From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : REDD+
Mains level : Paper 3- Ensuring participation of people to achieve desired target of carbon sequestration
India’s pledge to set a net-zero target by 2070, at the COP26 summit, Glasgow, has again highlighted the importance of forests to help mitigate the challenges of climate change.
Need for sustainable management of forests
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) framework (2013) of REDD+ for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation has highlighted the importance of forest along with the ‘sustainable management of forests for the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks’.
- Land-based sinks: In a study by Griscom (2017), land-based sinks (natural climate solutions which also include forests) can provide up to 37% of emission reduction and help in keeping the global temperature below 2° C.
- Natural regeneration model: Recent research has favoured a natural regeneration model of restoration over the existing much-hyped mode of tree planting as such forests are said to secure nearly 32% carbon storage, as per one report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Degradation and deforestation in India
- As per the State of Forests Report (1989), the country had 2,57,409 sq.km (7.83% of its geographical area) under the open forest category, having a density of 10% to less than 40%.
- However, in 30 years (2019) this has been increased to 3,04,499 sq. km (9.26%).
- This means every year on average, nearly 1.57 lakh hectare of forests was degraded.
- Anthropogenic pressure: This degradation highlights the presence of anthropogenic pressures including encroachment, grazing, fire, which our forests are subjected to.
Need for the participation of people to achieve target of carbon sequestration
- The degradation warrants the participation of people as an essential and effective route to achieve the desired target of carbon sequestration through the restoration of forests.
- As envisaged in National Forest Policy, 1988, India made its attempt, in 1990, to engage local communities in a partnership mode while protecting and managing forests and restoring wastelands with the concept of care and share.
- Later, the concept of forest development agencies was introduced to consolidate the efforts in an autonomous model.
- Creation of joint forest management committees: The efforts to make this participatory approach operative resulted in the formation of nearly 1.18 lakh joint forest management committees managing over 25 million hectares of forest area.
- Most of these became active and operative while implementing various projects financed by external agencies such as the World Bank, the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) Japan, the Department for International Development (DFID) United Kingdom and the European Union (EU).
- A similar system of joint management in the case of national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves which existed in the name of eco-development committees initially proved effective.
- However, the completion of the project period and lack of subsequent funding affected their functionality and also the protection of forests due to a lack of support from participating local communities including associated non-governmental organisations.
- Customary participation: Except for the National Mission for Green India, in all other centrally sponsored programmes such as Project Tiger, fire management, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) including the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), the lack of priority and policy support to ensure the participation of local communities via the institutions of joint forest management committees slowly made their participation customary.
- This caused a gradual decline in their effectiveness.
- Role change: The role of local institutions of gram panchayat or joint forest management committees is now restricted to be a consultative institution instead of being partners in planning and implementation.
- Implications of role change: This indifference and alienation from the participatory planning and implementation of various schemes
- Revisit legal and policy mechanism: To achieve net-zero targets there is a need to revisit our existing legal and policy mechanisms.
- Incentivise local communities: We also need to incentivise the local communities appropriately and ensure fund flow for restoration interventions.
- There is a need for duly providing for the adequate participation of local people in planning and implementation through local institutions.
- Replicate Telangana model: Political priority and appropriate policy interventions as done recently in Telangana by amending the panchayat and municipal acts and creating a provision for Telangana Haritha Nidhi need replication in other States.
- Financial and institutional support mechanisms: These should be supported by enabling financial and institutional support mechanisms and negotiations with stakeholders
- Though India did not become a signatory of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, the considerations of land tenure and the forest rights of participatory communities with accelerated finances will help aid steps in the race toward net zero.
Consider the question “India is witnessing enormous degradation of forests and deforestation. This warrants the participation of people as an essential and effective route to achieve the desired target of carbon sequestration. In context of this, elaborate the importance of people participation and suggest the way forward.”
This inclusive approach with political prioritisation will not only help reduce emissions but also help to conserve and increase ‘our forest cover’ to ‘a third of our total area’. It will also protect our once rich and precious biological diversity.