dwellers and communities dependent on them.
  • It talks about increasing forests, including for commercial purposes, through PPP, but it does not create a mechanism for including those who live around forests.
  • Also fragmentation of forests due to the ill-planned intrusion of developmental projects is being left unattended.
  • People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) and Biodiversity Management Committees are not integrated which in turn will fail in setting up a system of efficient natural area monitoring.
  • The draft overlooks the ecological and social implications of carbon and production forestry and the need for decentralised democracy.
  • Although the draft policy mentions the importance of forests in Northeast India, it fails to address the forest diversion issues for projects in the region.

Ways to improve upon it:

  • FRA and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act should be implemented properly to reap in the benefits of NFP.
  • Involve local communities for managing forests
  • Clarity on definition of forest is needed.
  • Better identification of forest cover than the concept of green cover that we have right now.
  • Immediate implementation of Gadgil report on western ghats.

The need of the hour is proper implementation of new forest policy as it was due from many years. This would help in addressing India’s targets such as Paris Accord and SDG goals. The stakeholders must ensure that policies are well planned and implemented ironing out the deficiencies raised by various experts.