Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

New Study Unveils the Origins and Challenges of Baobab Trees

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Baobab Trees and its conservation status

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

A recent study uncovers the origins and evolution of Baobabs, uniquely shaped trees in Madagascar, with species also native to Africa and Australia.

Do you know?

  • Mandu, in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, is perhaps the only place in India where baobab trees are found in abundance, with an estimated 1,000 trees in the periphery of the town.
  • Madhya Pradesh state government has plans to apply for a GI (Geographical Indication) tag for the Khorasani Imli or the fruit of the baobab.
  • A Baobab tree near the Golconda Fort in Andhra Pradesh is believed to be more than 400 years old.
  • Aside from Mandu, baobab trees have been recorded in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh, Wai in Maharashtra, and some places in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

About Baobab Trees

  • Baobabs are deciduous trees (that lose their leaves in autumn) belonging to the genus Adansonia. It comprises 8 distinct species:
    • Adansonia digitata in continental Africa.
    • Adansonia gregorii in Northwestern Australia.
    • 6 other species endemic to Madagascar.
  • Baobabs are known for:
    • Great heights, with some extending up to 50 metres.
    • Exceptionally long lifespans, going up to 2,000 years.
  • They have trunks with large circumferences; thin, spindly branches.
  • Nicknamed “upside down” trees because their tops resemble uprooted plants turned upside down.

Conservation Status:

  • Threatened’ with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Least Concern’ category but still faces threats such as residential and commercial development and livestock farming and ranching.

Importance of Conservation:

  • The study emphasized the conservation of the baobab as a keystone species:
    • Keystone species provide essential resources, such as food or shelter, for a guild of animals.
    • In return, these animals provide essential services, such as pollination or diaspore dispersal.

Why Baobab tree is called the “Mother of Forests”?

  • They can store large amounts of fresh water in their extraordinary trunks.
  • It also allows the baobab tree to produce nutritious fruits even during the driest years.
  • This makes them true life savers during times when water is scarce.
  • In local cultures, they are revered for multiple uses:
    • Edible fruits and seeds.
    • Seed oil used for cooking.
    • Bark fibre used for clothing.

 

PYQ:

[2021] “Leaf litter decomposes faster than in any other biome and as a result the soil surface is often almost bare. Apart from trees, the vegetation is largely composed of plant forms that reach up into the canopy vicariously, by climbing the trees or growing as epiphytes, rooted on the upper branches of trees.” This is the most likely description of​-

(a) Coniferous forest

(b) Dry deciduous forest

(c) Mangrove forest

(d) Tropical rain forest

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Preserving Rajasthan’s Semal Trees 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Semal Trees and its habitat

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

Despite its ecological importance, rampant harvesting of Semal Trees for bonfires poses a grave threat to their existence, undermining biodiversity and cultural heritage alike.

About Semal/ Silk Cotton Trees

  • The Semal tree, scientifically known as Bombax ceiba, is a deciduous tropical tree.
  • It is native to India, South-East Asia, and Northern Australia.
  • It can grow up to 60 meters tall. It has a distinctive straight trunk, often with spiky thorns, and a wide, spreading canopy.
  • It produces vivid red flowers that are large and attractive, making it quite conspicuous when in bloom.
  • The fruit of the Semal tree is a capsule that contains several seeds surrounded by a fibrous, cotton-like substance which is wind-dispersed.

Commercial Uses

  • The fibers extracted from the fruit, known as kapok, are used for stuffing pillows, mattresses, and life jackets due to their buoyancy and insulating properties.
  • The wood is soft and is often used for making paper, while in rural areas, it is used as fuelwood and for making cheap furniture.

Ecological Significance

  • Members of tribal communities consume the tree’s reddish root for food during the monsoons.
  • Larvae of the moth Bucculatrix crateracma feed on its leaves.
  • The golden-crowned sparrow weaves the lining of its nests with white cotton from its seeds.

Felling of a Semal Tree: Which laws are violated?

  1. Rajasthan Forest Act 1953: This act prohibits various activities in reserved forests without prior permission. Specifically, it bars any unauthorized person from felling, uprooting, damaging, or otherwise harming trees. Violating these prohibitions can lead to penalties including imprisonment, fines, or both, depending on the severity of the offence. Semal tree is not recorded in the state’s list of ‘rare, threatened, and endangered’ species. (Trees on this list enjoy priority conservation efforts.) (Indian Kanoon)​
  2. Forest (Conservation) Act 1980: This act is more comprehensive at the national level and was enacted to provide for the conservation of forests and to regulate deforestation. It requires that any non-forest use of forest land must have prior approval from the Central Government. This includes clearances for felling trees, which are only granted under specific conditions that ensure the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources.​ (UNEPLawEnvAssistantPlat)​

PYQ:

[2015] In India, in which one of the following types of forests is teak a dominant tree species?

(a) Tropical moist deciduous forest

(b) Tropical rainforest

(c) Tropical thorn scrub forest

(d) Temperate forest with grasslands

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19th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF19) in New York

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climatization of Forests;

Mains level: Climate change; International Institution on Biodiversity and Conservation;

Why in the news? 

Recently, during the 19th Session (10th May 2024) of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF19) in New York, a significant report titled “International Forest Governance” was published.

About International Forest Governance: 

  • The report “Critical Review of Trends, Drawbacks, and New Approaches” authored by the Science-Policy Programme (SciPol) of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) was released.
  • It marked the first global synthesis on international forest governance in 14 years.

The report exposes the rising trend of ‘Climatization’ of forests:

About Climatization of forests: 

  • Shift in Emphasis: The trend involves a notable shift in focus towards valuing forests primarily as carbon sinks, rather than recognizing their essential ecological and social functions.
  • Carbon Sequestration Priority: Political and financial orientations have increasingly prioritized carbon sequestration in forests as a means to address climate change issues. This emphasis often leads to the overshadowing of other aspects of forest management.
  • Neglect of Long-Term Sustainability: The emphasis on carbon sequestration may result in neglecting the long-term sustainability of forests. Forest management strategies that prioritize carbon storage may not necessarily align with broader ecological and social sustainability goals.

Risks and their impacts:

  • Ongoing Crises: Despite efforts to reduce deforestation, significant challenges persist, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and socio-economic inequalities. These crises pose substantial threats to global sustainability and well-being.
  • Commodification Risks: The commodification of forests for carbon capture introduces risks that may exacerbate existing inequalities and hinder effective forest management practices.

Market-based Versus Non-market Approaches:

  • Market-Based Solutions: There has been significant traction in market-based solutions such as forest carbon trading and zero-deforestation supply chains. These approaches aim to incentivize sustainable forest management practices through economic mechanisms.
  • Exacerbation of Inequities: Despite their popularity, market-based solutions may exacerbate existing inequities within forest governance systems. Certain stakeholders or regions may benefit disproportionately, while others may be marginalized or disadvantaged.
  • Non-market mechanisms: As an alternative, non-market mechanisms, including state regulation and community-led initiatives, are suggested to offer more just and effective pathways for forest governance.

Policy recommendations as per the Report:

  • Holistic Valuation of Forests: Policymakers should reevaluate forests beyond their role as carbon sinks, recognizing their multifaceted ecological, social, and economic values.
  • Equitable Governance: Policymakers should prioritize inclusive decision-making processes that ensure the voices of marginalized groups, such as indigenous and local communities, are heard and respected.
  • Protection of Rights and Livelihoods: Policies should prioritize the protection of the rights and livelihoods of resource-dependent communities.

Way Forward: 

  • Integrated Forest Management: Governments and international organizations should adopt integrated approaches to forest management that recognize and balance the ecological, social, and economic values of forests.
  • Strengthening Governance Structures: Policymakers should work to strengthen governance structures at local, national, and international levels to ensure more equitable decision-making processes.

Mains PYQ:

Q Examine the status of forest resources of India and its resultant impact on climate change. (UPSC 2020)

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Chunk of India’s forests ‘missing’ after 27-year-delay to file reports | Analysis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Unclassed forests;

Mains level: Forest coverage in India; Issues related to identification and protection of unclassed forests;

Why in the news?

SC ordered MoEFCC to upload State Expert Committee reports on unclassed forests due to concerns over the Forest (Conservation) Act Amendment 2023 constitutionality, impacting protection and potential diversion of these forests.

What are unclassed forests?

  • Unclassed forests, also known as deemed forests, are forest areas that may belong to various entities such as government bodies (forests, revenue departments, railways), communities, or private owners. However, these forest areas have not been officially notified as forests.
  • The State Expert Committees (SECs) were tasked with identifying all such unclassed forests across the country (referring to Forest Working Plans and Land Revenue Records).
  • Additionally, SECs were required to physically identify any land patches that exhibit characteristics of forests, as per the dictionary meaning of forests, irrespective of their ownership status.

What are the present issues?

  1. The missing forests in SECs 
  • Undermined the previous judgment: MoEFCC informed a Parliamentary Committee that SECs had identified unclassed forests, aligning with the proposed Forest (Conservation) Act Amendment, despite earlier criticism that the law undermined the Godavarman judgment.
    • However, an RTI application revealed that MoEFCC claimed not to have the SEC reports, raising questions about its assurance to the Parliamentary Committee.
  • Lack of verified data: Following a Supreme Court order, MoEFCC uploaded the SEC reports, but they showed a lack of verifiable data on the identification, status, and location of unclassed forests.
  • States not constituted SECs: Seven states and Union Territories, including Goa, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu, hadn’t constituted SECs, while others hadn’t fully complied with Supreme Court directives.
  • Non-traceable Forest: Ladakh formed an SEC only after the dissolution of Jammu & Kashmir, and Puducherry’s report was declared “not traceable”, further highlighting inconsistencies in the process.
  1. Disagreement with FSI data 
  • Insufficient timeline: Many states argue that the one-month timeline provided by the Supreme Court was insufficient for comprehensive work due to the voluminous nature of the task.
  • Relied on Existing data: Instead of conducting ground-truthing, physical cadastral surveys, and demarcation of unclassed forest lands, most states relied on existing data from forest and revenue departments. Some states, like Manipur and Sikkim, simply quoted figures from the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
  • Question on Data: The reliability of data is questioned, with Haryana’s report lacking clarity on data sources and creation dates. Only nine states provided the extent of unclassed forests, while others focused on different types of forest areas specified in the order.
  1. Lack of clarity in the Reports:
  • Failed to specify the geographic locations: Most states and UTs failed to specify the geographic locations of forests in their SEC reports, rendering the information provided largely unhelpful for accurate identification and protection.
    • But Tripura was an exception, providing Khaitan numbers for forest areas beyond those officially recorded, but the classification of land remained unclear.
  • Lack of on-ground verification: SEC is lagging that on-ground verification may have led to the widespread destruction of forests that should have been identified and protected nearly three decades ago.
    • Instances like Kerala’s SEC excluding ecologically significant areas like Pallivasal unreserve and Chinnakanal unreserve, critical for wildlife corridors and conservation, showcase the lack of diligence in identifying and protecting vital forest areas.

Suggested Measures:

  • Extended Timeline: Provide states with a more realistic timeline to conduct comprehensive surveys and data verification, considering the voluminous nature of the task and the need for accuracy.
  • Ground Truthing and Surveys: Mandate states to conduct ground-truthing, physical cadastral surveys, and demarcation of unclassed forest lands to ensure accurate identification and mapping of forest areas.
  • Data Verification: Implement mechanisms for verifying and cross-referencing data obtained from various sources, such as forest and revenue departments and the Forest Survey of India, to ensure reliability and consistency.

Main PYQ: 

Q Examine the status of forest resources of India and its resultant impact on climate change.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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50 Years of Chipko Movement

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Chipko Movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Appiko Movement (Karnataka), Silent Valley Movement (Kerala)

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Chipko Movement, initiated in Uttarakhand in early 1973, commemorates its 50th anniversary.

About Chipko Movement

  • The Chipko Movement originated in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand (then part of the state of Uttar Pradesh) in India.
  • It was triggered by the deforestation activities carried out by contractors, which threatened the livelihoods of local communities and led to environmental degradation.
  • It is said to be inspired by the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan. The Bishnois are known for their environmentalism. (non-violent resistance)
  • The movement derived its name from the act of villagers hugging trees and physically preventing them from being felled, thereby protecting the forests.
  • The movement was led by local activists, primarily women from rural areas, who played a significant role in its success. Prominent leaders included Sunderlal Bahuguna, Chandi Prasad Bhatt (founded an organization called Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal ) and Gaura Devi, among others.
  • Villagers used traditional methods of protest, such as forming circles around trees and tying sacred threads (rakhi) on them to symbolize their unity and commitment to conservation.
  • Recognition: Sunderlal Bahuguna, was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award.

Impact of Chipko Movement

  • It inspired similar movements in different parts of India, such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Appiko Movement (Karnataka) and the Silent Valley Movement.
  • It demonstrated the significance of Eco-Feminism and the impact that a non-violent, peaceful and environment-loving community can have.

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Norms tweaked for Green Credit Programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green Credit Programme (GCP)

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Union Environment Ministry has rolled out norms for the Green Credit Programme (GCP).

Guidelines and Modifications:

  1. The Environment Ministry’s recent guidelines empower ‘States’ to determine afforestation density based on local conditions, acknowledging the variability in forest ecosystems.
  2. Indigenous species are prioritized, and naturally occurring seedlings are retained to foster ecosystem resilience.

What is Green Credit Programme (GCP)?

  • The GCP as notified on October 13, 2023 by the government of India, is an innovative market-based mechanism.
  • This program is part of the broader ‘LiFE’ campaign (Lifestyle for Environment), and it encourages and rewards voluntary environmentally positive actions.
  • It involves various stakeholders like- individuals, farmers, communities, private sector industries, and companies.
  • The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), based in Dehradun, serves as the GCP Administrator, responsible for programme implementation, management, monitoring, and operation.
  • Initially, the GCP focuses on water conservation and afforestation.

What are Green Credits?

  • The green credit rules notified under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 defines ‘green credit’ as a single unit of an incentive provided for a specific activity that delivers a positive impact on the environment.
  • Each tree planted and evaluated by the ICFRE after two years could yield one ‘green credit,’ which can be utilized in two ways:
  1. Compliance with forest laws necessitating recompense for forest land diversion.
  2. Reporting under environmental, social, and governance norms or meeting corporate social responsibility requirements.

Notable Feature: Green Credit Registry

  • The ICFRE, alongside experts, is developing the Green Credit Registry and trading platforms to facilitate the registration, buying, and selling of green credits.
  • To obtain green credits, individuals and entities must register their activities through the central government’s dedicated app/website (www.moefcc-gcp.in).
  • The administrator verifies activities through a designated agency, with self-verification for small projects. Once verified, the administrator issues a tradeable green credit certificate.

Activities under GCP

The GCP includes numerous activities, such as:

Description
Tree Plantation-based Green Credit Promotes increasing the green cover through tree plantations and related activities.
Water-based Green Credit Promotes water conservation, harvesting, and efficiency, including wastewater treatment and reuse.
Sustainable Agriculture-based Green Credit Promotes natural and regenerative agricultural practices, land restoration, and soil health improvement.
Waste Management-based Green Credit Promotes sustainable waste management practices, including collection, segregation, and treatment.
Air Pollution Reduction-based Green Credit Promotes measures to reduce air pollution and other pollution abatement activities.
Mangrove Conservation and Restoration-based Green Credit Promotes conservation and restoration of mangroves, critical ecosystems for coastal protection and biodiversity.
Ecomark-based Green Credit Encourages manufacturers to obtain Ecomark labels for their goods and services, signifying environmental sustainability.
Sustainable Building and Infrastructure-based Green Credit Promotes sustainable practices in building and infrastructure development, including energy efficiency, renewable energy use, and eco-friendly construction materials.

Future prospects

The programme is currently in a pilot phase, with ongoing deliberations on:

  1. Quantifying the contributions of shrubs and grasses to green credits;
  2. Equivalence between green and carbon credits;
  3. Allocation of credits for compensatory afforestation.

PYQ:

[2011] Regarding “carbon credits”, which one of the following statements is not correct?

(a) The carbon credit system was ratified in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol

(b) Carbon credits are awarded to countries or groups that have reduced greenhouse gases below their emission quota

(c) The goal of the carbon credit system is to limit the increase of carbon dioxide emission

(d) Carbon credits are traded at a price fixed from time to time by the United Nations Environment Programme.

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Indian Laurel Tree (Terminalia tomentosa)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Konda Reddi Tribe, Indian Laurel Tree , PVTGs, Papikonda NP

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • Forest Department officials’ examination of an Indian laurel tree (Terminalia tomentosa) in Papikonda National Park has showcased its remarkable water storage capability.
  • This discovery sheds light on the indigenous knowledge shared by the Konda Reddi tribe regarding the tree’s unique attributes.

Konda Reddi Tribe

 

  • The Konda Reddis are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) residing in the Godavari riverbanks and the hilly forest areas of Godavari and Khammam districts in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The family structure is patriarchal and patrilocal, with monogamy as the norm with some exceptions.
  • The Konda Reddis are primarily Hindus with folk customs, which involves local traditions and worship of community-level deities.
  • They have their own social control institution called ‘Kula Panchayat’.
  • Each village has a traditional headman known as ‘Pedda Kapu’, whose role is hereditary.
  • Their primary occupation is shifting cultivation, relying on forest flora and fauna for sustenance.
  • Jowar cultivation is prevalent, serving as their staple food.
  • They collect and sell non-timber forest products like tamarind, adda leaves, myrobolan, and broomsticks to supplement their income.

 

About Papikonda NP

 

  • Papikonda NP is located in the East Godavari and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It was established as a national park in the year 2008.
  • It is characterized by hilly landscapes, dense moist deciduous forest.
  • The presence of the Godavari River cuts through the Papikonda hill range of Eastern Ghats.

 

About Indian Laurel Tree

Description
Scientific Name Terminalia tomentosa
Common Names Indian Laurel Tree, Crocodile Bark Tree, Anjan Tree
Habitat Found in Deciduous forests
Bark Scissored and cracked bark, resembling crocodile skin (From November to February)
Water Storage Ability Only 5-10% of trees observed to store water in the stem
Water Storage Mechanism Development of lateral ridge, known as a wing, on trunk, indicating water presence
Water Collection 4-6 litres of potable water can be collected from a fully grown tree by making a small hole in the wing
Traditional Use Used by tribal communities, such as the Konda Reddi Tribe, as a water source during dry seasons
Adaptability Thrives in various conditions, including harsh weather and drought

 

PYQ:

2015:

In India, in which one of the following types of forests is teak a dominant tree species?

(a) Tropical moist deciduous forest

(b) Tropical rain forest

(c) Tropical thorn scrub forest

(d) Temperate forest with grasslands

 

Practice MCQ:

The Indian Laurel Tree (Terminalia tomentosa) recently seen in news is famous for its:

(a) Ability to store water in its trunk

(b) Therapeutic use in the treatment of Cancer

(c) Aromatic Timber

(d) Pulp for paper industry

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Rajasthan’s Proposal to Classify Orans as Deemed Forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sacred Groves, Orans

Mains level: NA

sacred grove oran

In the news

  • A recent state government notification has struck fear in Rajasthan community dwellers about losing access to forest produce and livelihoods.
  • Communities, particularly those in western Rajasthan, are concerned about the state’s proposal to classify Oran, Dev-vans and Rundhs (sacred groves) as deemed forests.

What are Sacred Groves?

  • Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community.
  • It usually consists of a dense cover of vegetation including climbers, herbs, shrubs and trees, with the presence of a village deity and is mostly situated near a perennial water source.
  • Sacred groves are considered to be symbols of the primitive practice of nature worship and support nature conservation to a great extent.
  • The introduction of the protected area category community reserves under the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 has introduced legislation for providing government protection to community-held lands, which could include sacred groves.

Historical references

  • Indian sacred groves are often associated with temples, monasteries, shrines, pilgrimage sites, or with burial grounds.
  • Historically, sacred groves find their mentions in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts, from sacred tree groves in Hinduism to sacred deer parks in Buddhism for example.
  • Sacred groves may be loosely used to refer to natural habitat protected on religious grounds.
  • Other historical references to sacred groves can be obtained in Vrukshayurveda an ancient treatise, ancient classics such as Kalidasa’s Vikramuurvashiiya.
  • There has been a growing interest in creating green patches such as Nakshatravana

Regulation of activities in Sacred Grooves

  • Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches.
  • Other forms of forest usage like honey collection and deadwood collection are sometimes allowed on a sustainable basis.
  • NGOs work with local villagers to protect such groves.
  • Traditionally, and in some cases even today, members of the community take turns to protect the grove.

Threats to such grooves

  • Threats to the groves include urbanization and over-exploitation of resources.
  • While many of the groves are looked upon as abode of Hindu deities, in the recent past a number of them have been partially cleared for construction of shrines and temples.

Total grooves in India

  • Around 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings.
  • Experts believe that the total number of sacred groves could be as high as 100,000.
  • They are called by different names in different states:
  1. Sarna in Bihar
  2. Dev Van in Himachal Pradesh
  3. Devarakadu in Karnataka
  4. Kavu in Kerala
  5. Dev in Madhya Pradesh
  6. Devarahati or Devarai in Maharashtra
  7. Law Kyntang or Asong Khosi in Meghalaya
  8. Kovil Kadu or Sarpa Kavu in Tamil Nadu

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An undeclared war with nature

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: The Wildlife Trust of India

Mains level: human fatalities due to wildlife attacks

Wayanad: Eight killed in human-wildlife conflict in past 12 months, wayanad elephant attack, human wildlife conflict, kerala, wayanad, tuskers

Central Idea:

The article discusses the escalating human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, Kerala, attributing it to the loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation caused by human activities such as deforestation, monoculture plantations, and unchecked tourism. It emphasizes the urgent need for coordinated efforts from government departments and stakeholders to address the crisis and restore ecological balance in the region.

Key Highlights:

  • Recent tragic incidents involving human fatalities due to wildlife attacks, highlighting the severity of the conflict.
  • Decline in elephant corridors over the past two decades, leading to increased wildlife incursions into human settlements.
  • Impact of wildlife attacks on human lives, agriculture sector, and domestic animals.
  • Destructive effects of deforestation, monoculture plantations, and tourism on the ecosystem.
  • Failure of authorities to address concerns raised by scientists and activists regarding habitat management and conservation strategies.
  • Inadequate response from the government, including the lack of proper surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations.

Key Challenges:

  • Loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation due to human activities.
  • Escalating human-wildlife conflict resulting in fatalities and economic losses.
  • Lack of effective coordination among government departments and stakeholders.
  • Failure to enforce environmental laws and conservation measures.
  • Insufficient surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations.

Main Terms:

  • Human-wildlife conflict: Conflict arising from interactions between humans and wild animals, often due to habitat loss and encroachment.
  • Ecological connectivity: The uninterrupted movement of species between habitats, essential for maintaining biodiversity.
  • Habitat fragmentation: Division of natural habitats into smaller, isolated patches, disrupting wildlife movement and ecological processes.
  • Monoculture plantations: Agricultural or forestry practices where only one species is cultivated, leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Ecotourism: Tourism focused on visiting natural areas while conserving the environment and improving the well-being of local people.
  • Wildlife corridors: Strips of habitat connecting fragmented patches, facilitating the movement of wildlife.

Important Phrases:

  • “Loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation”
  • “Escalating human-wildlife conflict”
  • “Destructive effects of deforestation and monoculture plantations”
  • “Failure of authorities to address concerns”
  • “Inadequate response from the government”

Quotes:

  • “In a war with nature, no human would survive.”
  • “The continuous struggle of scientists and activists demanding the revival of habitat management has fallen on deaf ears.”
  • “The recent Operation Jumbo parade captured nine elephants but lacked adequate surveillance and monitoring.”

Useful Statements:

  • “Loss of ecological connectivity due to habitat fragmentation exacerbates the human-wildlife conflict.”
  • “Government efforts must focus on coordinated strategies to address the crisis and restore ecological balance.”
  • “Failure to enforce environmental laws and conservation measures further aggravates the situation.”

Examples and References:

  • Recent incidents involving human fatalities due to wildlife attacks in Wayanad.
  • The Wildlife Trust of India’s report on elephant corridors.
  • Official data documenting human deaths and crop losses due to wildlife attacks.

Facts and Data:

  • Documented human deaths due to wildlife attacks in Wayanad in the last 10 years.
  • Cases of crop loss and domestic animal deaths due to wildlife incursions from 2017 to 2023.
  • Hectares of monoculture plantations out of total forest area in Wayanad.

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively highlights the interconnected factors contributing to the human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, emphasizing the role of human activities such as deforestation and unchecked tourism. However, it lacks detailed analysis of specific policy failures and potential solutions to address the crisis.

Way Forward:

  • Implement coordinated strategies involving government departments and stakeholders to restore ecological balance.
  • Enforce environmental laws and conservation measures to mitigate habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • Enhance surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations to prevent human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Promote sustainable land use practices and eco-friendly tourism initiatives to preserve natural habitats and biodiversity.

Answer the following question in comment box 

“How can governments, stakeholders, and communities combat escalating human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, Kerala, addressing habitat loss, deforestation, and tourism? Additionally, how can they restore ecological balance, mitigate economic losses, and ensure safety for both humans and wildlife?”

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Supreme Court’s Interim Order on Forest Definition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Godavarman Judgement, Forest Definition

Mains level: Forest land-use management

forest

Introduction

  • The Supreme Court issued an interim order on February 19, 2024, emphasizing that states and Union territories (UTs) must adhere to the Definition of ‘Forest’ as established in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Union of India judgement of 1996.
  • This order came during the hearing of a public interest litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Forest (Conservation) Act, which was amended by the Union government in 2023.

Why such move?

  • The petitioners highlighted concerns that the 2023 amendment had narrowed the expansive definition of ‘forest’ provided in the Godavarman judgement.
  • They argue that this move potentially aims at diverting forest lands for non-forest use.

What is Godavarman Judgement?

  • The Godavarman Judgment is a landmark environmental case in India, first heard in the Supreme Court in 1996, commonly referred to as the “Godavarman Case.”
  • Originating as a PIL filed by Mr Godavarman, a retired forest officer, it addressed concerns about forest degradation due to various developmental activities without proper environmental clearances.

Key Legal and Regulatory Framework

  • Forest Conservation Act (FCA) and Rules: The case primarily interprets and implements the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981, aiming at forest conservation and wildlife protection.
  • Powers of Central Government: The FCA empowers the central government to declare areas as “reserved forest” or “protected forest,” prohibiting non-forest activities without prior approval. It extends to all forests in India, not just declared reserves.
  • Defining Forest: The order defined as any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of the ownership. This definition is broad and encompasses any area recorded as a forest in government records, regardless of its legal status or ownership.
  • Analysis:
  1. Diversion of Forest Land: The case tackled the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes, emphasizing compliance with the law and due diligence.
  2. Extent of Central Government’s Powers: It clarified that the central government’s authority under the FCA extends to all forests, irrespective of ownership, emphasizing stringent regulation.
  3. Emphasis on Sustainable Development: The court stressed the importance of sustainable development in forest conservation and protecting the rights of forest dwellers and tribal communities.

Impact of the Judgement

  • Strengthening Forest Conservation Laws: The case led to stricter interpretation and implementation of forest laws, focusing on conservation and protection.
  • Increased Judicial Role in Environmental Governance: It established the judiciary as a watchdog in environmental governance, promoting public scrutiny of environmental decisions.
  • Protection of Forest Lands: Resulted in the cancellation of projects diverting forest land, contributing to biodiversity conservation.
  • Recognition of Rights: Emphasized the recognition and protection of rights of forest dwellers and tribal communities.
  • Promotion of Sustainable Development: Highlighted the importance of balancing economic development with environmental protection.

Criticism of the Judgement

  • Hindrance to Economic Development: Criticized for hindering economic development and displacing communities.
  • Role of Judiciary: Criticized for causing delays in decision-making and project implementation.

Key Points of the Recent Order

  • Adherence to 1996 Order: The bench, led by CJI emphasized that states and Union territories (UTs) must adhere to the definition of ‘forest’ as per the Godavarman judgement until the completion of the process of land recorded as ‘forests’ in government records.
  • Recording Forest Land: State and UT administrations are directed to prepare records on forest land within a year from the notification of the 2023 amendment as per Rule 16 of the Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Rules, 2023.
  • Expert Committees: The Union government is instructed to provide a comprehensive record of land registered as ‘forest’ by expert committees constituted by states and UTs within two weeks.
  • Compliance Deadline: All states and UTs must comply with the directions by forwarding the reports of the expert committees by March 31, 2024.

Additional Directions

  • Zoo and Safari Establishment: Any proposal for the establishment of zoos and safaris in forest areas other than protected areas shall not be finally approved without prior permission from the Supreme Court.
  • Exemption Clause: Section 5 of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, exempts zoos and safaris from the definition of ‘forests’ within forest areas, excluding protected areas.
  • Government Undertaking: The Union government submitted an undertaking that no precipitative steps would be taken concerning forest areas as per the dictionary sense, in line with the Godavarman judgement.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s interim order underscores the importance of preserving forest lands as per the Godavarman judgement and ensuring compliance with environmental protection measures.
  • It aims to safeguard the ecological balance and prevent misuse of forest resources for non-forest purposes.

Back2Basics: Universal Definition of Forest

  • As per the Conference of Parties (CoP) 9-Kyoto Protocol, the forest can be defined by any country depending upon the capacities and capabilities of the country.
  • Forest- Forest is defined structurally on the basis of
  1. Crown cover percentage: Tree crown cover- 10 to 30% (India 10%)
  2. Minimum area of stand: area between 0.05 and 1 hectare (India 1.0 hectare) and
  3. Minimum height of trees: Potential to reach a minimum height at maturity in situ of 2 to 5 m (India 2m)

India’s definition of Forests

The definition of forest cover has clearly been defined in all the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) and in all the International communications of India.

  • The forest cover is defined as ‘all land, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status.
  • Such land may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm’.

Classification of forest cover

In ISFR 2021 recently published has divided the forest cover as:

  1. Inside Recorded Forest Area: These are basically natural forests and plantations of Forest Department.
  2. Outside Recorded Forest Area: These cover mango orchards, coconut plantations, block plantations of agroforestry.

Forest Survey of India (FSI) Classification

  • FSI classifies forest cover in 4 classes.
  1. Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  2. Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  3. Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  4. Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.

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Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary Notification: Implications for Forest Communities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Rights Act, 2006 and its key provisions; Forest Villages

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • Triggering Concerns: Recently, the notification about the Thanthai Periyar Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district worried nearby forest communities.
  • Potential Rights Denial: Residents fear losing their rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) due to the sanctuary’s establishment.

About Forest Rights Act, 2006

Description
Purpose Recognizes and vests forest rights and occupation in Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD).
Recognition Criteria
  • Forest rights can be claimed by FDST and OTFD who have been residing in forest land for generations.
  • Members or communities must have resided in forest land for at least three generations (75 years) prior to December 13, 2005.
Types of Forest Rights Recognized
  • Title rights: Ownership rights to land farmed by them, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
  • Use rights: Rights to extract Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, etc.
  • Relief and development rights: Provides for rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and access to basic amenities.
  • Forest management rights: Includes the right to protect, regenerate, conserve, or manage any community forest resource traditionally protected and conserved for sustainable use.
Authority
  • Gram Sabha
  • It is responsible for initiating the process for determining Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR).
Empowerment
  • Aims to strengthen the conservation regime of forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of FDST and OTFD.
Historical Injustices Addressed
  • Recognition of historical injustices faced by forest-dwelling communities
  • Empowerment of forest-dwellers for sustainable resource use and livelihood security
Issues
  • Predominant focus on individual rights, neglecting community rights
  • Poor recognition of Individual Forest Rights (IFRs) and Community Forest Rights (CFRs)

 

What are Forest Villages?

  • Definition: Forest villages are settlements located within forest areas, inhabited predominantly by tribal and indigenous communities.
  • Historical Context: These villages have often existed for generations, with residents relying on forest resources for their livelihoods.
  • Conversion Mandate: In 1990, the government ordered all forest villages to become revenue villages, aiming to formalize their status and grant them legal recognition.
  • Incomplete Conversion: Despite these orders, the conversion process remains unfinished in many areas, leaving forest dwellers without essential rights and facilities.

Rights Admitted in the Sanctuary

  • Continuation of Rights: The notification recognizes rights granted under previous laws and the FRA, ensuring some rights for individuals.
  • Implementation Challenges: Tamil Nadu has struggled to enforce the FRA effectively, casting doubt on its implementation within the sanctuary.

Impact on Forest Communities

  • Grazing Restrictions: The ban on cattle grazing within the sanctuary could affect the traditional grazing practices of forest-dwelling communities.
  • Legal Discrepancies: Prohibiting grazing conflicts with the FRA’s recognition of grazing rights, highlighting inconsistencies in policy.

Legal Framework and Challenges

  • WLPA Provisions: Sanctuaries and national parks are governed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) 1972, which mandates protecting rights within them.
  • FRA Supremacy: The FRA overrides conflicting provisions of the WLPA, emphasizing the need to balance conservation with community rights.
  • Implementation Gaps: Despite legal frameworks, inadequate enforcement of the FRA persists, undermining the rights of forest communities.

Tamil Nadu’s FRA Implementation

  • Low Recognition Rate: Tamil Nadu has a poor record in recognizing forest rights, with only a fraction of entitled areas acknowledged under the FRA.
  • National Context: Similar challenges exist nationwide, indicating systemic failures in upholding forest rights and conservation mandates.

Conclusion

  • Urgent Action Needed: Addressing the concerns of forest-dwelling communities and ensuring compliance with legal provisions are crucial for sustainable forest management.
  • Harmonizing Conservation and Rights: Balancing conservation goals with the rights of forest communities is essential for fair and effective forest governance.
  • Call for Accountability: Authorities must prioritize implementing laws and policies that protect both forests and the rights of those dependent on them, promoting environmental justice and social equity.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Consider the following statements:

  1. As per the recent amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, forest dwellers have the right to fell the bamboos grown on forest areas
  2. As per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, bamboo is a minor forest produce
  3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Forest Rights) Act, 2006 allows ownership of minor forest produce to forest dwellers

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Post your answers here.
0
Please leave a feedback on thisx

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Rethinking Tree Plantation Strategies in India: A Call for Policy Revision

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Afforestation in India

tree plantation

Introduction

  • National and International Commitments: Tree planting by state forest departments is propelled by India’s National Forest Policy, global restoration commitments, and central government initiatives like the Green India Mission.
  • Forest Cover Targets: The emphasis on forest cover in financial allocations by the Finance Commission further motivates states to increase forested areas.

Geographical and Ecological Context

  • Tropical Dry Forest Biome: Over three-fifths of India, spanning from the Shivaliks in the north to the Eastern Ghats in Tamil Nadu, falls under this biome.
  • Sparse Tree Cover and Drought-Prone Areas: This region, characterized by sparse tree cover and less than 1,000 mm of annual rainfall, is susceptible to drought.
  • Dependence of Rural Population: These landscapes are crucial for cattle grazing and support endangered fauna like wolves, striped hyenas, and blackbucks.

Recent Trends in Forest Cover Expansion

  • Significant Increase in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: Between 2006 and 2015, these states collectively added significant forest cover, further augmented by Telangana through schemes like Haritha Haram.
  • Satellite Imagery and Dense Plantations: To be detected by satellite, dense plantations of fast-growing species like teak, eucalyptus, and bamboo are favored over natural sparse canopy.

Consideration for Tree Plantation

  • Site Selection: Choose appropriate locations such as public parks, schools, and degraded lands for tree plantation. Focus on areas with adequate sunlight, proper drainage, and enough space for the tree to grow.
  • Native Tree Species: Opt for planting native tree species as they are well-adapted to the local climate and support the region’s biodiversity. Some popular choices in India include neem, banyan, peepal, mango, and teak.
  • Planting Season: The ideal time for tree plantation in most parts of India is during the monsoon season (June to September). This period provides sufficient rainfall, which helps with the establishment and growth of newly planted trees.

Challenges and Impacts of Current Tree Planting Practices

  • Questionable Forest Cover Targets: The 33% forest cover target lacks a scientific basis, as does the 26 million hectares target under the 2011 Bonn Challenge.
  • Negative Ecological Consequences: Excessive tree planting can lead to the loss of biodiverse grasslands and scrub ecosystems, impacting pastoral communities and water availability in river basins.

Recommendations for Policy Revision

  • Recognition of Varied Ecosystems: The 15th Finance Commission’s acknowledgement of diverse forest canopy densities is a positive step, but it overlooks the importance of grasslands and open scrub ecosystems.
  • Alternative Restoration Approaches: Restoring degraded lands to their original grassland or scrub states with native trees is more beneficial than creating monoculture plantations.
  • Revising National Forest Policy Targets: It’s crucial to update the target forest cover to promote the conservation of grasslands and open ecosystems in their natural state.
  • Beyond Satellite Imagery for Monitoring: Restoration programs should not solely rely on satellite imagery, as tree cover alone is not a comprehensive indicator of ecosystem health.

Conclusion

  • Need for Holistic Approaches: A top-down policy approach focused on tree planting can lead to long-term ecological imbalances and wasteful expenditures.
  • Balancing Ecological and Economic Goals: Revising tree plantation strategies and forest policies is essential to achieve ecological balance and protect diverse ecosystems, while also meeting economic objectives.
  • Incentivizing Conservation of Diverse Landscapes: Policies should incentivize the preservation of varied landscapes, including grasslands and scrublands, recognizing their ecological and economic value.

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An uphill struggle to grow the Forest Rights Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Rights Act features

Mains level: deeper understanding of the FRA's intent

Forest Rights Act, 2006 | IASbaba

Central idea

The Forest Rights Act (FRA) aims to rectify historical injustices faced by forest communities, addressing issues through individual and community forest rights. Implementation challenges, political opportunism, and bureaucratic resistance hinder the FRA’s potential to democratize forest governance. Despite recognizing past injustices, the FRA’s full realization faces obstacles.

Key Highlights:

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) and its Aim: The FRA, enacted in 2006, seeks to rectify historical injustices faced by forest-dwelling communities due to colonial forest policies.
  • Acknowledgment of Injustices: It recognizes the disruption caused by the colonial takeover of forests, imposition of eminent domain, and subsequent injustices post-Independence.
  • Addressing Issues through Recognition: The FRA tackles ‘encroachments,’ access, and control by recognizing individual and community forest rights, fostering decentralized forest governance.

Key Challenges:

  • Implementation Hurdles: Challenges include political opportunism, forester resistance, bureaucratic apathy, and a distorted focus on individual rights.
  • Concerns in Individual Rights Recognition: Shabby recognition of individual forest rights, especially in ‘forest villages,’ remains a concern.
  • Obstacles in Community Rights Recognition: Slow and incomplete recognition of community rights to access and manage forests (CFRs) faces opposition from the forest bureaucracy.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Defining Concepts: Individual Forest Rights (IFRs), Community Forest Rights (CFRs), ‘Forest encroachments,’ Eminent domain, ‘Grow More Food’ campaign, Net Present Value fees, Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980.

Key Quotes:

  • Highlighting the Lag in Delivering Promises: “17 years after it was enacted, the FRA has barely begun to deliver on its promise of freeing forest-dwellers from historic injustices.”
  • Opposition to CFRs: “The forest bureaucracy vehemently opposes CFRs as it stands to lose its zamindari (control).”

Key Statements:

  • FRA’s Remarkable Aspects: The FRA stands out for acknowledging historical injustices and providing redress through the recognition of individual and community forest rights.
  • Lacunas in Implementation: Implementation challenges include political misrepresentation, bureaucratic hindrance, and slow recognition of community rights.

Key Examples and References:

  • State Recognition of CFRs: Maharashtra, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh are highlighted as states recognizing CFRs, with Maharashtra enabling their activation through de-nationalizing minor forest produce.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Scale of Challenge: Estimates indicate that 70%-90% of the forests in central India should be under CFRs, emphasizing the magnitude of the challenge in implementing community rights.

Critical Analysis:

  • Addressing Issues in Individual Rights Focus: The article critiques the distorted focus on individual rights, digital processes causing hardships, and the forest bureaucracy’s opposition to community rights.
  • Importance of Understanding FRA’s Intent: Emphasizes the need for a deeper understanding of the FRA’s intent to address historical injustices and democratize forest governance.

Way Forward:

  • Comprehensive Recognition: To realize the FRA’s potential, there is a need for comprehensive recognition of both individual and community forest rights.
  • Appreciation of Intent: Political leaders, bureaucrats, and environmentalists must appreciate the spirit and intent of the FRA to ensure meaningful implementation and address historical injustices.

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[pib] Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has introduced the Indian Forest & Wood Certification Scheme to promote sustainable management of forests and trees outside forests.

Understanding Forest Certification

  • Definition: Forest certification is a process for evaluating the quality of timber, wood, pulp products, and non-timber forest products against set standards.
  • Purpose: It ensures that forest products are sourced from responsibly managed forests or recycled materials.

Forest and Wood Certification Scheme

  • Voluntary Certification: The scheme offers voluntary third-party certification to encourage sustainable forest management and agroforestry.
  • Certification Types: Includes Forest Management Certificates, Trees outside Forest Management Certificate, and chain of custody certification.
  • Standards: The Forest Management certification is based on the Indian Forest Management Standard, which includes 8 criteria, 69 indicators, and 254 verifiers.

Implementation and Oversight

  • Scheme Operating Agency: The Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, will manage the scheme.
  • Accreditation Body: The Quality Council of India will accredit certification bodies to assess adherence to the standards.
  • Advisory Council: The Indian Forest and Wood Certification Council, comprising members from various eminent institutions and ministries, will oversee the scheme.

Significance of Forest Certification

  • Buyer Assurance: Helps buyers identify products sourced from well-managed forests or recycled materials.
  • Discouraging Illegal Sources: Aims to reduce the use of supplies from illegal sources.
  • Holistic Benefits: Ensures that forest activities contribute to environmental, social, and economic benefits.

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Specie in news: Lantana Camara

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lantana Camara

Mains level: NA

Lantana Camara

Central Idea

  • In an exhibition in Bengaluru, sculptures of elephants made from Lantana camara gained popular attraction.

About Lantana Camara

  • Lantana camara, commonly known as lantana, belongs to the verbena family (Verbenaceae) and originates from the American tropics.
  • Lantana was introduced to India in the early 19th century as an ornamental plant during the British colonial period. Its colorful flowers made it popular in gardens.
  • This shrub has the ability to spread across forest floors, climb like a creeper over trees, and easily intertwine with native vegetation.
  • Lantana is highly adaptable, thriving in diverse ecosystems.

Impacts on Local ecosystem

  • Lantana’s invasive nature poses a serious threat to native flora and fauna. It competes with native plants for resources, often leading to a reduction in native biodiversity.
  • It forms dense thickets that alter the structure of habitats that impede the movement of animals and change the microhabitat conditions, such as light availability and soil composition.
  • It can invade agricultural land, reducing crop yields, and can also infest pastures, impacting grazing for livestock.
  • It is toxic to livestock and can cause health issues if ingested. This adds to the economic burden for farmers who need to ensure their animals do not graze on lantana-infested land.
  • The plant increases the risk of fire in the ecosystems it invades because it forms dense thickets that can easily catch and spread fire.

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Understanding the Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Conservation Amendment Act, 2023

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 has emerged with limited public discourse, raising concerns about its ramifications for forests and indigenous communities.
  • While aimed at addressing climate change and deforestation, the law’s provisions have sparked debates over forest utilization, economic gain, and the rights of forest dwellers, particularly indigenous communities.

Forest Conservation Amendment Act, 2023: Key Provisions

  • Focus Areas: The amendment emphasizes climate change mitigation and effective forest management, while also promoting afforestation.
  • Jurisdiction Changes: The law restricts its applicability to areas categorized under the 1927 Forest Act and those designated as such after October 25, 1980.
  • Exemptions: Forests converted for non-forest use after December 12, 1996, and those within 100 kilometers of the China-Pakistan border for potential linear projects are exempt.
  • Security Measures: The central government gains authority to construct security infrastructure in areas up to ten hectares, even extending to vulnerable zones of up to five hectares.
  • Economic Initiatives: Initiatives like ecotourism, safari, and environmental entertainment may be implemented to enhance forest-dependent livelihoods.

Motivation behind the Amendment

  • Godavarman Thirumulkpad Case: A landmark legal case in 1996 influenced the interpretation of forest land and led to the inclusion of private forests under the 1980 law.
  • Industrial Progress: Opposition to the law stemmed from concerns about hindering industrial growth and private landowners’ interests.
  • Debate and Controversy: The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill prompted extensive discussions but was passed with limited opposition, raising concerns among indigenous communities and human rights activists.

Prior Consent and Indigenous Rights

  • Amendments in 2016 and 2017: These stipulated mandatory prior consent from tribal grama sabha for non-forest alterations, a provision now removed.
  • State-Level Engagement: State governments may involve grama sabhas in decisions related to land acquisition but might be cautious due to perceived hindrance to economic initiatives.
  • Impact on Forest Rights Act (FRA): FRA implementation has faced challenges, with governments preferring to limit forest areas rather than amend the Act to address Adivasi claims.

Compensatory Afforestation Concerns

  • Ambiguities: Past issues with the Compensatory Afforestation Act have arisen from ambiguities and land shortages.
  • Environmental Implications: The new amendment mandates afforestation elsewhere for every parcel of land lost, but lacks specifications, leaving room for discretion.

Forest Governance and Federal Norms

  • Afforestation vs. Forest Governance: Financial incentives for afforestation projects clash with forest governance principles, and concurrent list governance practices contradict federal norms.
  • Security and Environmental Concerns: While internal environmental security is crucial, it often takes a backseat to external security threats, impacting States prone to natural disasters.

Conclusion

  • The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 raises complex issues related to forest governance, indigenous rights, and environmental security.
  • While aimed at addressing critical challenges, its implementation and impact on forest communities warrant careful consideration and debate to ensure a balanced approach to conservation and development.

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India’s Reforestation Legacy: A 200-Year Experiment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Reforestation measures for India

reforestation

Central Idea

  • India’s extensive history of tree planting spanning over two centuries offers valuable lessons on the consequences of various approaches to restoring forests.

Plantations in Colonial-Era India

  • British Influence: From the mid-18th century, the East India Company and later, the British Crown, held sway over India’s affairs. During this period, British authorities directed their attention to India’s forests to meet their substantial timber needs for railway sleepers and shipbuilding.
  • Indian Forest Act of 1865: To secure a steady supply of high-yield timber trees like teak, sal, and deodar, the British enacted the Indian Forest Act of 1865. This act placed many forests under state ownership and curtailed local communities’ rights to harvest beyond grass and bamboo, even restricting cattle grazing. In response, some Indian communities resorted to burning down forests.
  • Proliferation of Teak Monocultures: Teak, well-suited to India’s hot and humid climate and prized for its durable timber, spread aggressively. This led to the transformation of pristine grasslands and open scrub forests into teak monocultures, displacing native hardwood trees like sal.
  • Introduction of Exotic Trees: Exotic species like eucalyptus, pines from Europe and North America, and acacia trees from Australia were introduced for timber, fodder, and fuel. The introduction of wattle in 1861 in the Nilgiris district of the Western Ghats marked the beginning of its invasion of this ecologically significant region.
  • Ecosystem Transformations: These introduced species, especially wattle and pine, began to displace native vegetation, impacting the ecology and livelihoods of local communities. The loss of native oak and sal trees, essential for various purposes, further exacerbated these challenges.

Importance of Studying Past Tree Plantation Efforts

  • Regeneration Strategies: Historical strategies for natural forest regeneration have reduced carbon emissions, boosted biodiversity, and created livelihood opportunities.
  • Global Tree Cover Initiatives: Past efforts also highlight the need to differentiate between reforestation for timber production and carbon offsetting. The latter often involves planting fast-growing trees to generate timber and certify carbon credits for emission offsets.
  • Sustainable Practices: Planting trees on farms and barren lands to provide firewood and timber eased the pressure on natural forests and aided their recovery.
  • Unintended Consequences: The introduction of exotic species without thorough research can lead to invasive species and dispossess local communities of their land and resources.

Current Restoration Efforts in India

  • Indian Commitment: India has pledged to restore around 21 million hectares of forest by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge, a global initiative aiming to restore degraded and deforested landscapes.
  • Focus on Single Species Plantations: To achieve the National Forest Policy target of a 33% forest cover, India has focused on planting single species like eucalyptus or bamboo, which grow quickly and increase tree cover.

Impact on People and Environment

  • Concerns for Indigenous People: Afforestation in grassland ecosystems, naturally low in tree cover, may harm rural and indigenous communities. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 empowers village assemblies to manage traditional forest areas.
  • Risk of Invasive Species: The continued planting of exotic trees risks the emergence of new invasive species, similar to the wattle invasion two centuries ago.

Case Studies

  • Community-Led Restoration: Gram Sabhas in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra have restored degraded forests, managing them sustainably as a source of tendu leaves used to wrap bidis (Indian tobacco).
  • Invasive Species Control: Communities in Kachchh, Gujarat, restored grasslands by removing the invasive Gando Bawal tree introduced by British foresters in the late 19th century.

Future Considerations

  • Holistic Approach: Policies should encourage both natural forest regeneration and plantations for timber and fuel while assessing their impact on people and ecosystems.
  • Local Implications: Assess the impact of afforestation on forest rights, local livelihoods, biodiversity, and carbon storage. Scale up successful restoration practices by communities.
  • Reviving Ecosystems: Policymakers should prioritize the revival of ecosystems with a limited number of tree species, emphasizing environmental benefits over forest canopy extent.

Conclusion

  • India’s historical journey in tree planting offers valuable insights into the complexities and consequences of reforestation efforts.
  • By learning from the past, India can develop more sustainable and inclusive strategies for restoring its forests, addressing the needs of both the environment and its diverse communities.

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Laws governing forests of Northeast India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Issues with the Bill

forest

Central Idea

Why discuss this?

  • The amendment permits the diversion of forest land for certain projects near international borders without forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) 1980.
  • Other Northeastern states, including Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, and Sikkim, governed by the ruling govt at centre or its allies, have also objected to the 100-km exemption clause.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Objective Clarify and enhance the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Scope Applicability to land designated as forest since 1980
Exemptions Land within 100 km of borders for national security, roadside amenities, and public roads
Assignment of Forest Land Prior approval required from central government for all entities
Permitted Activities Expanded to include check posts, fencing, bridges, zoos, safaris, and eco-tourism facilities

 

Is FCA Applicable to the Northeast?

  • Constitutional protections like Article 371A for Nagaland and 371G for Mizoram prohibit the application of certain laws enacted by Parliament in these states.
  • In 1986, Nagaland extended the FCA’s application to specific forests, but its status remains uncertain due to conflicting ministry statements.
  • Mizoram, since becoming a state in 1986, has the FCA in force, covering a significant portion of its forest areas.

FCA Application in the Rest of the Northeast

  • The FCA is applicable in the rest of the Northeast, including Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The FCA clearance process differs among these states.

Conclusion

  • Protecting Northeastern forests requires a balance between legal frameworks like the FCA and FRA.
  • Clear guidelines and proactive measures can safeguard both forest rights and the environment in the region.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Ecocide Laws: Protecting Nature and Addressing Limitations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ecocide

Mains level: Read the attached story

ecocide

Central Idea

  • Mexico’s ‘Maya train’ project has generated controversy due to its scale and environmental impact.
  • The project aims to connect tourists to historic Maya sites across a 1,525 km route, with a cost of $20 billion.
  • Critics have dubbed it a “megaproject of death” for its threats to the Yucatan peninsula’s environment, Indigenous communities, and cave systems, leading to accusations of ecocide and ethnocide.

Understanding Ecocide

  • Ecocide, derived from Greek and Latin, means “killing one’s home” or “environment.”
  • It encompasses actions like port expansions damaging marine life, deforestation, illegal sand-mining, and polluting rivers.
  • Several countries, including Mexico, are considering ecocide legislation, with calls to elevate it to an international crime akin to genocide.
  • There is no universally accepted legal definition of ecocide.
  • A proposed definition states it as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge of causing substantial, severe, and either widespread or long-term environmental damage.

Historical Context

  • Biologist Arthur Galston in 1970 linked environmental destruction with genocide during the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange use.
  • British lawyer Polly Higgins advocated for ecocide as an international crime in 2010.
  • The Rome Statute of the ICC deals with four major crimes but only holds perpetrators accountable for intentional wartime environmental damage.

Importance of Ecocide as a Crime

  • Ecocide is a crime in 11 countries, with 27 others considering similar laws.
  • The European Parliament voted unanimously to include ecocide in law.
  • Ecocide laws provide a crucial legal instrument to protect the environment.
  • They can hold individuals in corporate leadership accountable and promote ethical investment practices.
  • These laws could offer justice to low- and middle-income countries disproportionately affected by climate change.

Limitations and Concerns

  • Some argue that ecocide definitions are ambiguous, setting a low threshold for implicating entities.
  • The concept might unintentionally suggest it’s acceptable to destroy the environment for human benefit.
  • Proving ecocide may be challenging, especially for transnational crimes involving corporations.
  • The ICC’s limited jurisdiction, inability to hold corporate entities liable, and uneven track record in securing convictions are concerns.

India’s Stance

  • India has recognized the legal personhood of nature in some judgments.
  • Some Indian judgments have used the term ‘ecocide,’ but it hasn’t fully materialized in law.
  • India’s legislative framework includes various environmental laws, which need consolidation and streamlining.
  • The National Green Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over certain critical environmental matters.
  • Addressing issues of liability and compensation remains a challenge, as seen in cases like the Bhopal gas disaster and CAMPA fund misuse.
  • India should align its environmental laws with the concept of ecocide.

Conclusion

  • Ecocide laws are crucial for protecting the environment and holding perpetrators accountable.
  • However, challenges in defining, proving, and enforcing ecocide must be addressed.
  • India needs to update its environmental laws to incorporate ecocide principles, promoting a more comprehensive approach to environmental protection.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What are Deemed Forests?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Deemed Forest, Forest Classification

Mains level: Read the attached story

deemed forest

Central Idea

  • The Odisha government has rescinded a contentious order that declared the discontinuation of the ‘deemed forests’ category under the amended Forest Act.
  • This reversal comes after concerns were raised regarding the implications of the order on forest classification and protection.

Understanding ‘Deemed Forests’

  • Definition: ‘Deemed forests’ refer to areas that are not formally classified as forests by central or state authorities in official records.
  • Legal Ambiguity: The term ‘deemed forests’ lacks a clear legal definition, including under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
  • Broad Interpretation: The Supreme Court’s T N Godavarman Thirumulpad Case (1996) embraced an expansive interpretation of forests. It encompassed statutorily recognized forests, irrespective of their reservation status, under the Forest Conservation Act.
  • Inclusive Scope: ‘Forest land’ within Section 2 of the Act extends beyond the dictionary meaning to include areas recorded as forests in government records, regardless of ownership, according to the court.

Recent Relevance and Controversy

  • News Spotlight: The issue of ‘deemed forests’ has gained attention, particularly in Odisha and Karnataka, where allegations of unscientific classification and impact on agriculture and mining persist.
  • Calls for Reclassification: Advocates assert that ‘deemed forests’ should adhere to the dictionary meaning of forests, irrespective of ownership. Concerns have been raised about arbitrary classifications affecting farmers and mining activities.
  • Classification Challenges: Critics argue that the existing subjective classification lacks a well-defined scientific criterion, leading to conflicts and hardships for communities.

Forest Classification in India

 

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover in 4 classes:

  1. Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  2. Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  3. Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  4. Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.

 Motivations behind Reclassification

  • Reassessment in 2014: The Centre initiated a review of forest categorization in 2014 to address the classification process’s shortcomings.
  • Need for Objective Criteria: While the dictionary definition guided initial classifications, a lack of objective criteria resulted in subjective designations that hindered clarity and fairness.
  • Addressing Hardships: Officials classified land as ‘deemed forest’ without considering local needs, leading to difficulties for farmers and communities dependent on such lands.
  • Commercial Demands: Some regions categorized as ‘deemed forests’ hold commercial value for mining, prompting calls for reclassification.

Implications in Odisha

  • State-Level Identification: Since 1996, Odisha had designated nearly 66 lakh acres as ‘deemed forest’ with the assistance of district-level expert committees. However, many of these areas were not officially recognized as forests in government records.
  • Controversy and Debate: The decision sparked controversy as experts and activists raised concerns about the potential ramifications of discontinuing the ‘deemed forest’ classification. The move could impact conservation efforts and the legal status of these lands.

Conclusion

  • The Odisha government’s decision to reverse the order discontinuing the ‘deemed forests’ category underscores the significance of clear forest classification and protection policies.
  • The episode emphasizes the intricate balance between legal interpretations, conservation imperatives, and policy implementation in the realm of environmental protection.
  • Moving forward, it is essential for authorities to align policies with legal frameworks to ensure sustainable forest management and safeguard the delicate ecological balance.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Silvopasture Systems for Local Climate Resilience

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Silvopasture

Mains level: Read the attached story

silvopasture

Central Idea

  • Amidst the global decline of natural resources and forests, silvopasture systems emerge as a relevant solution to counter deforestation trends.

What is Silvopasture?

  • Silvopasture is a sustainable land management practice that integrates trees, forage crops, and livestock grazing on the same parcel of land.
  • The term “silvopasture” is derived from the Latin words “silva” (forest) and “pastura” (pasture), emphasizing the combination of forestry and pasture practices.
  • In this system, carefully selected trees or tree species are planted or retained on grazing lands or pastures.
  • The trees can be scattered throughout the pasture, arranged in rows, or established as windbreaks and hedgerows.
  • Livestock, such as cattle, sheep, or goats, graze freely within the area, utilizing the available forage while benefiting from the shade and other advantages provided by the trees.

Advantages offered

Enhanced Climate Resilience
  • Silvopasture systems regulate local climate conditions, buffering against temperature and wind extremes.
  • Trees provides shade and reduces heat stress for livestock and other animals, promoting a more favorable living environment.
Carbon Sequestration
  • Trees act as natural carbon sinks, sequestering significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Such systems can store 5-10 times more carbon than pastures without trees, contributing to greenhouse gas mitigation and combating climate change.
Soil Enrichment
  • Extensive root systems of trees within silvopasture plots contribute to nutrient cycling, improved soil stability, and enhanced soil quality.
  • Effectively combats erosion, making the soil more resilient and fertile.
Improved Microclimatic Conditions
  • Foster milder microclimatic conditions compared to open pastures.
  • Livestock experience reduced heat stress due to the shading provided by trees, leading to improved animal welfare.
Biodiversity Conservation
  • Promotes habitat diversity, creating a suitable environment for a variety of plant and animal species.
  • Provides a sustainable habitat for native wildlife, contributing to biodiversity conservation.
Sustainable Land Use
  • By integrating trees with livestock grazing, silvopasture supports sustainable land management.
  • Allows for livestock farming while preserving and restoring forested areas, offering a practical solution to deforestation trends.
Water Storage and Infiltration
  • Enhance water storage potential by improving soil infiltration rates.
  • Presence of trees helps retain water, reducing runoff and contributing to water conservation.
Economic Benefits
  • Improved farm income through increased productivity and reduced input costs.
  • Integration of multiple elements on the same land optimizes resource use and enhances overall farm profitability.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What is the Biodiversity Act? What changes has the Lok Sabha cleared in the law?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Biodiversity Acts

Mains level: Biological Diversity Acts and Amendment Bill, significance

What’s the news?

  • On July 25, the Lok Sabha gave its approval to a Bill to amend some provisions of the Biological Diversity Act of 2002.

Central Idea

  • The Lok Sabha’s recent approval of the bill marks a significant step in preserving India’s biological diversity and promoting sustainable utilization. The bill aims to address concerns raised by central ministries, state governments, researchers, industries, and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of the 2002 Biological Diversity Act.

What is the Biodiversity Law?

  • The Biodiversity Law, also known as the Biological Diversity Act of 2002, is a significant piece of legislation in India.
  • Its main objective is to conserve the country’s biological diversity, which includes animals, plants, microorganisms, gene pools, and the ecosystems they inhabit.
  • The law was enacted in response to the global need to protect and preserve biological resources, which were under threat due to human activities.

Key amendments proposed in the Biodiversity Law

  • Exemption for Indian Systems of Medicine: Certain users of biological resources, like practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, are exempt from making payments to the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism.
  • Treatment of Indian Companies with Foreign Equity: Companies registered in India and controlled by Indians are treated as Indian companies, even with foreign equity or partnership, reducing restrictions on their activities related to biological resources.
  • Streamlining the Approval Process: Provisions have been included to expedite approval for research using biological resources and filing patent applications.
  • Rationalization of Penalty Provisions: Penalties for wrongdoing by user agencies have been rationalized.

Significance of the Biodiversity Law

  • Conservation of Biological Diversity: The Biodiversity Law is crucial for preserving the diverse range of animals, plants, microorganisms, and ecosystems found in India.
  • Addressing Global Concerns: The law is a response to the global need to protect and conserve biological resources, which are under threat due to human activities. It aligns India with international efforts to safeguard biodiversity.
  • Implementation of CBD Commitments: India agreed to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994. The Biodiversity Law helps fulfill India’s commitments under this international framework agreement, promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
  • Sustainable Resource Utilization: The law emphasizes the sustainable use of biological resources, ensuring that they are utilized in a manner that does not deplete them or harm the environment. This approach promotes responsible resource management.
  • Supporting Traditional Systems of Medicine: The law recognizes the significance of traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha, which rely on medicinal plants and biological resources. It supports the conservation of these resources and traditional knowledge.
  • Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Mechanism: The Biodiversity Law incorporates an Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism in alignment with the Nagoya Protocol. It ensures the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources with local communities.

Factors behind the need for amendments

  • Addressing Stakeholder Concerns: Over the years, various stakeholders, including practitioners of traditional medicine, the seed sector, pharmaceutical companies, and the research community, raised concerns about certain provisions in the original law.
  • Supporting Traditional Systems of Medicine: One of the key reasons for the amendments was to encourage Indian systems of medicine, such as Ayurveda. The amendments sought to provide exemptions or favorable conditions for practitioners of traditional medicine to access and use these resources.
  • Attracting Foreign Investment: By simplifying and streamlining processes, the government intended to make it easier for foreign entities to engage in research and business activities related to biodiversity in India.
  • Promoting Research and Innovation: The amendments aimed to expedite the approval process for research involving biological resources and simplify procedures for filing patent applications.
  • Rationalizing Penalty Provisions: The amendments likely involved rationalizing the penalty provisions for wrongdoing by user agencies. This was done to ensure that the penalties imposed for non-compliance with the law were fair and appropriate.

Way forward

  • Integrated Policies: Develop and implement integrated policies that prioritize both biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilization. Ensure that economic development initiatives are aligned with environmental protection goals.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration: Foster collaboration among government bodies, NGOs, industries, local communities, and researchers to jointly address biodiversity challenges and promote sustainable practices.
  • Empower Local Communities: Empower local communities, especially indigenous groups, in biodiversity management and decision-making processes. Recognize their traditional knowledge and incentivize their involvement in conservation efforts.
  • Conservation Reserves and Protected Areas: Strengthen and expand the network of conservation reserves and protected areas to safeguard critical ecosystems and habitats.
  • Sustainable Resource Use: Promote sustainable practices in industries relying on biological resources, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology. Encourage eco-friendly and resource-efficient approaches.
  • Green Business Practices: Encourage businesses to adopt green practices and environmental certifications, recognizing their commitment to sustainability.
  • Education and Awareness: Raise public awareness about the importance of biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable resource utilization. Educate citizens about the benefits of preserving natural resources.

Conclusion

  • The passage of the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill by the Lok Sabha reflects India’s commitment to preserving its rich biological diversity and promoting its sustainable use. As the bill advances to further stages of approval, it is essential to strike a balance between conservation and utilization, ensuring that future generations can benefit from the wealth of biological resources the country possesses.

Also read:

Monsoon session of Parliament to decide fate of Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Dr. Madhav Gadgil Report on Western Ghats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Madhav Gadgil Report , Kasturirangan Report

Mains level: Read the attached story

gadgil

Central Idea

  • A devastating landslide in Maharashtra’s Raigad district recently resulted in the loss of 27 lives and the destruction of an entire village.
  • This tragic incident has reignited discussions about the 2011 Dr Madhav Gadgil report on the conservation of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.

Dr Madhav Gadgil Report

  • Formation: In 2010, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), chaired by ecologist Dr Madhav Gadgil, was appointed by Union Environment Ministry.

Key recommendations:

(1) Proposition of ESZs: The report proposed classifying 64 percent of the Western Ghats, spanning six states, into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) – ESZ 1, ESZ 2, and ESZ 3, and designating the entire region as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).

(2) Development Restrictions: The report recommended stopping almost all developmental activities, including mining, construction of thermal power plants, and dams, in ESZ 1. It also called for the phasing out of mining in ESZ 1 in Goa, banning new polluting industries in ESZ 1 and ESZ 2 in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, and implementing zero pollution norms for existing industries.

(3) Sustainable Farming: The report advocated a ban on growing single commercial crops, such as tea, coffee, cardamom, rubber, banana, and pineapple, to promote sustainable farming practices in the Western Ghats.

(4) Establishing a dedicated Authority: It recommended decentralization and granting more powers to local authorities in the governance of the environment. The establishment of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority was proposed to manage the region’s ecology and ensure sustainable development.

(5) Certain prohibitions: The report urged the prohibition of genetically modified crops, plastic bags, Special Economic Zones, and new hill stations, along with the protection of river ecosystems and public lands.

Challenges in Implementation:

  • Stakeholder Resistance: The recommendations faced opposition from stakeholder states, fearing negative impacts on development and livelihoods.
  • Formation of Kasturirangan Panel: In response to the resistance, a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats, led by Dr K Kasturirangan, was constituted. This panel’s report, released in 2014, designated only 37 percent of the region as ecologically sensitive, significantly less than Gadgil’s proposal.
  • Revision and Splitting of ESZ: The Kasturirangan report divided the Western Ghats into cultural (human settlements) and natural (non-human settlements) regions. It suggested designating cultural lands as ESAs and introduced red, orange, and green categories for activities based on regulation levels.

Controversy and Criticism

  • Dr Madhav Gadgil criticized the Kasturirangan report, stating that it distorted and perverted the essence of his panel’s original recommendations.
  • He highlighted the importance of including local communities in economic decisions and the need for a more pro-nature approach.

Current Status

  • High-Powered Committee: By 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) announced the formation of a high-powered committee to conduct physical landscaping and submit a detailed report within a year.

Conclusion

  • The Raigad landslide tragedy and the discussions about the Dr Madhav Gadgil report underscore the significance of preserving the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.
  • The delicate balance between conservation efforts and developmental requirements remains a complex issue.
  • It is essential for stakeholders, governments, and experts to collaborate and find sustainable solutions to protect this vital ecosystem and its biodiversity for future generations.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Why protecting India’s forests should be a part of national security?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Present status of forests in India, Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023, key provisions

Mains level: Importance of preserving forests, Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023,concerns and way forward

forests

What’s the news?

  • Recently, a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) gave its endorsement to the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The proposed amendments have attracted objections and controversy, raising concerns.

Central idea

  • Since the early 1970s, growing awareness of the environmental damage caused by human activities has led to an understanding of its impact on our lives. Disastrous events, such as wildfires, extreme weather conditions and the loss of biodiversity, have adversely affected billions of people worldwide. In response, numerous multilateral environmental agreements and policies have been established to reverse these trends.

What is the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023?

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill is a proposed legislation aimed at amending the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 in India.
  • The proposed amendments seek to address certain issues and introduce changes to enhance forest conservation efforts and promote sustainable development.

Background: Forest Conservation Act, 1980

  • The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, was enacted to protect the country’s forests and empower the central government to regulate the extraction of forest resources, including timber, bamboo, coal, and minerals, by industries and forest-dwelling communities.
  • Prior to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, extensive deforestation and diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes were prevalent.
  • From 1951 to 1975, approximately four million hectares of forest land were diverted. However, since the Act came into effect, from 1980 to 2023, only around one million hectares have been diverted.

Analysis: Proposed Amendments and Their Implications

  • Reclassification of Forest Areas:
  • The proposed amendment restricts the Forest Conservation Act’s application to only areas officially declared as forest after October 25, 1980, which may invalidate the expansive interpretation provided by the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgment.
  • Potentially, this could lead to thousands of square kilometers of forests losing legal protection, putting 27.62 percent of India’s forest cover at risk.
  • Exemptions for Projects Near Border Areas and Security Purposes:
  • The amendment proposes to eliminate the requirement of forest clearances for security-related infrastructure within 100 km of international borders.
  • While national security is important, ecological security plays an equally critical role in safeguarding citizens’ well-being. Fast-tracking without environmental appraisal could lead to irreversible damage to ecologically significant ecosystems in these regions.
  • Exemptions for Zoos, Safari Parks, and Ecotourism Activities:
  • Granting exemptions for zoos, safari parks, and ecotourism activities may result in the destruction of natural ecosystems, which are vital in buffering against climate change-induced weather patterns.
  • Instead, conservation centers should be established away from forested areas, and ecotourism projects should undergo thorough environmental assessments to prevent adverse impacts.
  • Disempowering Local Communities:
  • The proposal to exempt a vast number of projects from the clearance process would deprive forest-dwelling communities of their right to be consulted.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, mandates obtaining free, prior, and informed consent from local communities through gram sabhas.
  • By bypassing this process, the proposed amendment undermines the rights of forest-dwelling tribal people and others.

Challenges in forest conservation in India

  • Inadequate Forest Cover: With only 21 percent of India’s land area having forest cover and a mere 12.37 percent being intact natural forest, meeting the target of 33 percent forest cover poses a significant challenge.
  • Decline in Northeastern Forests: The northeastern states, known for their biodiversity richness, have experienced a net decline of 3,199 sq km of forest cover from 2009 to 2019, further exacerbating the forest conservation challenge.

Why should protecting India’s forests be a part of national security?

  • Ecological Security: Forests play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and stability, providing essential ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, water regulation, and biodiversity conservation.
  • Climate Change Mitigation: By safeguarding forests, India can contribute significantly to global efforts in mitigating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Water Security: Forests act as natural watersheds, regulating water flow and ensuring the replenishment of groundwater, thereby securing a sustainable water supply.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Protecting forests is vital for maintaining ecological resilience and preserving unique plant and animal species.
  • Livelihoods and Food Security: Millions of people, especially tribal communities, depend on forests for their livelihoods, food, and cultural practices.
  • Prevention of Conflict: Protecting forests near international borders can help prevent conflicts related to resource disputes and cross-border activities.
  • National Economy and Resources: Forests contribute significantly to the national economy through industries like timber and non-timber forest products.
  • Health and Well-being: Access to green spaces and forests promotes healthier lifestyles and reduces stress, benefiting public health.

Way forward: key steps and strategies to consider

  • Strengthen Implementation of Existing Laws: Rather than introducing new amendments, focus on enhancing the implementation of existing laws, such as the Forest Act, 1980, and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006. Effective enforcement and monitoring of these laws can lead to better protection of forests and the rights of local communities.
  • Maintain a Broader Interpretation of Forest: Uphold the Supreme Court’s interpretation of forest as encompassing all forests, regardless of official declarations. This will ensure the continued legal protection of ecologically sensitive areas, preventing the loss of forests due to reclassification.
  • Preserve Ecologically Important Areas: Avoid exempting projects near border areas and for security purposes from forest clearances, especially in ecologically significant regions like the northeastern states. Maintain a balance between national security concerns and ecological security.
  • Review Exemptions for Development Projects: Reassess the exemptions for zoos, safari parks, and ecotourism activities. Develop guidelines and criteria for ecotourism projects that prioritize environmental conservation and minimize negative impacts.
  • Ensure Transparent Decision-Making: Eliminate the provision allowing the central government to exempt clearances for any other purposes to avoid potential misuse, and ensure transparent and accountable decision-making in all projects.
  • Empower Local Communities: Uphold the rights of forest-dwelling communities by actively involving them in decision-making processes. Obtain free, prior, and informed consent through gram sabhas before implementing any projects on forest lands.
  • Raise Public Awareness: Educate the public about the importance of forests, biodiversity, and environmental conservation. Create awareness campaigns to garner public support for sustainable forest management and protection.
  • Research and Science-Based Conservation: Support scientific research on forest ecosystems and their functions. Utilize scientific evidence to inform conservation policies and strategies.

Conclusion

  • While the preamble of the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023, outlines commendable goals, the proposed amendments themselves appear to contradict these objectives. It is essential to prioritize environmental protection and consider the long-term consequences of such amendments on India’s natural ecosystems and the well-being of its citizens. To safeguard our environment for future generations, it is crucial to avoid any changes that weaken existing protective measures.

Also read:

Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill and the Forests rights

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Monsoon session of Parliament to decide fate of Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022

Mains level: Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, Provisions, concerns and way forward

Biological

What’s the news?

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 is set to be tabled during the monsoon session of the Parliament. Earlier, it was to be discussed in the Lok Sabha on March 29, 2023 but was deferred.

Central idea

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, introduced in 2021 seeks to amend the existing Biological Diversity Act, 2002. However, it has faced criticism and reservations due to concerns that certain amendments may favor industry interests and not adequately uphold the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The bill’s journey so far has raised questions about its potential impact on biodiversity conservation in India.

Objectives of the Bill

  • The main objectives of the amendment bill are to ease regulations on wild medicinal plants,
  • Promote the Indian system of medicine
  • Foster an environment for collaborative research and investments
  • Reduce the burden of obtaining permissions from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) for practitioners and companies producing medicinal products

Controversial Provisions of the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022

  • The bill proposes to de-criminalize violations of biodiversity laws and withdraws the power given to the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to file a First Information Report (FIR) against defaulting parties.
  • The bill allows domestic companies to use biodiversity without seeking approval from biodiversity boards. Only foreign controlled companies are required to acquire permission.
  • The bill includes the term codified traditional knowledge, which grants exemptions to users, including practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, from the provisions of approvals for accessing or sharing benefits.

Concerns raised by the activists

  • Some critics argue that the proposed amendments may weaken biodiversity conservation efforts in India
  • Lack of oversight and accountability may lead to unchecked utilization of biodiversity resources, which could negatively impact ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • The codified traditional knowledge may enable profit-seeking domestic companies to exploit traditional knowledge without adequately compensating the communities that have conserved and developed it for generations.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emphasizes the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of biodiversity. The proposed amendments may not fully align with these principles.
  • While the bill aims to promote traditional medicine and ease regulations, it may not sufficiently address the broader issues of biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and the need for stronger conservation measures.
  • Weakening biodiversity protection and benefit-sharing mechanisms could disproportionately affect indigenous and local communities, which often rely on biodiversity for their livelihoods and cultural practices.

Way forward

  • Reassess and redraft the contentious provisions in the bill, particularly those related to decriminalizing violations, exempting domestic companies from seeking permission, and codified traditional knowledge.
  • Establish robust and transparent mechanisms for equitable benefit sharing from the use of biodiversity.
  • Adequately compensate indigenous communities and traditional knowledge holders for their role in conserving and preserving biodiversity.
  • Incentivize businesses that prioritize conservation and sustainable utilization of resources.
  • Strengthen enforcement measures to ensure compliance with biodiversity conservation regulations. Establish appropriate penalties for violations to deter non-compliance.
  • Align the bill with India’s international commitments, especially those agreed upon during the 15th Conference of Parties to the CBD.
  • Strengthen the capacity and authority of biodiversity governance bodies like the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to effectively regulate and monitor biodiversity-related activities.

Conclusion

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 presents a complex dilemma for biodiversity conservation in India. As the bill awaits discussion in the monsoon session, it becomes crucial for policymakers to address the concerns raised by activists and legal experts, ensuring that India’s biodiversity is safeguarded and aligned with global conservation goals.

Also read:

Why is there a controversy on the forest Bill?

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Why is there a controversy on the forest Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Forest Conservation Act ,1980 and the Amendment Bill, 2023, key provisions , concerns and way ahead

forest

What’s the news?

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 is set to be presented during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

Central idea

  • Recently, a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which was looking at amendments to the Bill has approved the version sent by the government with almost no comment, revisions or suggestions. However, multiple objections have been raised over the proposed amendments.

Definition- Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill is a proposed legislation aimed at amending the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 in India.
  • The proposed amendments seek to address certain issues and introduce changes to enhance forest conservation efforts and promote sustainable development.

Background-Forest Conservation Act, 1980 

  • The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted to protect the country’s forests and empower the central government to regulate the extraction of forest resources, including timber, bamboo, coal, and minerals, by industries and forest-dwelling communities.
  • Prior to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, extensive deforestation and diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes were prevalent.
  • From 1951 to 1975, approximately four million hectares of forest land were diverted. However, after the Act came into effect, from 1980 to 2023, only around one million hectares have been diverted.

The key objectives of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • Definition and Demarcation of Forests: The amendments aim to provide a clear and comprehensive definition of forest and establish criteria for demarcating forest areas.
  • Renaming of the Act: The proposed amendments include changing the name of the Act from Forest (Conservation) Act to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, which translates to Forest Conservation and Augmentation.
  • Applicability of the Act: The amendments specify that the Act will apply only to lands officially notified as forest in government records on or after 1980.
  • Exemptions and Strategic Projects:
  • The proposed amendments introduce certain exemptions from the Act’s provisions.
  • Forest land located within 100 km of international borders and intended for strategic projects of national importance, as well as land ranging from 5 to 10 hectares for security and defense projects, would be exempted.
  • Encouraging Reforestation and Carbon Sink Development:
  • The amendments address the issue of disincentives faced by private parties interested in developing plantations in degraded forests or restoring tree patches.
  • The proposed changes seek to incentivize reforestation efforts and support India’s commitment to developing a carbon sink of three billion tonnes by 2030, as per its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Objections to the changes

  • Impact on Ecologically Sensitive Areas:
  • The exemptions introduced in the amendments could have detrimental effects on significant forests in the Himalayan, trans-Himalayan, and northeastern regions.
  • Clearing these forests without proper assessment and mitigation plans may threaten the biodiversity of vulnerable ecological and geologically sensitive areas and potentially trigger extreme weather events.
  • Exclusion of Forest Land:
  • Limiting the Act’s applicability only to forest areas recorded on or after 1980 may leave out substantial forest land and biodiversity hotspots.
  • This exclusion could potentially lead to the sale, diversion, clearance, and exploitation of these areas for non-forestry purposes, undermining forest conservation efforts.
  • Renaming of the Act:
  • Dissent has been expressed regarding the renaming of the Act as Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam.
  • The use of sanskritik terminology in the name is untenable and may not be in alignment with the linguistic and cultural diversity of the country.
  • Balance of Power:
  • Concerns have been raised about the balance of power between the central and state governments.
  • They argue that forest conservation falls under the concurrent jurisdiction of both levels of government, and the amendments may shift the balance towards the central government, potentially undermining the authority of state governments in forest conservation matters.

Environment Ministry’s stand on the issue

  • Addressing Concerns: The Environment Ministry has submitted detailed explanations to the JPC to address the concerns that have been raised. The Ministry aims to clarify and alleviate the apprehensions surrounding the proposed amendments.
  • Protection of Godavarman Judgment: The Ministry asserts that the new amendments do not dilute the Godavarman Thirumulpad judgment, indicating that the changes are consistent with the principles laid down in the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
  • Preventing Misuse of Land: The Ministry emphasizes that there are provisions in place to ensure that forest land will not be misused. The amendments include safeguards to prevent unauthorized exploitation or inappropriate utilization of forest land.
  • Specific Exemptions: The Ministry clarifies that the exemptions introduced in the amendments would be limited to specific linear projects of strategic importance identified by the Central government.

Way forward

  • Inclusive dialogue: Facilitate inclusive dialogue with stakeholders, including Opposition parties, NGOs, tribal communities, and experts, to address concerns and objections.
  • Impact assessment: Conduct thorough environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to assess potential consequences of the amendments and develop mitigation plans for ecological sensitivity.
  • Strengthen safeguards: Enhance safeguards for significant forest areas and develop clear definitions of forest to ensure effective conservation measures.
  • Balance conservation and development: Promote sustainable practices like private plantations and reforestation while regulating industrial and mining use of forest tracts.
  • Central-state collaboration: Foster collaboration and coordination between Central and state governments to harmonize forest conservation efforts.
  • Transparent implementation: Allocate resources for monitoring, prevention of illegal activities, and ensure transparency and accountability in forest-related activities.

Conclusion

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, set to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. As the bill moves forward for debate, it is crucial to consider the concerns raised and ensure a balanced approach that protects both forests and the rights of forest-dependent communities.

Also read:

Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill and the Forests rights

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Private: Controversy on the Forest Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Conservation Act, 1980

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill is set to be presented during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
  • The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has approved the government’s version of the bill with minimal comments or suggestions, sparking concerns and objections from various stakeholders.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill

The bill seeks to amend the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, which aims to protect India’s forests and regulate the extraction of forest resources. Here are some associated facts.

  • Forest (Conservation) Act: Enacted in 1980 to safeguard India’s forests and manage forest resources.
  • Reduction in forest appropriation: The Act has slowed down the diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes.
  • Supreme Court judgment: The 1996 Godavarman Thirumulpad Case expanded the protection to areas meeting the ‘dictionary’ meaning of forests.

Also read:              

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Amendments in the Bill

  • ‘Preamble’ and name change: The bill includes a preamble emphasizing India’s commitment to forest preservation and renames the Act as Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam.
  • Applicability: The Act would apply only to lands notified as ‘forest’ on or after 1980.
  • Exemptions: Forest land 100 km from international borders and land for strategic projects or security/defense purposes would be exempted from the Act’s provisions.
  • Incentivizing reforestation: Amendments aim to address disincentives for private parties developing plantations or restoring degraded forests.

Objections and Concerns

  • Lack of independent assessment: The JPC report shows dissent notes from six members representing Opposition parties.
  • Potential ecological threats: Exemptions could pose risks to significant forests in the Himalayan, trans-Himalayan, and northeastern regions, affecting biodiversity and triggering extreme weather events.
  • Narrow applicability: Limiting the Act’s scope to areas recorded as forests after 1980 may leave out important forest lands and biodiversity hotspots vulnerable to exploitation.
  • Renaming concerns: Some object to the bill’s Sanskrit terminology, finding it culturally inappropriate.
  • Dilution of the Godavarman judgment: Experts and State governments argue that the amendments weaken the impact of the Supreme Court’s Godavarman judgment.

Major issue: Ambiguity as Loopholes

  • Threat to biodiversity: Experts fear that clearing forests without proper assessment and mitigation plans may harm the region’s biodiversity.
  • Ecological vulnerability: Exemptions near international borders could increase vulnerability in ecologically and geologically sensitive areas already threatened by infrastructure development and extreme weather events.
  • Ambiguity in the amendment: The inclusion of terms like “proposed,” “ecotourism facilities,” and “any other purposes” raises concerns about potential misuse and damage to forests and ecosystems.
  • Redefining “non-forest purpose” exemptions: The amendment broadens the scope of activities permitted on forest land without prior approval, potentially leading to detrimental effects on forest ecosystems.

Ministry’s Response

  • Detailed explanations submitted: The Environment Ministry has provided clarifications to address raised concerns and defends the amendments.
  • Preservation of Godavarman judgment: The Ministry assures that the amendments do not dilute the significance of the Supreme Court’s judgment.
  • Specific exemptions: The proposed exemptions along international borders are intended for specific strategic projects and won’t be available to private entities.

Conclusion

  • The amendments aim to streamline processes and expedite strategic projects.
  • However the potential threats to biodiversity and the vague language used in the bill have sparked debate like any other environment law in India.

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Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • A parliamentary committee has given its endorsement to the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • The proposed amendments have attracted objections and controversies, raising concerns about dilution of forest protection and potential impacts on biodiversity, forest rights, and national security.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023: An overview

  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, safeguards India’s forest land from unauthorized non-forestry use and allows for compensation in case of diversion.
  • Previous amendments aimed to expand protection, but the current amendments focus on removing ambiguities and clarifying the Act’s applicability on various types of land.
  • The amendments emphasize promoting tree cover, carbon sinks, national security infrastructure, and livelihood opportunities for forest-dwelling communities.

 

Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • It is the principal legislation that regulates deforestation in the country.
  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any “non-forestry” use without prior clearance by the central government.
  • The clearance process includes seeking consent from local forest rights holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow them with legally binding conditions.
  • Process of approval for the diversion of forest land culminates after issuance of final diversion order by the State Government or UT concerned which authorises use of forest land for intended purpose and hands over the land to the user agency.

Key features

  • Inclusion and Exclusion of Land: The Bill amends the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to make it applicable to land notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or in government records after the 1980 Act came into effect. Land converted to non-forest use before December 12, 1996, will not fall under the Act’s purview.
  • Exemptions: Certain types of land are exempted from the Act, including land within 100 km of India’s border required for national security projects, small roadside amenities, and public roads leading to habitation.
  • Assignment of Forest Land: The state government requires prior approval from the central government to assign forest land to any private or government entity. The Bill extends this requirement to all entities and allows assignment on terms and conditions specified by the central government.
  • Permitted Activities: The Bill expands the list of permitted activities in forests, including establishing check posts, fencing, bridges, running zoos, safaris, and eco-tourism facilities.

Controversial parts of the Amendment

  • Dilution Concerns: Some critics argue that the amendments dilute the Supreme Court’s 1996 Godavarman case judgment, which extended protection to forests not officially classified as such.
  • Geographically Sensitive Areas: Projects within 100 km of international borders or the Line of Control would no longer require forest clearance, which raises concerns about the environment and security.
  • Deemed Forests and Tourism: Central protection for deemed forests and restrictions on activities like tourism could be compromised, affecting biodiversity conservation and forest integrity.
  • Impact on Forest Cover: Exempting land near border areas for national security projects may adversely affect forest cover and wildlife in northeastern states, which have high forest cover and are biodiversity hotspots.
  • Potential Adverse Effects: Blanket exemptions for projects like zoos, eco-tourism facilities, and reconnaissance surveys may have negative consequences for forest land and wildlife.

Opposition and Criticism

  • Northeast States’ Opposition: Some northeastern states objected to forest land being used for defense purposes without their consent.
  • Environmental Groups’ Concerns: Environmental organizations criticized the removal of Central protection for deemed forests and allowing tourism in these areas, risking biodiversity and forest conservation.
  • Name Change Controversy: The proposal to change the name of the Act to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam faced objections for being non-inclusive and excluding certain regions’ populations.

Conclusion

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, despite attracting objections and controversies, has received the endorsement of the parliamentary committee.
  • The proposed amendments aim to bring clarity to the Act’s applicability and promote tree cover, national security infrastructure, and livelihood opportunities.

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Green Credit Scheme to Incentivize Environmental Actions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green Credit Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • The Ministry of Environment has released a draft notification outlining a proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme’ to provide incentives for various environmental activities.
  • The scheme aims to encourage actions such as afforestation, water conservation, waste management, and addressing air pollution by allowing individuals and organizations to generate tradable ‘green credits.’

What is Green Credit Programme (GCP)?

  • GCP will be launched at the national level, utilizing a competitive market-based approach to encourage voluntary environmental actions.
  • The scheme will incentivize individual and community behaviors, as well as motivate private sector industries, companies, and other entities to fulfill their existing obligations.
  • By participating in activities that generate or allow the purchase of green credits, stakeholders can align with the objectives of the scheme.

Creating Supply and Demand for Green Credits

  • The government’s immediate focus is to create a supply of green credits through voluntary actions.
  • The subsequent step involves introducing laws or regulations to incentivize companies and organizations to purchase credits, thereby creating demand.
  • Unlike carbon markets that primarily trade greenhouse gas emissions, the Green Credit Scheme accounts for a broader range of actions, making it more complex.

Sectors for Green Credit Generation

The notification outlines following sectors or activities that qualify for generating green credits:

  • Tree plantation-based green credit: Promotes activities to increase green cover through tree plantation and related initiatives.
  • Water-based green credit: Encourages water conservation, water harvesting, efficient water use, and wastewater treatment and reuse.
  • Sustainable agriculture-based green credit: Promotes natural and regenerative agricultural practices, land restoration, and improvement of productivity, soil health, and nutritional value.
  • Waste management-based green credit: Fosters sustainable waste management practices and improvements in waste handling.

Uniqueness and Complexity of the Scheme

  • The proposed Green Credit Scheme covers a wider range of actions compared to similar initiatives worldwide.
  • Unlike existing schemes, this program accounts for diverse activities, making its implementation and accounting mechanisms more intricate.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Miyawaki Technique of Urban Afforestation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Miyawaki Forests

Mains level: Urban forestry

Central Idea: Prime Minister during his latest ‘Mann ki baat’ episode spoke about Miyawaki plantation, the Japanese method of creating dense urban forests in a small area.

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Miyawaki Method

  • Miyawaki method is a method of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests.
  • It includes planting trees as close as possible in the same area which not only saves space, but the planted saplings also support each other in growth and block sunlight from reaching the ground, thereby preventing the growth of weed.
  • Thus the saplings become maintenance-free (self-sustainable) after the first three years.
  • It helps to create a forest in just 20 to 30 years while through conventional methods it takes anywhere between 200 to 300 years.

The technique

miyawaki

  • The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
  • The quality of soil is analysed and biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
  • A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density — three to five sapling per square meter.
  • The ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.

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Issues with Great Nicobar Island (GNI) Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GNI Project

Mains level: Read the attached storye

nicobar

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has now flagged alleged discrepancies with respect to the forest clearance granted for the ₹72,000-crore Great Nicobar Island (GNI) Project.

What is GNI Project?

  • The GNI Project refers to the “Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island,” a proposed mega project being piloted by NITI Aayog.
  • The project aims to develop the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands in the Bay of Bengal by constructing –
  1. Transshipment port
  2. Dual-use military-civil international airport
  3. Power plant and
  4. A township over a span of 30 years on more than 160 sq. km of land, of which 130 sq. km is primary forest

Features of the Project

  • Transshipment hub of the East: The proposed port will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transshipment.
  • Naval control: The port will be controlled by the Indian Navy, while the airport will have dual military-civilian functions and will cater to tourism as well.
  • Urban amenities: Roads, public transport, water supply and waste management facilities, and several hotels have been planned to cater to tourists.

Significance of the project

(1) Economic significance

  • Making India transshipment giant: The proposed port would allow GNI to become a significant player in cargo transshipment, as it is positioned equidistant from Colombo, Port Klang (Malaysia), and Singapore.
  • En-route of busiest shipping lane: It located close to the East-West international shipping corridor that sees a vast amount of the world’s shipping trade.
  • Huge source of revenue: The proposed ICTT can potentially become a hub for cargo ships travelling on this route.

(2) Strategic significance

  • Securing IOR: The proposal to develop GNI has been on the table since the 1970s, and it has been highlighted repeatedly as a crucial element for national security and consolidation of the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Critical shipping chokepoint: Great Nicobar is equidistant from Colombo to the southwest and Port Klang and Singapore to the southeast, the region through which a very large part of the world’s shipping trade passes.
  • Oceanic outpost: The ANI is an oceanic outpost for continental India.
  • Combatting Chinese presence: In recent years, the escalating Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean has added greater urgency to this imperative.

Issues with the Project

  • Threat to Biodiversity: The construction of the port, airport, and township, and the influx of people that the project is expected to bring, are likely to result in habitat destruction, fragmentation, and degradation, which could threaten the survival of several species.
  • Displacement of Indigenous Tribes: GNI is home to two isolated and indigenous tribes, the Shompen and the Nicobaris, who have lived on the island for thousands of years. The project could displace these tribes and disrupt their way of life and culture.
  • Deforestation: The project is expected to result in the cutting down of an estimated 8.5 lakh trees in the island’s prehistoric rainforests, which could have a significant impact on the island’s ecology and biodiversity.
  • Lack of Adequate Environmental and Social Impact Assessments: The project has received several easy clearances with uncharacteristic haste, raising questions about the adequacy of environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Fragile Topography: Experts have raised several concerns relating to the tectonic volatility and disaster vulnerability of the islands, which have experienced nearly 444 earthquakes in the past 10 years. The tribal communities, who were displaced in the 2004 Tsunami, are still recovering from its impact.

Concerns highlighted by the NCST

(1) Discrepancies with FRA Compliance

  • The island administration did not recognise or grant ownership of any forest land to local tribespeople as per FRA, a requisite step under the Forest Conservation Rules, 2017, before Stage-I clearance is granted.
  • This is despite the fact that Rule 6(3)(e) of Forest Conservation Rules-2017 (FCR) requires that any diversion of forest land first requires the District Collector to recognise and vest rights to locals under the FRA.
  • The legislation allows forest communities the right to control and manage the use of the forest land over which they hold titles, and their consent is mandatory for diverting it.

(2) Inconsistencies with Stage-I Clearance

  • The Stage-I clearance for the project was granted in October 2022, two years after the application was received.
  • Monthly progress reports show that the district administration did not process any claims over forest land under the FRA in the 26 months since project sanction.
  • A Gram Sabha meeting was called with less than a day’s notice to villagers where a resolution was passed consenting to the diversion of forest land for the project.

(3) Withdrawal of Consent

  • Weeks after the Stage-I clearance was granted, the Tribal Council at Campbell Bay withdrew the consent granted by the Gram Sabha.
  • NCST alleged that the minutes of the meeting were typed after securing members’ signatures.

Back2Basics: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

Description
Formation NCST was set up with effect from 19th February, 2004.

Created by inserting a new article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitution Amendment Act, 2003.

Hence a constitutional body.

Objective To oversee the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs under the Constitution or under any other law for time being in force or under any other order to the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
Composition It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other Members who are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.

At least one member should be a woman.

The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members hold office for a term of 3 years.

The members are not eligible for appointment for more than two terms.

The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Ministers, the Vice Chairperson has the rank of a Minister of State and other Members have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.

 

 

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SC modifies judgement on Eco-Sensitive Zones

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Eco-sensitive buffer Zones (ESZs)

Mains level: Read the attached story

eco

Central idea

  • The Supreme Court modified its judgment on mandatory eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) around protected forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.
  • The court has now made it clear that ESZs cannot be uniform across the country and has to be “protected area-specific.”

What are the Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

How are they demarcated?

  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does NOT mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be carried out or shall not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 states that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of certain considerations.
  • The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Defining its boundaries

  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.
  • Further, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around and it could be of variable width and extent.

Activities Permitted and Prohibited

  • Permitted: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, and adoption of green technology for all activities.
  • Prohibited: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), the establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Under regulation: Felling of trees, the establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.

What was the recent SC judgment?

  • On June 3, 2022, the apex court had ordered a 1-km buffer zone for protected areas to act as a “shock absorber.”
  • However, the Centre and several states, including Kerala, had returned to the apex court seeking modification of the judgment, saying the direction affected hundreds of villages in the peripheries of forests.

Impact of the Judgment

  • Earlier judgement would have certainly hampered the day-to-day activities of the citizens residing in ESZs.
  • It would also prevent villagers from reconstructing their houses, the government from constructing schools, dispensaries, anganwadis, and other basic structures for the improvement of the life of the villagers.
  • The court also noted that it would be impossible for forest departments to conduct eco-development activities around national parks and sanctuaries.

Try this PYQ

With reference to ‘Eco-Sensitive Zones’, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas that are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  2. The purpose of the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones is to prohibit all kinds of human activities, in those zones except agriculture.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here.
3
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

 

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India’s disputed Compensatory Afforestation (CAMPA) Policy at odds with new IPCC report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CAMPA, IPCC

Mains level: Not Much

 

Central idea

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Synthesis Report, where the IPCC notes the significance of preserving natural ecosystems to mitigate climate change.
  • The report has raised concerns about the ongoing policy of afforestation in India that allows forests to be cut down and replaced elsewhere.

Afforestation in India

  • Afforestation has become an increasingly contested policy in India.
  • The government has pledged to add “an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030”.

Why is CAMPA invoked in the IPCC report?

  • India’s Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has been accused of facilitating the destruction of natural ecosystems in exchange for forests to be set up elsewhere.

What is CAMPA?

  • CAMPA is a body established by the Indian government in 2002 on the orders of the Supreme Court.
  • The purpose of CAMPA is to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land that has been diverted to non-forest uses, such as for dams, mines, and other development projects.
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 requires project proponents to identify land elsewhere for afforestation and pay for the afforestation exercise.
  • The money paid by project proponents is deposited in a fund overseen by CAMPA.

Controversies surrounding CAMPA

  • Unutilised fund: The money paid to CAMPA sits in a fund, but most of the fund remained unspent until 2013, leading to criticism of facilitating the destruction of natural ecosystems. In 2006-2012, the fund grew from Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 23,600 crore.
  • Threatening endangered landscape: CAMPA also came under fire for funding projects that endangered landscape connectivity and biodiversity corridors.
  • Unsustainability of artificial plantation: CAMPA has been accused for planting non-native species or artificial plantations that don’t compensate for the ecosystem loss.

Why is forestation under CAMPA unsustainable?

  • Natural ecosystems sequester more carbon: This report highlights the importance of preserving natural ecosystems and reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems to mitigate climate change.
  • Renewable energy installation is more sustainable: The IPCC report also found that solar power has more mitigating potential than reducing the conversion of natural ecosystems, and wind power was the third highest.

Conclusion

  • Preserving natural ecosystems should be recognized as an essential means to mitigate climate change, and environment impact assessments should include climate costs.
  • Policies such as afforestation, ecosystem restoration, and renewable energy must be carefully evaluated to reduce the impact of the climate crisis.

 

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Case for open and verifiable Forest Cover Data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Forest cover accounting discrepancy

forest

Central idea: From 19.53% in the early 1980s, today India’s total green cover stands at 24.62% ‘on-paper’.

Defining Forest and Tree Cover

  • The Forest Survey of India (FSI) publishes its biennial State of Forest reports in 1987.
  • A/c to FSI, India counts all plots of 1 hectare or above, with at least 10% tree canopy density, irrespective of land use or ownership, within forest cover.
  • This disregards the United Nation’s benchmark that does not include areas predominantly under agricultural and urban land use in forests.

How are forests categorized?

The Forest Survey of India has listed four categories of forests. They are:

  1. Very Dense Forest (with tree canopy density of 70 per cent or above) (added since 2003)
  2. Moderately Dense Forest (tree canopy density of 40 per cent or above but less than 70 per cent)
  3. Open Forest (tree canopy density of 10 per cent or above but less than 40 per cent)
  4. Scrub (tree canopy density less than 10 per cent)

New category:  NOT a forest (isolated or small patches of trees — less than 1 hectare)

Satellite imagery used for precision

  • Until the mid-1980s (SFR 1987), the forest cover was estimated through satellite images at a 1:1 million scale.
  • The resolution then improved to 1:250,000, reducing the minimum mappable unit size from 400 to 25 hectares.
  • Since 19.53% in the early 1980s, India’s forest cover has increased to 21.71% in 2021.
  • By 2001, the scale improved to 1:50,000, bringing down the unit size to 1 hectare, and interpretation went fully digital.

Accounting losses in forest cover

  • Satellite imagery shows decline: The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) estimated declines in India’s forest cover using satellite imagery.
  • Official account on deforestation: While reliable data on encroachment is unavailable, government records show that 42,380 sq. km — nearly the size of Haryana— of forest land was diverted for non-forest use between 1951 and 1980.
  • Reconciled data: The NRSA and the newly established FSI “reconciled” India’s forest cover at 19.53% in 1987. The FSI did not contest the NRSA finding that the dense forest cover had fallen from 14.12% in the mid-1970s to 10.96% in 1981, and reconciled it to 10.88% in 1987.

What about Total Recorded Forests?

Ans. Lost some areas due to encroachment, diversion, forest fire etc.

  • In India, land recorded as forest in revenue records or proclaimed as forest under a forest law is described as Recorded Forest Area.
  • These areas were recorded as forests at some point due to the presence of forests on the land.
  • Divided into Reserved, Protected and Unclassed forests, Recorded Forest Areas account for 23.58% of India.

One-third forest lost!

  • Almost one-third of India’s old natural forests — over 2.44 lakh sq. km (larger than Uttar Pradesh) or 7.43% of India are lost.
  • Even after extensive plantation by the forest department since the 1990s, dense forests within Recorded Forest Areas added up to cover only 9.96% of India in 2021.
  • That is a one-tenth slide since the FSI recorded 10.88% dense forest in 1987.

Then why is there a net increase in India’s forest cover?

  • Plantations disguise as forest: The loss remains invisible due to the inclusion of commercial plantations, orchards, village homesteads, urban housings etc. as dense forests outside Recorded Forest Areas. Natural forests do not grow so fast.
  • Plantation data unavailable: The FSI provides no specific information on the share of plantations in the remaining dense forests inside Recorded Forest Areas.

Why are plantations not an alternative to forests?

Plantations can grow a lot more and faster than old natural forests. This also means that plantations can achieve additional carbon targets faster. However they are cannot be accounted as forests because-

  • Lack of biodiversity: Natural forests have evolved naturally to be diverse and, therefore, support a lot more biodiversity. Simply put, it has many different plants to sustain numerous species.
  • Non-sustainable: Plantation forests have trees of the same age, are more susceptible to fire, pests and epidemics, and often act as a barrier to natural forest regeneration.
  • Low carbon capacity: Natural forests are old and therefore stock a lot more carbon in their body and in the soil.

How accurate are these estimations?

  • The FSI compares some interpreted data with the corresponding reference data collected from the ground under the National Forest Inventory (NFI) programme.
  • In 2021, it claimed to have established an overall accuracy of 95.79% in identifying forests from non-forests.
  • However, given the limited resources, the exercise was limited to less than 6,000 sample points.

What led to such decline in forest cover?

  • Agricultural expansion
  • Infrastructure development
  • Mining and industrial activities
  • Illegal logging (for timber)
  • Climate change and natural disasters

Way forward

  • Aggressive conservation policies and programs: The government needs to strengthen forest conservation policies and programs to promote the sustainable use and management of forests and trees.
  • Community participation and empowerment: Engaging local communities in forest conservation and management can promote sustainable practices and enhance their livelihoods.
  • Sustainable forest management practices: Promoting sustainable forest management practices like agroforestry, silvopasture, and mixed-use landscapes can enhance the productivity and resilience of forests.
  • Use of technology for monitoring and enforcement: Leveraging technology like remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and blockchain can improve the monitoring and enforcement of forest conservation policies and programs.
  • Involving individuals and communities: They play a crucial role in protecting forests and trees by adopting sustainable practices, supporting forest conservation initiatives, and raising awareness about the importance of forests for the environment and people.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) launched at COP27

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MAC

Mains level: Mangrove conservation efforts

mangroves

At the 27th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP27), this year’s UN climate summit, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) was launched with India as a partner.

Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC)

  • An initiative led by the UAE and Indonesia, the MAC includes India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan, and Spain.
  • It seeks to educate and spread awareness worldwide on the role of mangroves in curbing global warming and its potential as a solution for climate change.
  • Under MAC, UAE intends to plant 3 million mangroves in the next two months, in keeping with UAE’s COP26 pledge of planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.

Working of MAC

  • MAC would work on a voluntary basis. It means that there are no real checks and balances to hold members accountable.
  • Instead, the parties will decide their own commitments and deadlines regarding planting and restoring mangroves.
  • The members will also share expertise and support each other in researching, managing and protecting coastal areas.

Why protect mangroves?

  • Infrastructure projects — industrial expansion, shifting coastlines, coastal erosion and storms, have resulted in a significant decrease in mangrove habitats.
  • Between 2010 and 2020, around 600 sq km of mangroves were lost of which more than 62% was due to direct human impacts, the Global Mangrove Alliance said in its 2022 report.

Importance of mangroves

mangrove

  • Biodiversity: Mangrove forests — consisting of trees and shrub that live in intertidal water in coastal areas — host diverse marine life.
  • Fishing grounds: They also support a rich food web, with molluscs and algae-filled substrate acting as a breeding ground for small fish, mud crabs and shrimps, thus providing a livelihood to local artisanal fishers.
  • Carbon sinks: Equally importantly, they act as effective carbon stores, holding up to four times the amount of carbon as other forested ecosystems.
  • Cyclone buffers: When Cyclone Amphan struck West Bengal in May, its effects were largely mitigated by the Sundarbans flanking its coasts along the Bay of Bengal.

Threats to Mangroves

  • Anthropogenic activities: They are a major threat to the mangroves. Urbanization, industrialization and the accompanying discharge of industrial effluents, domestic sewage and pesticide residues from agricultural lands threaten these fragile ecosystems.
  • Saltpan and aquaculture: This causes huge damage to the mangroves. Shrimp farming alone destroyed 35,000 hectares of mangroves worldwide.
  • Destruction for farming: 40% of mangroves on the west coast has been converted into farmlands and other settlements in just 3 decades.
  • Sea-level rise: This is another challenge to these mangroves- especially on the Bay of Bengal coast.

Mangroves in India

  • India holds around 3 percent of South Asia’s mangrove population.
  • Besides the Sundarbans in West Bengal, the Andaman region, the Kutch and Jamnagar areas in Gujarat too have substantial mangrove cover.

How can India benefit from MAC?

  • India is home to one of the largest remaining areas of mangroves in the world — the Sundarbans.
  • It has years of expertise in restoration of mangrove cover that can be used to aid global measures in this direction.
  • The move is in line with India’s goal to increase its carbon sink.

 

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is the correct sequence of ecosystems in the order of decreasing productivity?

(a) Oceans, lakes, grasslands, mangroves

(b) Mangroves, oceans, grasslands, lakes

(c) Mangroves, grasslands, lakes, oceans

(d) Oceans, mangroves, lakes, grasslands

 

Post your answers here.
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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest Conservation Rules infringe upon Land Rights of Tribals: NCST

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Conservation Rules 2022

Mains level: Forest rights issues of tribals

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has asked the Centre to put the new Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, on hold.

What are the Forest Conservation Rules?

  • The Forest Conservation Rules deal with the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.
  • They prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, highway development, railway lines, and mining.
  • The broad aims of the FCA are:
  1. To protect forest and wildlife
  2. Put brakes on State governments’ attempts to hive off forest land for commercial projects and
  3. Striving to increase the area under forests

How does it work?

  • For forest land beyond five hectares, approval for diverting land must be given by the Central government.
  • This is via a specially constituted committee, called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
  • The FAC approval also means that the future users of the land must provide compensatory land for afforestation as well as pay the net present value (ranging between ₹10-15 lakh per hectare.)

What do the updated rules say?

  • The new rules aims to streamline the process of approvals.
  • The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory forestation targets.
  • This aims to help increase forest cover as well as solve the problems of the States of not finding land within their jurisdiction for compensatory purposes.

Why in news now?

  • The point of contention flagged by NCST is- the new rules has no word for what happens to tribals and forest-dwelling communities whose land would be hived off for developmental work.
  • Prior to the updated rules, state bodies would forward documents to the FAC that would also include information on the status of whether the forest rights of locals in the area were settled.

Back2Basics: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is an Indian constitutional body that was established through Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • It functions under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The original constitution provided for the appointment of a Special Officer under Article 338.
  • The special officer was designated as the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • The 65th Constitutional Amendment Act 1990, amended Article 338 of the Constitution to introduce a joint NC for SCs and STs.
  • Later by 89th Amendment, NC for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and NC for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) were separated by creating a new Article 338-A.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What are Community Reserves?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Community Reserves

Mains level: Read the attached story

India’s North East has seen a mushrooming of ‘community reserves’ in the last 11 years.

What are Community Reserves?

  • Community reserves fall under protected areas, along with marine protected areas, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation reserves, according to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Community Reserves were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002 − the amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the GoI but used for subsistence by communities, and community areas if part of the lands are privately owned.

Why need such areas?

  • These categories were added because of reduced protection in and around existing or proposed protected areas due to private ownership of land, and land use.
  • A case in point was the Melghat Tiger Reserve where a large area was left unprotected due to private ownership.
  • They typically are migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.

Who administers Community Reserves?

  • Once forest land has been declared as a community reserve, it goes from being governed by local village councils to coming under the forest department.
  • Administration of such reserves would be through local people and local agencies like the Gram Panchayat, as in the case of communal forests.
  • Community reserves are the first instances of private land being accorded protection under the Indian legislature.
  • It opens up the possibility of communally owned for-profit wildlife resorts, and also causes privately held areas under non-profit organizations like land trusts to be given protection.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest rights act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Community forest rights

Mains level: Tribal welfare

forest right actContext

  • There is a surge in demand by forest communities to not only access the resources of their habitat, but also to establish their ownership over forests as forest rights act in not meeting its objective.

What is the news?

  • Residents of 18 villages in Chhattisgarh’s Udanti Sitanadi Tiger Reserve blocked the busy National Highway 130C.

What tribal people say?

  • “We need forest resources for survival. Being a tiger reserve, we already lead a life with many restrictions. There is no power supply, access to grazing lands is non-existent and we cannot undertake construction works,” says Arjun Nayak of Nagesh, one of the 18 villages in Gariaband district.

forest right actWhat is forest rights act 2006?

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs.
  • It aimed to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

forest right actWhat are individual rights under FRA act?

  • The Act encompasses Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitationwhich are usually regarded as Individual rights.

What are community forest rights under FRA act?

  • Community Rights as Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests, Habitat Rights for PVTGs, Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community, access to biodiversity, community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, recognition of traditional customary rights and right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use.

Case study / Value addition

Chargaon village, Dhamtari district, Chhattisgarh

Migration has drastically reduced due to economic benefits after getting CFRR. Success in improving quality of tendu leaves with better management practices, increasing income.

forest right actIssues with Forest rights act

  • Non responsive states: The forest rights claims of these tribes and forest-dwellers are mostly rejected by the States.
  • Improper claims: Being poor and illiterate, living in remote areas, they do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims.
  • Low awareness: The gram sabhas, which initiate the verification of their claims, are low on awareness of how to deal with them.

forest right actWhy are forest rights important for tribals?

  • Justice: Aimed at undoing the “historic injustice” meted out to forest-dependent communities due to curtailment of their customary rights over forests, the FRA came into force in 2008.
  • Livelihood: It is important as it recognises the community’s right to use, manage and conserve forest resources, and to legally hold forest land that these communities have used for cultivation and residence.
  • Conservation: It also underlines the integral role that forest dwellers play in the sustainability of forests and in the conservation of biodiversity.

Conclusion

Despite the contentious and debatable nature of this law, the importance and necessity of the FRA, 2006 can not be negated completely. The law assumes even more significant importance when the country is a developing economy and is full-fledged following the path of capitalism, thus making it even more substantial to provide a redressal mechanism for vulnerable and marginalised communities and groups, such as the Adivasis and the other similar tribes, from the necessary evil of development and infrastructural growth while also safeguarding their traditions, heritage and identity that forms an important part of the nation’s cultural diversity as well.

Mains question

Q. There is a surge in demand by forest communities to not only access the resources of their habitat, but also to establish their ownership over forests. In this context analyse the issues with working of FRA 2006.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Centre raises alarm over Undemarcated Protected Forests in Chhattisgarh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Undemarcated Protected Forests

Mains level: Not Much

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has objected to the transfer of thousands of hectares of land without following due process by Chhattisgarh from its Forest to the Revenue Department for setting up industries and for building road, rail, and other infrastructure.

What is the news?

  • The Union Environment Ministry has warned that the land in question is “undemarcated protected forests”, which cannot be used for non-forest purposes without clearance under the Forest Conservation (FC) Act, 1980.

‘Types of Forests’ in Law

  • Broadly, state Forest Departments have jurisdiction over two types of forests notified under the Indian Forest (IF) Act, 1927:
  1. Reserve Forests (RF): where no rights are allowed unless specified and
  2. Protected Forests (PF): where no rights are barred unless specified
  • Certain forests, such as village or nagarpalika forests, are managed by state Revenue Departments.
  • The FC Act, 1980, applies to all kinds of forests, whether under the control of the Forest or the Revenue Department.
  • It requires statutory clearance before forests can be used for any non-forest purpose such as industry, mining, or construction.
  • In 1976, forests were included in List III (Concurrent List) under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Chhattisgarh case

  • The recorded forest area in Chhattisgarh covers 44.21% of its geography.
  • The state government says it is constrained by the limited availability of land, particularly in the tribal regions, for development works.
  • Therefore, in May 2021, it sought a field survey to identify non-forest land — parcels smaller than 10 hectares with less than 200 trees per hectare.

Orange, a grey area

  • It sought that the forests had been included by mistake in Orange Areas under the Forest Department.
  • This year, it announced that over 300 sq km of “Orange” area in the Bastar region had been handed over to the Revenue Department.
  • Under the zamindari system, villagers used local malguzari (livelihood concessions) forests for firewood, grazing, etc.
  • When zamindari was abolished in 1951, malguzari forests came under the Revenue Department.
  • In 1958, the government of undivided Madhya Pradesh notified all these areas as Protected Forest (PFs) under the Forest Department.
  • Through the 1960s, ground surveys and demarcations of these PFs continued — either to form blocks of suitable patches to be declared as Reserve Forests, or to denotify and return to the Revenue Department.
  • For this purpose, Madhya Pradesh amended the IF Act, 1927, in 1965 — when forests figured in the State List — to allow denotification of PFs.
  • The areas yet to be surveyed — undemarcated PFs — were marked in orange on the map.

Policy jam

  • Since 2003, a case has been pending in the Supreme Court on rationalising these orange areas that have remained a bone of contention between the two Departments.
  • The transfer of PFs to the Revenue Department continued until 1976, when reports of illicit felling in Revenue areas prompted Madhya Pradesh to seek a fresh survey to shift quality forest patches.
  • But before this survey could be undertaken, the new government that came to power in the state in 1978 switched the focus to settling encroachments.
  • The FC Act came in 1980, and required central clearance for non-forest use of forest land.
  • This led to a situation where the rights of lakhs of villagers, including those settled by the government through pattas, remained restricted.

After MP was split

  • Carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, Chhattisgarh inherited its share of ‘orange’ areas.
  • Ranked second after Orissa in implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the state has settled over 26,000 claims since 2019.
  • The logical next step, say officials who declined to be quoted, was to find land for the economic development of the tribal belt.
  • Chhattisgarh did not seek central clearance to transfer over 300 sq km to Revenue, they claim, because it did not have to.

New definition of forests

  • In December 1996, the SC defined ‘forest’ after its dictionary meaning, irrespective of the status of the land it stands on.
  • It also defined forestland as any land thus notified on any government record irrespective of what actually stands on that land.
  • To meet this broad definition, Madhya Pradesh in 1997 framed a “practical yardstick” — an area no smaller than 10 hectares with at least 200 trees per hectare — to identify forests in Revenue areas for handing over to the Forest Department.
  • These non-forest areas, they claim, are now being identified and returned to the Revenue.

Issues with such Un-forestation

  • The nature of vegetation changes over time.
  • After so many years, a visual survey cannot determine if a particular piece of land did not meet the definition of forest.
  • Once brought under the Forest Department, whether mistakenly or otherwise, an area gets the status of forestland as per the 1996 SC order, and hence comes under the FC Act, 1980.

Options available for CG

  • Chhattisgarh, thanks to the 1965 amendment to the IF Act, can still denotify PFs unilaterally.
  • It may also vest management of any land with any department since the state owns all land within its boundaries.
  • But if the stated purpose is non-forest use — building industries and infrastructure — the state will anyway require central clearance under the FC Act, 1980.

What lies ahead?

  • Clearance for non-forest use of forestland under the FC Act requires giving back twice the area for compensatory afforestation (CA) from Revenue to Forest.
  • That would defeat the very purpose of the state government’s action.
  • However, conversion of Forest to Revenue land has been exempted from CA under exceptional circumstances in the past.
  • For example, when enclaves were moved out of forests, the SC allowed those to be resettled at the edge of the forests, in the absence of suitable Revenue land, as revenue villages.
  • It will be a stretch, though, for such considerations to apply to thousands of hectares meant for industries.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest restoration in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Forest landscape restoration

Context

This month is time for Van Mahotsav, which literally means “celebrate the forest”.

Why tree planting matters

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), deforestation and forest degradation contribute around 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The total area occupied by primary forests in India has decreased by 3.6%.
  • Tree planting comes with varied environmental and ecological benefits.
  • Forests are integral in regulating ecosystems, influencing the carbon cycle and mitigating the effects of climate change.
  • Annually, forests absorb roughly 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
  • This absorption includes nearly 33% of the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels.
  • Livelihood: Forests are a boon for local communities and their livelihoods by functioning as a resource base for goods and services.
  • Enrich soil fertility: According to academics from the World Resources Institute, forest ecosystems enrich soil fertility and water availability, enhancing agricultural productivity, and in turn the rural economy.
  • Prevents erosion and flooding: Tree planting prevents erosion and stems flooding.
  • Sustainable forest crops reduce food insecurity and empower women, allowing them to gain access to more nutritional diets and new income streams.
  • Agroforestry lessens rural-to-urban migration and contributes to an increase in resources and household income.
  • Planting trees is deeply linked to the ‘wholistic’ well-being of all individuals, the community, and the planet.

Afforestation through forest landscape restoration

  • Typically, governments have relied on afforestation and reforestation as a means of establishing trees on non-treed land. These strategies have now evolved.
  • Focus on forest landscape restoration: The focus is now on forest landscape restoration — the process of regaining ecological functionality and improving human welfare across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
  • Community participation: Forest landscape restoration seeks to involve communities in the process of designing and executing mutually advantageous interventions for the upgradation of landscapes.
  • Nearly two billion hectares of degraded land in the world (and 140 million hectares in India) have scope for potential restoration as forest land.
  • Ensuring diversity of species: A crucial aspect of this process is to ensure the diversity of the species while planting trees.
  •  Natural forests with diverse native tree species are more efficient in sequestering carbon than monoculture tree plantations.
  • Planting diverse species is also healthier for local communities and their livelihoods.
  • An international study published earlier this year in the journal, Science, found that diversifying species in forest plantations has a positive impact on the quality of the forests.

Programs and initiative for forest restoration

  • The span 2021-2030 is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, emphasising efforts to restore degraded terrestrial ecosystems including forests.
  • Bonn Challenge: In 2011, the Bonn Challenge was launched with a global goal to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • India joined the Bonn Challenge in 2015, pledging to restore 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.
  • An additional carbon sink of 2.5 billion-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through forest and tree cover is to be created by 2030.
  • There are a myriad government programmes such as Compensatory Afforestation, the National Afforestation Programme, the National Mission for a Green India (Green India Mission), the Nagar Van scheme and the Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme to name a few.
  • The Green Skill Development Programme is for the youth who aspire to attain employment in the environment and forest sectors.

Challenges

  • Forest restoration in India faces hurdles in terms of the identification of areas for restoration, a lack of importance accorded to research and scientific strategies in tree planting, stakeholders’ conflicts of interest, and financing.

Way forward

  • To be successful, forest landscape restoration must be implemented proactively, bolstering landscapes and forest ecosystems to be durable and adjustable in the face of future challenges and societal needs.
  • Involvement of stakeholders: It also needs the involvement and the alignment of a host of stakeholders including the community, champions, government and landowners.
  • Participatory governance: The restoration of natural forest ecosystems can be strengthened through participatory governance by engaging stakeholders.
  • Taking into account socio-economic context: Vulnerable forest-dependent communities should be factored in, and any effort should be tailored to the local socio-economic context and landscape history of a region.

Conclusion

In today’s world, forests need to be celebrated more than ever before. Simultaneously, more forests need to be created and restored.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest Rights Act 2006

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Rights Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Odisha government is chasing an ambitious target of completing the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) by granting all kinds of rights mandated under the historic Act by 2024.

What is Forest Rights Act (FRA)?

  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted in this regard.
  • It aimed to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

Provisions of the 2006 Act

  • The Act recognizes that tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities would be hard put to provide documentary evidence for their claims.
  • Rule 13 of the Act, therefore, stipulates that the Gram Sabhas should consider more than one evidence in determining forest rights.
  • The rule sanctions a wide range of evidence, including “statements by village elders”, “community rights” and “physical attributes such as houses, huts and permanent improvements made to land such as levelling, bunds and check dams”.

Why in news now?

  • The forest rights claims of these tribes and forest-dwellers are mostly rejected by the States.
  • Being poor and illiterate, living in remote areas, they do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims.
  • The gram sabhas, which initiate the verification of their claims, are low on awareness of how to deal with them.

Why are forest rights important for tribals?

  • Aimed at undoing the “historic injustice” meted out to forest-dependent communities due to curtailment of their customary rights over forests, the FRA came into force in 2008.
  • It is important as it recognises the community’s right to use, manage and conserve forest resources, and to legally hold forest land that these communities have used for cultivation and residence.
  • It also underlines the integral role that forest dwellers play in the sustainability of forests and in the conservation of biodiversity.
  • It is of greater significance inside protected forests like national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as traditional dwellers then become a part of management of the protected forests.

 

Try answering this PYQ

Q.Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, who shall be the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both?

(a) State Forest Department

(b) District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

(c) Tahsildar/Block Development Officer/Mandal Revenue Officer

(d) Gram Sabha

 

Post your answers here.
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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Tendu Leaves Collection in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tendu Leaves, NTFP

Mains level: Not Much

Tribal residents in Chhattisgarh have decided to file an FIR against an official of the state forest department after he confiscated the tendu leaves that they had collected.

Tendu Leaves

  • Leaves of tree species Diospyros melanoxyion are used as wrappers of tobacco to produce bidi.
  • This tree is commonly known as “tendu,” but also called “abnus” in Andhra Pradesh, “kendu” in Orissa and West Bengal, “tembru” in Gujarat, “kari” in Kerala, “tembhurni” in Maharahstra, and “bali tupra” in Tamil Nadu.
  • This leaf is considered the most suitable wrapper on account of the ease with which it can be rolled and its wide availability.
  • Tendu is also called ‘green gold’ and is a prominent minor forest produce in India.

How it is traded?

  • In 1964, the trade in tendu leaves was nationalised in then-undivided Madhya Pradesh.
  • Until then, people were free to sell tendu leaves in markets across the country.
  • Maharashtra adopted the same system in 1969, undivided Andhra Pradesh in 1971, Odisha in 1973, Gujarat in 1979, Rajasthan in 1974 and Chhattisgarh in 2000.
  • Under this arrangement, the state forest department collects tendu leaves, allows their transportation and sells them to traders.

Why is there a dispute?

  • The dispute is essentially about who has the right to sell the leaves.
  • State governments say only they can do so due to nationalization.
  • On the other hand, tendu leaf collectors cite The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and the 2013 Supreme Court verdict in the Niyamgiri Case to say private collectors can sell them on their own.
  • Tendu leaf collectors allege that the government gives them a lower price for the leaves, while it fetches a higher price in the open market.

What do the tribals want?

  • The tribals, after having obtained forest rights leases under the FRA 2006, now want to sell tendu leaves on their own, with the permission of Gram Sabhas and make good profits.
  • Many types of minor forest produce like Mahua, Salbeej or the seeds of the Sal tree (Shorea robusta) and Chironji or Almondette kernels (Buchanania lanzan) are collected and sold by tribals.
  • Hence, there should not be a dispute over tendu leaves.

Back2Basics: Forest Produce in India

  • Forest produce is defined under section 2(4) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  • Its legal definition includes timber, charcoal, catechu, wood-oil, resin, natural varnish, bark, lac, mahua flowers, trees and leaves, flowers and fruit, plants (including grass, creepers, reeds and moss), wild animals, skins, tusks, horns, bones, cocoons, silk, honey, wax, etc.
  • Forest produce can be divided into several categories.
  • From the point of view of usage, forest produce can be categorized into three types: Timber, Non-Timber and Minor Minerals.
  • Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are known also as minor forest produce (MFP) or non-wood forest produces (NWFP).
  • The NTFP can be further categorized into medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP), oilseeds, fibre & floss, resins, edible plants, bamboo, reeds and grasses

 

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What are Community Forest Rights?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Chhattisgarh government has become the only second state in the country to recognize the Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights of a village inside a national park.

What is the news?

  • The CFR rights of tribals living in a hamlet inside the Kanger Ghati National Park in Bastar district, were recognised.
  • It gave the community the power to formulate rules for forest use.

Try this PYQ first:

Q.Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, who shall be the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both?

(a) State Forest Department

(b) District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

(c) Tahsildar/Block Development Officer/Mandal Revenue Officer

(d) Gram Sabha

 

 

Post your answers here.
11
Please leave a feedback on thisx

What is a Community Forest?

  • The community forest resource area is the common forest land that has been traditionally protected and conserved for sustainable use by a particular community.
  • The community uses it to access resources available within the traditional and customary boundary of the village; and for seasonal use of landscape in case of pastoralist communities.
  • Each CFR area has a customary boundary with identifiable landmarks recognised by the community and its neighboring villages.
  • It may include forest of any category – revenue forest, classified & unclassified forest, deemed forest, DLC land, reserve forest, protected forest, sanctuary and national parks etc.

Legal basis for Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights

  • The CFR rights are acknowledged under the Section 3(1) (i) of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
  • This is commonly referred to as the Forest Rights Act or the FRA.
  • It aims to provide for recognition of the right to “protect, regenerate or conserve or manage” the community forest resource.
  • These rights allow the community to formulate rules for forest use by itself and others and thereby discharge its responsibilities under Section 5 of the FRA.

Nature of rights included

  • CFR rights, along with Community Rights (CRs) under Sections 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c), which include: nistar rights and rights over non-timber forest products, ensure sustainable livelihoods of the community.
  • ‘Nistar’ means the concession granted for removal from forest coupes (small trees) on payment at stipulated rates, specified forest produce for bonafide domestic use, but not for barter or sale.
  • These rights give the authority to the Gram Sabha to adopt local traditional practices of forest conservation and management within the community forest resource boundary.

Why is the recognition of CFR rights important?

  • Aimed at undoing the “historic injustice” meted out to forest-dependent communities due to curtailment of their customary rights over forests, the FRA came into force in 2008.
  • It is important as it recognises the community’s right to use, manage and conserve forest resources, and to legally hold forest land that these communities have used for cultivation and residence.
  • It also underlines the integral role that forest dwellers play in the sustainability of forests and in the conservation of biodiversity.
  • It is of greater significance inside protected forests like national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as traditional dwellers then become a part of management of the protected forests.

How many CFR certificates have been given in Chhattisgarh?

  • According to state government officials, Chhattisgarh has recognised nearly 4,000 CFR rights in the state.
  • Kanger Ghati National Park is the second national park, after Simlipal in Odisha, where CFR rights have been recognised.

 

 

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Highlights of the Seoul Forest Declaration

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Forestry Congress, Seoul Declaration

Mains level: Not Much

The participants from 141 countries gathered in person and online at the 15th World Forestry Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea adopted the Seoul Forest Declaration.

Seoul Forest Declaration

  • Shared responsibility: The Declaration urges that responsibility for forests should be shared and integrated across institutions, sectors and stakeholders.
  • Increased investment: Investment in forest and landscape restoration globally needs to triple by 2030 to meet internationally agreed commitments and targets on restoring degraded land.
  • Moving towards circular economy: One of the key takeaways was the importance of moving towards a circular bioeconomy and climate neutrality.
  • Innovative green financing mechanisms: To upscale investment in forest conservation, restoration and sustainable use, and highlighted the potential of sustainably produced wood as a renewable, recyclable and versatile material.
  • Decision-making: It urged the continued development and use of emerging innovative technologies and mechanisms to enable evidence-based forest and landscape decision-making.

Other takeaways

  • Close cooperation among nations is needed to address challenges that transcend political boundaries.
  • This was strengthened at the Congress by the launch of new partnerships such as the:
  1. Assuring the Future of Forests with Integrated Risk Management (AFFIRM) Mechanism and
  2. Sustaining an Abundance of Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Initiative

Back2Basics: World Forestry Congress

  • The first World Forestry Congress first held in Rome in 1926. After that, it is held about every six years by the UN-FAO.
  • In 1954, FAO was entrusted with supporting Congress preparations in close cooperation with the host country and proudly continues to do so today. .
  • It has been providing a forum for inclusive discussion on the key challenges and way forward for the forestry sector.

 

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Conservation of Sacred Grooves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sacred Grooves

Mains level: Read the attached story

India’s sacred groves are being gradually altered due to ever-expanding human populations, pollution and removal of biomass; effective conservation is the need of the hour to maintain their functional values

What are Sacred Grooves?

  • Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community.
  • It usually consists of a dense cover of vegetation including climbers, herbs, shrubs and trees, with the presence of a village deity and is mostly situated near a perennial water source.
  • Sacred groves are considered to be symbols of the primitive practice of nature worship and support nature conservation to a great extent.
  • The introduction of the protected area category community reserves under the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 has introduced legislation for providing government protection to community-held lands, which could include sacred groves.

Historical references

  • Indian sacred groves are often associated with temples, monasteries, shrines, pilgrimage sites, or with burial grounds.
  • Historically, sacred groves find their mentions in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts, from sacred tree groves in Hinduism to sacred deer parks in Buddhism for example.
  • Sacred groves may be loosely used to refer to natural habitat protected on religious grounds.
  • Other historical references to sacred groves can be obtained in Vrukshayurveda an ancient treatise, ancient classics such as Kalidasa’s Vikramuurvashiiya.
  • There has been a growing interest in creating green patches such as Nakshatravana

Regulation of activities in Sacred Grooves

  • Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches.
  • Other forms of forest usage like honey collection and deadwood collection are sometimes allowed on a sustainable basis.
  • NGOs work with local villagers to protect such groves.
  • Traditionally, and in some cases even today, members of the community take turns to protect the grove.

Threats to such grooves

  • Threats to the groves include urbanization, and over-exploitation of resources.
  • While many of the groves are looked upon as abode of Hindu deities, in the recent past a number of them have been partially cleared for construction of shrines and temples.

Total grooves in India

  • Around 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings.
  • Experts believe that the total number of sacred groves could be as high as 100,000.
  • They are called by different names in different states:
  1. Sarna in Bihar
  2. Dev Van in Himachal Pradesh
  3. Devarakadu in Karnataka
  4. Kavu in Kerala
  5. Dev in Madhya Pradesh
  6. Devarahati or Devarai in Maharashtra
  7. Lai Umang in Maharashtra
  8. Law Kyntang or Asong Khosi in Meghalaya
  9. Oran in Rajasthan
  10. Kovil Kadu or Sarpa Kavu in Tamil Nadu

What lies ahead?

  • The groves have great research value in in situ conservation of rare, endangered and threatened plant species.
  • It is high time that public awareness is created about the importance of these sacred groves, developmental activities are banned and the felling of trees or removal of any other vegetation is completely stopped.
  • This is possible only by way of enacting a special law for the protection and management of sacred groves.
  • As the management practices and other rituals vary from state to state, the concerned state governments may promulgate such an act as suitable for the state.
  • The idea should be to protect certain rare, endangered and threatened plant species in the era of global warming and climate change.

 

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How to expand India’s forest cover

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest cover

Mains level: Paper 3- Increasing India's forest cover

Context

The recently released India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 shows the total forest and tree cover in India is 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62 per cent of the geographical area of the country.

Definition of forest in India

  • India’s definition of forest cover is in sync with that of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • A “forest” has a minimum area of 0.05 to 1 ha (India has 1.0 ha minimum), with the tree crown cover percentage being more than 10 to 30 per cent (India has 10 per cent) and with trees having the potential to reach a minimum height of 2 to 5 m at maturity in situ (in India, it’s 2 m).
  • The definition thus arrived at by India assesses forests as all lands, more than 1 hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 per cent irrespective of ownership and legal status.
  • Such lands may not necessarily be a recorded forest area.
  • It also includes orchards, bamboo, palm etc.

Assessment of forest cover

  • The assessment of forest cover is done based on the interpretation of satellite data, which basically identifies umbrella-shaped canopies from the sky.
  • The forest cover is also estimated from field inventory data, which corroborates the figures of forest cover obtained from the satellite-based interpretation.
  • The environment ministry is even considering providing forest cover maps through the Web Map Service to make the analyses of researchers and agencies easier.
  • Importance of plantations: The importance of plantations needs to be understood.
  • For example, cashew plantations, which mainly grow along the coast, serve as the first line of defence against cyclones, which are hitting with greater frequency and ferocity.
  • Mixed plantations, especially of native species, meet all the ecological functions of natural forests.
  • A lot of wildlife inhabits these plantations.
  • While we do not advocate equating natural forests with plantations, let us recognise their ecological functions.

Afforestation efforts

  • India is on track to achieve its national commitment to land degradation neutrality.
  • India is working towards restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
  • Our afforestation efforts are also aligned with our wildlife conservation efforts.
  • Project Tiger was launched in 1973.
  • From nine tiger reserves initially, we now have 51 tiger reserves.
  • These are the cornerstones of wildlife conservation and preserve natural ecosystems which support ecological processes responsible for providing various goods and services that are vital for human well-being.

Way forward

  • Notwithstanding these gains, the goal of 33 per cent area under forest and tree cover as per the National Forest Policy, 1988, remains to be achieved.
  • Focus on TOF: The balance of 9 per cent can be achieved through taking up plantation/afforestation outside the forests and restocking/plantation in degraded and scrub forests.
  • According to the ISFR 2021, the Trees outside forest (TOF) extent comprises 36.18 per cent of the total forest and tree cover of the country.
  • Given this fact, the draft NFP 2021 has focused on the promotion of TOF by including it among its objectives.
  • NFP 2021: Given this fact, the draft NFP 2021 has focused on the promotion of TOF by including it among its objectives.
  • The provisions in draft NFP 2021 include substantially increasing the tree cover outside forests by incentivising and promoting agro-forestry and farm forestry; managing and expanding green spaces in urban and peri-urban areas to enhance citizens’ well-being; plantation of trees outside forests in partnership with local communities, land-owning agencies, and private enterprises; creation, sustainable management and promotion of urban forests; afforestation/reforestation in public-private partnership (PPP) mode; promotion of urban forests.

Conclusion

It is with this holistic approach that India is moving towards restoring the ecological balance of the planet and ensuring sustainable development.

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[pib] Definition of Forest in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Definition of Forests

Mains level: Not Much

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has informed about the criteria used to define forest in India.

Defining Forests universally

  • As per the Conference of Parties (CoP) 9-Kyoto Protocol, the forest can be defined by any country depending upon the capacities and capabilities of the country.
  • Forest- Forest is defined structurally on the basis of
  1. Crown cover percentage: Tree crown cover- 10 to 30% (India 10%)
  2. Minimum area of stand: area between 0.05 and 1 hectare (India 1.0 hectare) and
  3. Minimum height of trees: Potential to reach a minimum height at maturity in situ of 2 to 5 m (India 2m)

India’s definition of Forests

The definition of forest cover has clearly been defined in all the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) and in all the International communications of India.

  • The forest cover is defined as ‘all land, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status.
  • Such land may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm’.

Classification of forest cover

In ISFR 2021 recently published has divided the forest cover as:

  1. Inside Recorded Forest Area: These are basically natural forests and plantations of Forest Department.
  2. Outside Recorded Forest Area: These cover mango orchards, coconut plantations, block plantations of agroforestry.

Back2Basics: Forest Classification in India

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover in 4 classes.

  • Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  • Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  • Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  • Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.

 

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Declaration on Forests and Land Use

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Declaration on Forests and Land Use

Mains level: Not Much

At COP-26 in Glasgow, countries got together to sign the Declaration on Forests and Land Use (or the Deforestation Declaration). However, India was among the few countries that did not sign the declaration.

What is this Deforestation Declaration?

  • It was signed by 142 countries, which represented over 90 percent of forests across the world.
  • The declaration commits to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.
  • The signatories committed $19 billion in private and public funds to this end.

Why did India abstain from joining?

  • India had concerns about the linkage the declaration makes between deforestation, infrastructure development and trade.
  • Any commitment to the environment and climate change should not involve any reference to trade, cited India.
  • Analysts in India have linked the decision to a proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation Act 1980 that would ease the clearances presently required for acquiring forest land for new infrastructure projects.

India abstained from many things

  • A look at India’s positions on some other recent critical pledges and decisions related to climate change reveals a clear pattern of objections or absence.
  • At CoP26, India was not part of the dialogue on Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT).
  • FACT, which is supported by 28 countries seeks to encourage “sustainable development and trade of agricultural commodities while protecting and managing sustainably forests and other critical ecosystems”.
  • India also voted against a recent draft resolution to allow for discussions related to climate change and its impact on international peace and security to be taken up at the UNSC.

Why should India join this declaration?

  • Broadly speaking, all of India’s objections are based on procedural issues at multilateral fora.
  • Although justifiable on paper, these objections seem blind to the diverse ways in which climate change is linked to global trade, deforestation, agriculture, and international peace, among other issues.
  • For context, consider India’s palm oil trade. India is the largest importer of crude palm oil in the world.
  • Palm oil cultivation, covering roughly 16 million acres of land in Indonesia and Malaysia, has been the biggest driver of deforestation in the two countries.

 

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Highlights of the India State of Forest Report, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India State of Forest Report, 2021

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021.

About India State of Forest Report

  • ISFR is an assessment of India’s forest and tree cover, published every two years by the Forest Survey of India under the MoEFCC.
  • The first survey was published in 1987, and ISFR 2021 is the 17th.
  • It compiles data computed through wall-to-wall mapping of India’s forest cover through remote sensing techniques.

Why need ISFR?

  • It is used in planning and formulation of policies in forest management as well as forestry and agroforestry sectors.

How are forests categorized?

The Forest Survey of India has listed four categories of forests. They are:

  1. Very Dense Forest (with tree canopy density of 70 per cent or above)
  2. Moderately Dense Forest (tree canopy density of 40 per cent or above but less than 70 per cent)
  3. Open Forest (tree canopy density of 10 per cent or above but less than 40 per cent)
  4. Scrub (tree canopy density less than 10 per cent)

Highlights of the ISFR, 2021

[1] Forest cover is increasing

  • ISFR 2021 has found that the forest and tree cover in the country continues to increase with an additional cover of 1,540 square kilometres over the past two years.
  • India’s forest cover is now 7,13,789 square kilometres, 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019.
  • Tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
  • Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.

[2] State-wise gain/losses

  • The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
  • The Northeast states account for 7.98% of total geographical area but 23.75% of total forest cover.
  • Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.
  • The report has attributed the decline in the NE states to a spate of natural calamities, particularly landslides and heavy rains, in the region as well as to anthropogenic activities.

[3] Increase in Mangrove cover

  • Mangroves have shown an increase of 17 sq km. India’s total mangrove cover is now 4,992 sq km.

[4] Increase in carbon stock

  • The total carbon stock in country’s forests is estimated at 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.

[5] Big cats population

  • ISFR 2021 has some new features. It has for the first time assessed forest cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors and the Gir forest which houses the Asiatic lion.
  • The forest cover in tiger corridors has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32%) between 2011-2021, but decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%) in tiger reserves.
  • Buxa, Anamalai and Indravati reserves have shown an increase in forest cover while the highest losses have been found in Kawal, Bhadra and the Sunderbans reserves.
  • Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has the highest forest cover, at nearly 97%.

 [6] Impact of climate change

  • The report estimates that by 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will experience the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, and forests in all states will be highly vulnerable climate hot spots.
  • Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be the most affected.
  • India’s forests are already showing shifting trends of vegetation types, such as Sikkim which has shown a shift in its vegetation pattern for 124 endemic species.

[7] Forest fires

  • The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires.
  • Out of this, 2.81 % is extremely prone, 7.85% is very highly prone and 11.51 % is highly prone
  • The highest numbers of fires were detected in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Concerns with the declining trends

  • It is worrying that a 1,582 sq km decline was in moderately dense forests, or “natural forests”.
  • This decline shows a degradation of forests in the country, say experts, with natural forests degrading to less dense open forests.
  • Also, scrub area has increased by 5,320 sq km – indicating the complete degradation of forests in these areas.

 

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Draft Regional Plan 2041 for NCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Draft Regional Plan 2041

Mains level: Issues with the plan

Many environment analysts and activists has offered objections to the Draft Regional Plan-2041 for National Capital Region (NCR).

Draft Regional Plan 2041

  • The National Capital Region Planning Board had sought objections and suggestions to the Draft RP-2041 from public.
  • Under the NCRPB plan, Delhi, two districts of Rajasthan, eight districts of Uttar Pradesh and 14 districts of Haryana are covered. In all, it covers an area of around 55,083 square kilometres.
  • The plan paves the way for a future-ready and slum-free NCR comprising of facilities like air ambulance, high-speed connectivity by means of rail, road, Heli taxis, and inland waterways.

Key provisions

  • This plan puts special impetus on 30-minute connectivity by means of super-fast trains within major cities of NCR.
  • It also proposes to explore feasibility of 30-minute Mass Transit Rail System (MTRS) from boundaries of NCR to Delhi.
  • The plan seeks to make NCR a smart connected region by improving connectivity using bullet trains, smart roads, and helitaxi services.
  • It will evolve the region into an economically prosperous region comprising of citizen centric harmonious infrastructure.
  • It laid emphasis on circular economy of water & air quality improvements, improving environment conservation.

Need for the plan

  • There was a need to ease out traffic congestions and create more integrated, accessible, user-centric and affordable transportation system.

Various objections with the Plan

 

  • The plan excludes the terms “Aravalli” and “forest areas” from the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ).
  • The Aravallis were an integral part of the NCZ in the current Regional Plan-2021.
  • This has left Aravallis open to unlimited real estate construction.
  • Similarly, the phrase “forest areas” has been deleted from the NCZ also. This will drastically reduce the forest cover that is eligible for NCZ zoning protection.

Why Aravallis matters?

 

  • The Aravallis are home to over 400 species of native trees, shrubs and herbs, more than 200 native and migratory bird species, and wildlife that includes leopards, jackals, hyenas, mongoose and civet cats.
  • They are crucial to groundwater recharge, which is significant given the water scarcity the region faces during harsh summer months.
  • The thick forest cover helps to naturally purify air in a region plagued by high levels of vehicular and industrial pollution through the year.

Back2Basics:  Aravali Range

  • The Aravali is a mountain range in Northwestern India, running approximately 670 km in a southwest direction, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan, and ending in Gujarat.
  • The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 meters.
  • The Aravalli Range, an eroded stub of ancient mountains, is the oldest range of fold mountains in India.
  • The natural history of the Aravalli Range dates back to times when the Indian Plate was separated from the Eurasian Plate by an ocean.
  • Three major rivers and their tributaries flow from the Aravalli, namely Banas and Sahibi rivers which are tributaries of Yamuna, as well as Luni River which flows into the Rann of Kutch.

 

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Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW) Program

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sahel Region

Mains level: Great Green Wall Project

Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW) program to combat desertification in the Sahel region is an important contribution towards combating climate change, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a study.

Note the countries swept by the GGW project on the African map.

About GGW Program

  • The Great Green Wall project is conceived by 11 countries located along the southern border of the Sahara and their international partners, is aimed at limiting the desertification of the Sahel zone.
  • Led by the African Union, the initiative aims to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.
  • The initial idea of the GGW was to develop a line of trees from east to the west bordering the Saharan Desert.
  • Its vision has evolved into that of a mosaic of interventions addressing the challenges facing the people in the Sahel and the Sahara.

Why was such project incepted?

  • The project is a response to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas.
  • It aimed to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030; only four million hectares had been restored between 2007 and 2019.
  • It is a partnership that supports communities working towards sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources.
  • It seeks to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improve food security.

 

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Podu Land issue in Telangana

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Podu, Shifting cultivation

Mains level: Not Much

The Telangana government has decided to move landless, non-tribal farmers engaged in Podu shifting cultivation inside forests to peripheral areas as it looks to combat deforestation.

What is Shifting Cultivation?

  • Shifting cultivation is a form of agriculture or a cultivation system, in which, at any particular point in time, a minority of ‘fields’ are in cultivation and a majority are in various stages of natural re-growth.
  • Over time, fields are cultivated for a relatively short time, and allowed to recover, or are fallowed, for a relatively long time.
  • Eventually, a previously cultivated field will be cleared of the natural vegetation and planted in crops again.
  • Fields in established and stable shifting cultivation systems are cultivated and fallowed cyclically.
  • This type of farming is also called jhumming in India.

What is Podu?

  • Podu is a traditional system of cultivation used by tribes in India, whereby different areas of jungle forest are cleared by burning each year to provide land for crops.
  • The word comes from the Telugu language.
  • Podu is a form of shifting agriculture using slash-and-burn methods.

Issue in Telangana

  • Shifting cultivation continues to be a predominant agricultural practice in many parts of India, despite state discouragement and multipronged efforts.
  • Telangana government has red-flagged encroachment of forests by non-tribals, who are indulging in the practice of shifting agriculture (podu).
  • Several political leaders have raised the issues of shifting agriculture and deforestation wherein encroachers clear a portion of land.
  • The government now wants to shift out all farmers from the forests to the periphery by allotting lands to them for cultivation.

Impact of the move

  • Tribal farmers who have been traditionally cultivating for decades will not be affected by this drive against illegal encroachers.
  • The government has, in fact, given land ownership titles to tribals.
  • Other encroaching farmers will be shifted out.

Back2Basics: Various shifting cultivation in India

Type Place of practice
Jhum North-eastern India
Vevar and Dahiyaar Bundelkhand Region (Madhya Pradesh)
Deepa Bastar District (Madhya Pradesh)
Zara and Erka Southern States
Batra South-eastern Rajasthan
Podu Andhra Pradesh
Kumari Hilly Region of the Western Ghats of Kerala
Kaman, Vinga and Dhavi Odisha

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

Mains level: Issues with forest land diversion

The Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has published proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

The FCA is the principal legislation that regulates deforestation in the country.

  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any “non-forestry” use without prior clearance by the central government.
  • The clearance process includes seeking consent from local forest rights-holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow it with legally binding conditions.
  • In a landmark decision in 1996, the Supreme Court had expanded the coverage of FCA to all areas that satisfied the dictionary definition of a forest; earlier, only lands specifically notified as forests were protected by the enforcement of the FCA.

The FCA is brief legislation with only five sections of which-

  • Section 1 defines the extent of coverage of the law,
  • Section 2 restrictions of activities in forest areas and the rest deals with the creation of advisory committees, powers of rule-making and penalties.

Why is the Act being amended now?

  • The current definition of forests has locked land across the country; even private owners cannot utilise their own property for non-forestry purposes.
  • The pressure for forest land diversion has been coming from — Ministries such as Rail and Roads.
  • Under the Act, any diversion of any forest land for any purpose, including assignment of leases, needs prior approval of the Centre.

What defines ‘Forest’ under this act?

  • Previously, the Act had applied largely to reserve forests and national parks.
  • In 1996, ruling in T N Godavarman Thirumulpad v Union of India Case, the Supreme Court had expanded the definition and scope of forest land.
  • It would thus include all areas recorded as forest in any government record, irrespective of ownership, recognition and classification.
  • The court also expanded the definition of forests to encompass the “dictionary meaning of forests”.
  • This would mean that a forested patch would automatically become a “deemed forest” even if it is not notified as protected, and irrespective of ownership.
  • The Act would also be applicable over plantations in non-forest land.

What are the proposed amendments?

(A) Exemptions for Road and Railways

  • The MoEFCC has proposed that all land acquired by the Railways and Roads Ministries prior to 1980 be exempted from the Act.
  • Once the lands had been acquired for expansion, but subsequently, forests have grown in these areas, and the government is no longer able to use the land for expansion.
  • The Ministries will no longer need clearance for their projects, nor pay compensatory levies to build there.

(B) Relaxation

  • It distinguishes individuals whose lands fall within a state-specific Private Forests Act or comes within the dictionary meaning of forest as specified in the 1996 Supreme Court order.
  • The government proposes to allow the “construction of structures for bona fide purposes’’ including residential units up to 250 sq m as a one-time relaxation.

(C) Defense and other projects

  • Defence projects near international borders will be exempted from forest clearance.
  • Oil and natural gas extraction from forested lands will be permitted, but only if technologies such as Extended Reach Drilling are used.
  • Strip plantations alongside roads that would fall under the Act will be exempted.

What are the concerns?

  • Legalizing private ownership of forests: The rules will facilitate corporate ownership.
  • Deforestation: The exemption of forests on private land will lead to the disappearance of large tracts of forests.
  • Fragmentation: Exemption for private residences on private forest will lead to fragmentation of forests, and open areas such as the Aravalli mountains to real estate.
  • Tribal concerns: The amendments do not address what will happen to tribals and forest-dwelling communities over the cleared lands.
  • Threat to wildlife: Exemption for roads and railways on forest land acquired prior to 1980 will be detrimental to forests as well as wildlife – especially elephants, tigers and leopards.

Positives with the amendment

  • It has proposed making forest laws more stringent for notified forests, making offences non-bailable with increased penalties including imprisonment of up to one year.
  • It has disallowed any kind of diversion in certain forests.
  • It has attempt to define and identify forests once and for all — something that has been often ambiguous.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Taproots to help restore India’s fading green cover

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bonn Challenge

Mains level: Forest resources management

This op-ed tries to establish a fair link between forest cover and population dependency on it.

A decline in Forest Cover

  • The State of the World’s Forests report 2020, says that since 1990, around 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through deforestation, conversion and land degradation.
  • Nearly 178 million hectares have decreased globally due to deforestation (1990-2020).
  • India lost 4.69 MHA of its forests for various land uses between 1951 to 1995.

Various reasons

  • Despite various international conventions and national policies in place to improve green cover, there is a decline in global forest cover.
  • Dependence on forests by nearly 18% of the global human population has put immense pressure on ecosystems; in India, this has resulted in the degradation of 41% of its forests.

Why conserve forests?

  • Covering nearly 30% land surface of the earth, forests around the globe provide a wide variety of ecosystem services and support countless and diverse species.
  • They also stabilise the climate, sequester carbon and regulate the water regime.

Need for restoration

  • Restoration in laymen’s terms is bringing back the degraded or deforested landscape to its original state by various interventions to enable them to deliver all the benefits.
  • Building and maintaining activities help to improve ecological functions, productivity and create resilient forests with multifarious capabilities.
  • India’s varied edaphic, climatic and topographic conditions are spread over 10 bio-geographical regions and four biodiversity hotspots, sheltering 8% of the world’s known flora and fauna.

India’s dependency on forest resources

  • Out of its 21.9% population living under the poverty line, nearly 275 million people including local tribals depend on the forest for subsistence.
  • The intricate link between poverty and environmental degradation was first highlighted by India at the first UN global conference on the human environment in Stockholm.
  • Though India’s increasing economic growth is helping to eliminate poverty, there is continued degradation and a growing scarcity of natural resources.
  • Further, encroachment of nearly 1.48 MHA of forest and grazing in nearly 75% of forest area is also linked to the livelihood of local communities.
  • The participation of local communities with finances for incentives and rewards is essential to redress this complex riddle.

Strategies adopted by India

Ans. Bonn Challenge

  • To combat this, India joined the Bonn Challenge with a pledge to restore 21 MHA of degraded and deforested land which was later revised to 26 MHA to be restored by 2030.
  • The first-ever country progress report under the Bonn Challenge submitted by India by bringing 9.8 million hectares since 2011 under restoration is an achievement.
  • However, continued degradation and deforestation need to be tackled effectively to achieve the remaining target of restoration by addressing various challenges.

Key challenges

  • Local ecology with a research base: forest restoration and tree planting are leading strategies to fight global warming by way of carbon sequestration.
  • However, planting without considering the local ecology can result in more damage.
  • Similarly, planting a forest in the wrong places such as savannah grasslands could be disastrous for local biodiversity.

Best strategy: Natural Forest Restoration

  • Luckily recent research has shown that naturally regenerated forests tend to have more secure carbon storage.
  • Being less tech-sensitive, cost-effective and conserving more biodiversity, natural forest restoration is becoming more widely accepted.

Limitations to India

  • Nearly 5.03% of Indian forests are under protection area (PA) management needing specific restoration strategies.
  • The remaining areas witness a range of disturbances including grazing, encroachment, fire, and climate change impacts that need area-specific considerations.
  • Further, much of the research done so far on restoration is not fully compatible with India’s diverse ecological habitats hence warranting due consideration of local factors.
  • The involvement of multiple stakeholders in forest restoration is bound to cause a conflict of interests among different stakeholders; along with low priority and insufficient funding, it becomes even more challenging.

Policy measures

  • There have been remarkable initiatives to involve local people in the protection and development of forests by forming joint forest management committees (JFMC).
  • However, a review of their functionality and performance is essential to make them more dynamic and effective to scale up their involvement.
  • Therefore, negotiations with a wide range of stakeholders including these committees for resolving conflicts and fulfilling restoration objectives are a must and a challenging feat to reach a suitable trade-off.

Way forward

  • Adequate financing is one of the major concerns for the success of any interventions including restoration.
  • The active approach of restoration which includes tree planting and the involvement of communities seeks incentives and rewards and make the whole affair quite cost-intensive.
  • The contribution of corporates in restoration efforts so far has been limited to 2% of the total achievement.
  • Hence, alternate ways of financing such as involving corporates and dovetailing restoration activities with ongoing land-based programmes of various departments can help to make it easy for operation.
  • Apart from these specific challenges, the common barriers to restoration as identified globally also need critical review before placing the required methodologies and area-specific strategies in place.

Conclusion

  • Active engagement of stakeholders including non-governmental organizations, awareness and capacity building of stakeholders with enabling policy interventions and finance can help a lot to achieve restoration objectives for India.
  • The need of the hour is an inclusive approach encompassing these concerns with the required wherewithal.

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Govt moots easy clearance for Forest Land use

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

Mains level: Read the attached story

The government has proposed absolving agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre as part of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

About Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • The FCA is the principal legislation that regulates deforestation in the country.
  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any “non-forestry” use without prior clearance by the central government.
  • The clearance process includes seeking consent from local forest rights-holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow it with legally binding conditions.
  • In a landmark decision in 1996, the Supreme Court had expanded the coverage of FCA to all areas that satisfied the dictionary definition of a forest; earlier, only lands specifically notified as forests were protected by the enforcement of the FCA.

What is the proposed amendment?

  • The proposed amendment is part of a larger rationalizing of existing forest laws for infrastructure projects.
  • The act was regressively interpreted over the right of way of railways, highways.
  • As of today a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc) is required to take approval under the Act as well as pay stipulated compensatory levies.
  • They are required to pay Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.

Other proposals

  • The Environment Ministry has proposed provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damages already done to trees in forest land.
  • The document also proposes removing zoos, safaris, Forest Training infrastructures from the definition of “non-forestry” activities.
  • The current definition restricts the way money collected as part of compensatory cess can be spent towards forest conservation purposes.

Previous attempts made

  • Previous attempts to amend acts linked to forest laws have been controversial.
  • There was a plan to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927, that deals with the rights of forest dwellers, in an attempt to address contemporary challenges to the country’s forests.
  • The draft law had been sent to key forest officers in the States for soliciting comments and objections.
  • It drew flak from activists as well as tribal welfare organizations.
  • The government withdrew the draft and has said that a newer updated version was on the anvil.

 

Try answering this PYQ

Consider the following statements:

  1. As per recent amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, forest dwellers have the right to fell the bamboos grown on forest areas.
  2. As per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, bamboo is a minor forest produce.
  3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 allows ownership of minor forest produce to forest dwellers.

Which of the statements given above is / are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.
2
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Sikkim is home to 27% of India’s flowering plants

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Flora of Sikkim

Mains level: NA

Sikkim, the smallest State with less than 1% of India’s landmass, is home to 27% of all flowering plants found in the country, reveals a recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

Flora of Sikkim

  • Flora of Sikkim – A Pictorial Guide lists 4,912 naturally occurring flowering plants in the tiny Himalayan State.
  • The total number of naturally occurring flowering plants in the country is about 18,004 species, and with 4,912 species, the diversity of flowering plants in Sikkim, spread over an area of 7,096 sq. km. is very unique.

Why is Sikkim a host to such large biodiversity?

  • Sikkim is a part of the Kanchenjunga biosphere landscape, has different altitudinal ecosystems, which provide opportunities for herbs and trees to grow and thrive.
  • The State also borders China, Bhutan and Nepal, and the Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal.
  • From subalpine vegetation to the temperate to the tropical, the State has different kinds of vegetation, and that is the reason for such a diversity of flora.
  • The elevation also varies between 300 to 8,598 metres above mean sea level, the apex being the top of Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 metres).

Contribution by the Public

  • The people of Sikkim have a unique bond with nature and trees.
  • As per the Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017 the State government allows any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.
  • The notification encouraged people to adopt a tree “as if it was his or her own child in which case the tree shall be called an adopted tree”.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which one of the following National Parks lies completely in the temperate alpine zone?

(a) Manas National Park

(b) Namdapha National Park

(c) Neora Valley National Park

(d) Valley of Flowers National Park

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[pib] Project BOLD

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Project BOLD

Mains level: Not Much

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched the unique Project Bamboo Oasis on Lands in Drought (BOLD) in Rajasthan.

Project BOLD

  • Project BOLD seeks to create bamboo-based green patches in arid and semi-arid land zones.
  • It is a unique scientific exercise serving the combined national objectives of reducing desertification and providing livelihood and multi-disciplinary rural industry support.
  • 5000 saplings of special bamboo species: Bambusa-Tulda and Bambusa-Polymorpha specially brought from Assam – have been planted over 25 bigha (16 acres approx) of vacant arid Gram Panchayat land.
  • KVIC has thus created a world record of planting the highest number of bamboo saplings on a single day at one location.

Why Bamboo?

  • KVIC has judiciously chosen bamboo for developing green patches.
  • Bamboos grow very fast and in about three years’ time, they could be harvested.
  • Bamboos are also known for conserving water and reducing evaporation of water from the land surface, which is an important feature in arid and drought-prone regions.

Significance of the move

  • The project will help in reducing the land degradation percentage of the country, while on the other hand, they will be havens of sustainable development and food security.
  • The bamboo plantation program will boost self-employment in the region.
  • It will benefit a large number of women and unemployed youths in the region by connecting them to skill development programs.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. As per recent amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, forest dwellers have the right to fell the bamboos grown on forest areas.
  2. As per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, bamboo is a minor forest produce.
  3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 allows ownership of minor forest produce to forest dwellers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2019)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Back2Basics: Bamboo in India

  • Bamboos are tall treelike grasses.
  • With an amendment in 2017 in the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Bamboo has ceased to be a tree anymore.
  • Earlier, the definition of tree in the law included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.
  • The move aims to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve the “twin objectives” of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
  • Bamboo grown in the forest areas would continue to be governed by the provisions of the Indian Forest Act.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas

Mains level: Desertification of land and preventive measures

The Union Environment Ministry has released the latest version of “Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India.

Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas

  • It has been published by Space Application Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad.
  • The Atlas provides a state-wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19.
  • It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years, from 2003-05 to 2018-19.
  • It would provide important baseline and temporal data and technical inputs.

Content of the atlas

  • This Atlas presents state-wise desertification and land degradation status maps depicting land use, the process of degradation, and severity level.
  • This was prepared using IRS Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) data of 2011-13- and 2003-05-time frames in the GIS environment.
  • The area under desertification/land degradation for both time frames and changes are reported state-wise as well as for the entire country.
  • The outputs are helpful in prioritizing areas to be taken up for minimizing the impact of desertification and land degradation.

India and desertification

  • Desertification and land degradation are major threats to agricultural productivity in our country.
  • India hosted the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
  • India is striving towards achieving the national commitments of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and restoration of 26 million ha of degraded land by 2030.
  • India has been at the forefront of bringing the issue of land degradation to the core of relevant international alliances for the protection and conservation of the environment.
  • India has adopted a collective approach for making progress towards achieving the national commitments related to land restoration.

Answer this PYQ from CSP 2016 in the comment box:

Q.What is/are the importance/importances of the ‘United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification?

  1. It aims to promote effective action through innovative national programmes and supportive inter-national partnerships.
  2. It has a special/particular focus on South Asia and North Africa regions, and its secretariat facilitates the allocation of major portion of financial resources to these regions.
  3. It is committed to bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating the desertification.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Protection of ‘Heritage Trees’ in Maharashtra

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heritage trees

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Maharashtra government will make amendments to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act of 1975, to introduce provisions for the protection of ‘heritage trees’.

What are Heritage Trees?

  • Under the proposed amendment, a tree with an estimated age of 50 years or more shall be defined as a heritage tree.
  • It may belong to specific species, which will be notified from time to time.
  • Experts believe that in addition to the age, the state climate change department should also consider a tree’s rarity, its botanical, historical, religious, mythological and cultural importance in defining a heritage tree.
  • The local Tree Authority will have to ensure tree census to be carried out every five years along with counting of heritage trees

How is the age of the tree determined?

  • The most common method of determining the age of the tree is Dendrochronology – or tree-ring dating also called growth rings.
  • Each year, roughly a tree adds to its girth, the new growth is called a tree ring. By counting the rings of a tree, the age can be determined.
  • However, the process is invasive. To analyse the rings, core samples are extracted using a borer that’s screwed into the tree and pulled out, bringing with it a straw-size sample of wood.
  • The hole in the tree is then sealed to prevent disease.

Why was the concept of heritage tree introduced?

  • A heritage tree will get special protection.
  • Crucially, the tree’s age will determine the number of trees to be planted as part of the compensatory plantation – that is anyone cutting a heritage tree will need to plant trees in the same numbers as the cut tree’s age.
  • According to the current Compensatory Plantation in the state, one sapling has to be planted for each tree that is cut.
  • In Mumbai, as per the Tree Authority set up in 1976, to help in regulating the felling of trees and providing for the planting of an adequate number of new trees, the compensation ratios are 1:3.

Changes with the amendment

  • As per the amendment, the number of trees planted will be equal to the age of the heritage tree that is cut.
  • For instance, if a 52-year-old tree is to be felled, then the party felling the tree will have to plant 52 trees in compensation, with each compensatory tree at least 6-8 ft in height at the time of planting.
  • The organization planting the compensation trees will also have to ensure the survival of the plantation for seven years and geo-tag the trees.
  • Such plantations can be carried out either in the same plot or a common amenity plot.
  • Through the introduction of a heritage tree, the state environment wants to discourage the cutting of heritage trees.
  • The amendment has the fine for illegal felling of trees from a maximum of Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh per tree.

What is the economic value of the tree?

  • In case compensatory plantation is not possible, the tree feller has to pay compensation for the economic valuation of the trees being felled.
  • While the state government has not defined the economic value of the tree, experts say that the amount of oxygen that a tree releases into the environment should determine its economic value.
  • A realistic assessment of the economic value of a tree, which may be permitted to fell, concerning its value to the environment and its longevity, about factors such as:

the production of oxygen and carbon sequestration, soil conservation, protection of flora/fauna, its role in habitat and ecosystem integrity and any other ecologically relevant factor, distinct from timber/wood

Tree Authority formation

  • The amendments also make room for the formation of the Maharashtra State Tree Authority and also tree authority in local civic bodies and councils.
  • The Tree Authority is tasked with “increasing the tree cover in urban areas and protecting the existing ones.” Experts shall be a part of the local tree authority.
  • Their knowledge and expertise will form the basis of decisions taken up by the authority.
  • A proposal to cut more than 200 trees of age 5 years or more, will be referred to the state tree authority.
  • The local TA will have to ensure that the project is not sub-divided into smaller parts to keep the number of trees below the defined threshold.
  • Ensure preparation of a tree plan and should aspire over the years to have 33 percent green belt in their area.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Person in news: Sunderlal Bahuguna

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SUnderlal Bahuguna

Mains level: Various conservation movements in India

Veteran environmentalist and architect of the Chipko Movement Sundarlal Bahuguna, 94 has succumbed to COVID.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.In India, the problem of soil erosion is associated with which of the following?

  1. Terrace cultivation
  2. Deforestation
  3. Tropical climate

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Sunderlal Bahuguna

  • Bahuguna was one of the leaders of the Chipko movement, fighting for the preservation of forests in the Himalayas.
  • Chipko means ‘embrace’ or ‘tree huggers’ and this vast movement was a decentralized one with many leaders usually being village women.
  • Often, they would chain themselves to trees so that loggers could not cut down forests.
  • These actions slowed down the destruction, but more importantly, they brought deforestation to the public’s attention.

His contributions

  • From 1981-1983, Sundarlal Bahuguna led a 5,000-kilometre march across the Himalayas, ending with a meeting with late PM Indira Gandhi, to protect some areas of the Himalayan forests from tree-felling.
  • Sundarlal Bahuguna was also a leader in the movement to oppose the Tehri dam project and in defending India’s rivers.
  • He also worked for women’s rights and the rights of the poor.
  • His methods were Gandhian, making use of peaceful resistance and non-violence.
  • The Chipko Movement received the 1987 Right Livelihood Award, also referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: FCA 1980

Mains level: Deforestation and development issues

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has proposed several amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (FCA), which may enable infrastructure projects to come up in the forest areas more easily.

What are the amendments?

  • They propose to grant exemptions to railways, roads, tree plantations, oil exploration, wildlife tourism and ‘strategic’ projects in forests.
  • The proposal also aims to empower state governments to lease forest land to private individuals and corporations.
  • If the proposed amendments come into force, they would dilute the provisions of the landmark 1996 decision of the Supreme Court in Godavarman

The amendments, however, propose two changes to strengthen the applicability of the FCA, according to the documents accessed:

  1. To complete the process of forest identification in a time-bound manner
  2. To enable the creation of ‘no-go’ areas, where specific projects would not be allowed

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

The FCA is the principal legislation that regulates deforestation in the country.

  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any “non-forestry” use without prior clearance by the central government.
  • The clearance process includes seeking consent from local forest rights-holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow it with legally binding conditions.
  • In a landmark decision in 1996, the Supreme Court had expanded the coverage of FCA to all areas that satisfied the dictionary definition of a forest; earlier, only lands specifically notified as forests were protected by the enforcement of the FCA.

The FCA is brief legislation with only five sections of which-

  • Section 1 defines the extent of coverage of the law,
  • Section 2 restrictions of activities in forest areas and the rest deals with the creation of advisory committees, powers of rule-making and penalties.

Key propositions of the Amendment

The proposed amendments seek to make additions and changes to Section 1 and 2.

(1) Concessions to survey and exploration

  • In the proposed new section 1A, a provision has been added to exempt the application of FCA on forest land that is “used for underground exploration and production of oil and natural gas through Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) originating outside forest land.”
  • The exemption is subject to terms and conditions laid down by the central government.
  • A new explanation added to Section 2 says that “survey, reconnaissance, prospecting, exploration or investigation” for future activity in the forest will not be classified as a “non-forestry activity”.
  • This means such survey works would not require any prior permission from the government.

The only exception is if the activity falls within a wildlife sanctuary, national park or tiger reserve.

(2) Exemptions to Railways and roads inside forests

  • Land acquired by the railways for establishing a rail line or a road by a government agency before 25.10.1980 (the day the FCA was passed) would be exempted from seeking a forest clearance — if they put the land to the same use for which it was acquired.
  • This is included in a provision in the proposed section 1A.
  • The exemption is subject to terms and conditions that the central government will lay down through guidelines, which include planting trees to compensate for the loss of forests.

(3) Leases on forest land

  • Section 2(iii) of the FCA requires the central government’s approval before assigning forest lands on lease to any private person/corporation/organisation not owned or controlled by the central government.
  • This clause, however, has purportedly been deleted in the proposed amendment.
  • This may mean that state governments can issue leases for the use of forest land without the Centre’s prior approval.

(4) Exemptions to plantations

  • A new explanation to Section 2 proposes to exempt plantation of native species of palm and oil-bearing trees from the definition of “non-forest purpose”.
  • Since the FCA applies to the conversion of forest land to “non-forest purpose”, this proposed amendment would effectively mean that anyone who wants to clear a natural forest to raise such plantations would not require any approval from the government.
  • The government will only impose conditions for compensatory afforestation and payment of other levies and compensations.

(5) Exemptions to wildlife tourism, training infrastructure

  • The FCA classifies activities related to wildlife conservation as “non-forestry” purposes, which means such activities — building checkpoints, communication infrastructure, fencing, boundary, etc — which include do not need a forest clearance.
  • The proposed amendment claims to add to this list “forest and wildlife training infrastructure” and the “establishment of zoos and safaris” managed by the government or any authority under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It may also add ecotourism facilities approved under the Forest Working Plan or Working Scheme approved by the central government.

(6) States may grant forest clearance for strategic / security projects

  • The proposed Section 2A may empower the central government to provide for state government approval for projects on forest land for “strategic” or security projects of “national importance”, according to the documents accessed.
  • There is no clarity on the scope of these terms, or on the determination of national importance, or illustrative examples of such projects.

Limiting the coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision

  • The Supreme Court in Godavarman Case 1996 had held that the meaning of “forest” under the FCA would include not only statutorily recognised forests.
  • It would include any area recorded as forest in government records, regardless of ownership.
  • The restrictions in the FCA would, therefore, be applicable to both de jure and de facto

The proposed amendment purportedly seeks to reduce the scope of this judgment by limiting the applicability of the FCA to only such land that has been:

  • Declared or notified as forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • Recorded as forest land in the government record prior to 25 October 1980, with the exception of such land if its use has been changed from forest to non-forest purpose prior to 12 December 1996
  • Identified as “forest” by a state government expert committee up to one year from the date of the amendment.

The judgment interpreted the Act as it stood then. The addition of a specific definition thus limits the scope of the judgment. De facto forests are, therefore, excluded from the purview of the FCA.

Creation of ‘No-Go’ areas

  • The proposed amendment inserts a new Section 2B, which will allow the central government to delineate forest areas where conversion to specific non-forest uses would not be permitted for a fixed period of time.
  • The delineation would be based on the basis of pre-defined criteria.
  • This could mean, for instance, that a certain dense forest would not be allowed to be converted to a coal mine for the next 30 years, but it could be allowed to be cleared for a thermal power plant.
  • In the Godavarman case, the Supreme Court had directed states to set up expert committees to draw up a list of forests that were not notified under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA), but deserved to be protected by the FCA.
  • Several states are yet to comply with this requirement.

Impact

  • The proposed Section 1A(ii) excludes from the purview of the FCA those forests which were described as such in government records (but not notified under the IFA).
  • The Karnataka High Court recently dealt with a matter wherein the state government had passed several orders to de-notify lands classified as “state forest” (but not notified under IFA), and to divert them for non-forest purposes.
  • The lands were then allotted for the rehabilitation of displaced people. The state government completed this process of dereservation of reserved forests in 2017.
  • On March 4, 2021, the high court struck down actions of the state government for not taking “prior approval of the central government” as required under Section 2 of the FCA.
  • It recommended criminal action against any officers responsible for allowing non-forest use of forest land.

What lies ahead?

  • If the proposed amendment is enacted, the insertion of Section 1A(ii) would exempt the application of the FCA to the land which was converted to non-forest use by the Karnataka government.
  • The exemption of zoos and safaris from “non-forest purpose” comes a year after the government proposed to open a zoo in Mumbai’s Aarey forest and a tiger safari in Madhya Pradesh led to objections from biologists.
  • While state governments may certainly continue to seek dilution of the FCA during enforcement, the removal of the requirement of central government approval is a step towards a dilution of restrictions on forest land use.

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Hyderabad wins Global ‘Tree City’ Status

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tree Cities of the World

Mains level: Urban forestry

Hyderabad city has received another feather in its cap by being chosen as one among the ‘Tree Cities of the World’.

Tree Cities of the World

  • The Tree Cities of the World programme is an international effort to recognize cities and towns committed to ensuring that their urban forests and trees are properly maintained, sustainably managed, and duly celebrated.
  • This status is accorded by the Arbor Day Foundation jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.
  • To receive recognition, a town or city must meet five core standards:
  1. Establish Responsibility
  2. Set the Rules
  3. Know What You Have
  4. Allocate the Resources and
  5. Celebrate the Achievements

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Why it is a great achievement?

  • Hyderabad is the only city in the country to have been selected for this recognition in response to its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forestry.
  • The recognition stands Hyderabad alongside 120 cities from 23 countries, including developed nations such as USA, UK, Canada, Australia and others.

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Limited success of the Green India Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green India Mission

Mains level: Success of afforestation measures

The central government’s afforestation scheme, Green India Mission (GIM), was able to only achieve 2.8 per cent of its plantation target, according to the Economic Survey 2021.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. As per law, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority exists at both National and State levels.
  2. People’s participation is mandatory in the compensatory afforestation programmes carried out under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Green India Mission

  • GIM is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • Launched in February 2014, it is aimed at protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • The mission has the broad objective of both increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha,  as well as increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in 10 years.
  • The Mission proposes a holistic view of greening and focuses not on carbon sequestration targets alone, but also, on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass etc., along with provisioning services like fuel, fodder, timber and non-timber forest produces.
  • It will also increase options of forest-based livelihood of households living in the fringe of those landscapes where the Mission is implemented.

Limited success of the scheme

  • As of March 2020, plantation under the scheme was undertaken only over 0.14 m ha land.
  • A 2018 parliamentary committee report on GIM found that the scheme was grossly underfunded.
  • The report found that the scheme had also missed its targets by 34 per cent in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.
  • The committee also pointed out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions.
  • Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it.
  • Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought and prevent biodiversity in the regions.

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Great Green Wall (GGW) Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GGW Project

Mains level: Combating Desertification

The Great Green Wall (GGW) Project to address desertification, land degradation and climate change in the Sahel region of Africa has hit a new low due to funds crunch.

Note the countries swept by the GGW project on the African map.

GGW Project

  • The Great Green Wall project is conceived by 11 countries located along the southern border of the Sahara and their international partners, is aimed at limiting the desertification of the Sahel zone.
  • Led by the African Union, the initiative aims to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.
  • The initial idea of the GGW was to develop a line of trees from east to the west bordering the Saharan Desert.
  • Its vision has evolved into that of a mosaic of interventions addressing the challenges facing the people in the Sahel and the Sahara.

Why was such project incepted?

  • The project is a response to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas.
  • It aimed to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030; only four million hectares had been restored between 2007 and 2019.
  • It is a partnership that supports communities working towards sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources.
  • It seeks to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improve food security.

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Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Shola forests, Sky Islands

Mains level: Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

Tropical montane grasslands (TMG) in the Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats have suffered big losses due to invasions by exotic trees.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In India, which type of forest among the following occupies the largest area?
(a) Montane Wet Temperate Forest
(b) Sub – tropical Dry Evergreen Forest
(c) Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest
(d) Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest

Sky Islands

  • “Sky islands” are the tops of tall mountains that become environmentally isolated from each other even if they are close together, geographically speaking.
  • The Western Ghats are a mountain chain in southwest India home to spectacular and unique sky islands.
  • The peaks of the Western Ghats, ranging between 3,000 and 8,500 feet above sea level, host an almost unbelievable array of microclimates, looking like “patches of forests floating in a sea of grasslands.

What are TMGs?

  • TMG are high elevation grasslands forming only 2% of all grasslands in the world.
  • Among their functions is regulating the global carbon cycle and serving as a source of water to downstream communities.
  • Researchers say grasslands do not benefit from conservation and restoration efforts afforded to tropical montane forests, possibly due to limited information.

Treasures of Shola

  • One of the specific habitats unique to the sky islands of this area is a type of low-temperature, high-humidity tropical cloud forest full of stunted trees mixed with grasslands called the Shola.
  • The Shola forests of South derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rain forest’.
  • Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’ the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.

Various threats to them

  • Loss of grasslands due to invasive exotic trees is a “novel threat” through the establishment and expansion of exotic tree plantations.
  • These exotic trees include acacias, pines and eucalyptus, shrinking the range sizes of endemic species, including plants, birds, amphibians and mammals.
  • In the Western Ghats, 23% of montane grasslands were reportedly converted into invasive exotic tree cover over a period of 44 years.
  • Attempts to manage invasive exotic trees in montane grasslands incorporated approaches that include prevention and mechanical, chemical and biological control.
  • For invasive species such as Acacia mearnsii that grow rapidly and disperse seeds widely, removing mature trees is often ineffective.

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Jadav Payeng: The Forest Man of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Success models of reforestation

Jadav Payeng, known as ‘The Forest Man of India’, takes us through his journey of grit that saw a desert turning into a forest. His story is been depicted through an upcoming trilingual film.

We knew about the mountain man in India. We have also had the Forest Man of India who is also a living inspiration for successful afforestation. We can quote such examples in essays very well.

Who is Jadav Payeng?

  • Jadav “Molai” Payeng (born 1963) is an environmental activist and forestry worker from Majuli Island popularly known as the Forest Man of India.
  • He was born in the indigenous Mising tribe of Assam.
  • Over the course of several decades, he has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra turning it into a forest reserve.
  • The forest, called Molai forest after him is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India and encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres / 550 hectares.
  • In 2015, he was honoured with Padmashri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

His work

  • The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits.
  • Molai forest is also home to elephants and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
  • Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares.

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What are Miyawaki Forests?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Miyawaki Forests

Mains level: Various afforestation measures

Japan-inspired Miyawaki forests are emerging as a popular solution to restoring degraded habitats in the country.

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Miyawaki Forests

  • Doctor Akira Miyawaki, botanist and professor, is the inventor of the technique since 1980.
  • He is a recipient of the 2006 Blue Planet Prize, which is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in ecology.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • It involves planting dozens of native species in the same area and becomes maintenance-free after the first three years.

The technique

  • The method takes its inspiration directly from processes and diversity in nature: 15 to 30 different species of trees and shrubs are planted together.
  • This plant community works very well together and is perfectly adapted to local weather conditions.
  • The habitat thus created will get more complex over time and attract much biodiversity.
  • Vegetation becomes much denser than conventional plantations, and it has the structure of a mature natural forest. It is a multi-storey structure, where different levels of vegetation appear.
  • The forest thus structured delivers many benefits in the form of ecosystem services.
  • It would take about 200 years to let a forest recover on its own. With the Miyawaki method, a similar result is achieved in 20 years.

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What are Deemed Forests?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Deemed forest

Mains level: Forest conservation in India

Karnataka Forest Minister has announced that the state government would soon declassify 6.64 lakh hectares of the 9.94 lakh hectares of deemed forests in the state (nearly 67%) and hand it over to Revenue authorities.

Try this PYQ:

Q. In India, in which one of the following types of forests is teak a dominant tree species?

(a) Tropical moist deciduous forest

(b) Tropical rain forest

(c) Tropical thorn scrub forest

(d) Temperate forest with grasslands

What are Deemed Forests?

  • The concept of deemed forests has not been clearly defined in any law including the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
  • However, the Supreme Court in the case of T N Godavarman Thirumalpad (1996) accepted a wide definition of forests under the Act.
  • It covered all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2 (1) of the Forest Conservation Act.
  • The term ‘forest land’ occurring in Section 2 will not only include ‘forest’ as understood in the dictionary sense but also any areas recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the owners said the court.

Why it is in news?

  • The issue of deemed forests is a contentious one in Karnataka, with legislators across party lines often alleging that large amounts of agriculture and non-forest land are “unscientifically” classified as such.

Demands to reclassify

  • A deemed forest fits “dictionary meaning” of a forest, “irrespective of ownership”.
  • Amidst claims that the move hit farmers, as well as barred large tracts from mining, the state has been arguing that the classification was done without taking into account the needs of people.

Why does the government want to release these forests?

  • In 2014, the then government decided to have a relook at the categorisation of forests.
  • The dictionary definition of forests was applied to identify thickly wooded areas as deemed forests, a well-defined scientific, verifiable criterion was not used, resulting in a subjective classification.
  • The subjective classification in turn resulted in conflicts.
  • Ministers have also argued that land was randomly classified as deemed forest by officials, causing hardship to farmers in some areas.
  • There is also a commercial demand for mining in some regions designated as deemed forests.

Back2Basics: Forest Classification in India

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover in 4 classes.

  • Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  • Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  • Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  • Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.

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Maharashtra modifies Forest Rights Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fifth Schedule

Mains level: Forest dwellers role in its conservation

Maharashtra government has issued a notification modifying the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 that will enable tribals and other traditional forest dwelling families to build houses in the neighbourhood forest areas.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Forest dwellers are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Analyse.

Historical Background

1878: The Forest Act of 1878 was introduced and it truncated the centuries-old traditional use by communities of their forests and secured the colonial governments control over the forestry. The provision of this Act established a virtual State monopoly over the forests in a legal sense on one hand, and attempted to establish, on the other, that the customary use of the forests by the villagers was not a ‘right’, but a ‘privilege’ that could be withdrawn at will.

1927:  The Indian Forest Act, 1927. In continuance with the forest use policy of 1878, this landmark law – India’s main forest law, had nothing to do with conservation. It was created to serve the British need for timber. It sought to override customary rights and forest management systems by declaring forests state property and exploiting their timber.

1952: ‘National interests’ overrode all interests and forests were viewed as a national asset. It was made clear that local priorities and interests and claims of the communities around forest areas should be subservient to larger national interests

About the FRA, 2006

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation in India.
  • It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act. In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs.
  • While the procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed.
  • As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalised.
  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The FRA, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to the environment with their right to life and livelihood.

What empowers the Governor?

  • The notification has been issued by the Governor using his powers under subparagraph (1) of paragraph 5 of the Schedule V of the Constitution, according to a statement issued by Raj Bhavan.
  • PESA rules in the State have given recognition to many habitations as villages, but there is no provision for land for house-building.

Significance of the move

  • The decision is likely to provide a major relief to Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling families residing in the scheduled areas of the State.
  • The urban areas get increased FSI, the rural areas (on revenue lands) get the same too, but tribal villages (on forest lands) have no legal space for building houses.
  • The move aims to prevent the migration of forest-dwelling families outside their native villages and provide them with housing areas by extending the village site into forest land in their neighbourhood.

Back2Basics: Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

  • It deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram (ATM2).
  • In Article 244(1) of the Constitution, expression Scheduled Areas means such areas as the President may by order declare to be Scheduled Areas (SA).

The President may at any time by order-

  1. direct that the whole or any specified part of SA shall cease to be a SA or a part of such an area;
  2. increase the area of any SA in a State after consultation with the Governor of that State;
  3. alter, but only by way of rectification of boundaries, any Scheduled Area;
  4. on any alteration of the boundaries of a State on the admission into the Union or the establishment of a new State, declare any territory not previously included in any State to be, or to form part of, a SA;
  5. rescind, in relation to any State of States, any order or orders made under these provisions and in consultation with the Governor of the State concerned, make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be SA.
  • The Governor may, by public notification, direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall or shall not apply to a SA or any part thereof in the State, subject to such exceptions and modifications, as specified.
  • The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in the State which is for the time being a SA. Such regulations may
  1. prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
  2. regulate the allotment of land to members of the STs in such area;
  3. regulate the carrying on of business as money-lender by persons who lend money to members of the STs in such area.

In making such regulations, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of Legislature of the State or any existing law after obtaining the assent of the President.

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Myth of the pristine forest

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Critical Wildlife Habitat (CHW) under FRA

Mains level: Forest dwellers role in its conservation

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has driven migrant workers back to their villages, including many situated inside or on the fringes of forested areas, including sanctuaries and national parks.
  • Even as they seek to remake livelihoods there, a new battle has emerged between the forest department (FD) and these local communities.
  • It pertains to the declaration of a Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH), which a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeks to get the department to urgently notify.

Try this question for mains:

Forest dwellers are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Analyse.

What is Critical Wildlife Habitat (CHW)?

  • CWH is a provision under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA).
  • The Act primarily focuses on recognising the historically-denied rights of forest-dwellers to use and manage forests.
  • The CWH provision, however, is an attempt to assuage concerns of wildlife conservationists.
  • It allows for the possibility that in protected areas (PAs) — wildlife sanctuaries and national parks — these rights could be attenuated, and, if absolutely necessary, forest-dwellers could be relocated in the interest of wildlife conservation.

Forest dwellers vs. Wildlife

  • Conservationists believe that wildlife needs absolutely “inviolate” areas — those devoid of humans and human activities.
  • Many others believe human-wildlife co-existence is generally possible and must be promoted if we are to have “socially just conservation”.

Achieving balanced conservation: The FRA provisions

  • A careful reading of the CWH provisions in the FRA shows that it is open to both possibilities, as long as they are arrived at through a rigorous and participatory process.
  • It requires setting up a multi-disciplinary expert committee, including representatives from local communities.
  • It also requires determining — using “scientific and objective criteria” and consultative processes — whether, and wherein the PA, the exercise of forest rights will cause irreversible damages.
  • It then requires determining whether coexistence is possible through a modified set of rights or management practices.
  • Only if the multi-stakeholder expert committee agrees that co-existence or other reasonable options are not possible, should relocation be taken up, again with the informed consent of the concerned gram sabhas.
  • For any such process to commence, the Act requires that all forest rights under the FRA must first be recognised.

Issues with the FRA

(1) Concerns of eviction

  • Hardline conservationists took FRA as a great opportunity to complete its agenda of evicting forest-dwellers from PAs.
  • It has been observed that many villages were resettled when they had rights claims pending, others had their claims illegally rejected or incompletely granted, and several had not even applied to this controversy erupted.
  • However, there are settlements in some of these PAs, and of course, people in villages adjacent to all the PAs are likely to have customary rights.
  • In spite of the court ordering rapid completion of the rights recognition process, there has been almost no progress on this front.

(2) Issues with expert committees

  • The constitution of the expert committees is faulty. They do not contain expert social scientists familiar with the area. Wildlife enthusiasts are sometimes substituted for experts in life sciences.
  • Many members have challenged the very constitutionality of the FRA, making a travesty of the idea of “objectivity” in the process.

(3) Criteria judging the damages

  • The criteria being used by the committees to determine the threat of “irreversible damage” to wildlife are quite extreme and are not supported by any consensus even among ecologists.
  • There are no objective criteria decided yet by these committees.

Conclusion

  • The FRA begins by recognising that forest dwellers “are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem”.
  • In that context, the CWH provision should not be seen as simply a tool for evicting forest-dwellers to create so-called “inviolate” spaces.
  • It is an opportunity to rigorously and participatorily explore all avenues of co-existence.
  • Such co-existence is indeed possible. In general, forest-dwellers harbour both the knowledge and the attitudes needed for conservation.
  • Co-managing PAs is, therefore, the most effective and socially just long-term solution, and relocation should be seen as the absolute last resort.

B2BASICS

Forest Rights act

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[pib] National Transit Pass System (NTPS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NTPS

Mains level: Regulation of forest produce in India

Environment Minister has launched piloting of the National Transit Pass System for seamless movement of forest produce.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The National Transit Pass System (NTPS) recently seen in news is related to:

(a) Transport of Forest Produces

(b) Transport through National Waterways

(c) Inter-state transport during restrictions

(d) None of these

About National Transit Pass System

  • The NTPS is an online system for issuing transit permits for timber, bamboo and other forest produce.
  • This system helps in monitoring and keeping records of transit permits for inter-state and intra-state transportation of timber and bamboo from private lands/government/private depot and other minor forest produce.
  • E-pass will be issued for transit through the desktop-based web portal as well as a mobile application.
  • It will bring ease of business and expedite the issuance of transit permits for timber, bamboo and other minor forest produce without physically going to forest offices.
  • It will be functional in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana for now on a pilot basis.

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How aerial seeding is helping plantation in hard-to-access Aravalli regions?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Aravalli Range

Mains level: Various afforestation measures

The Haryana Forest Department has started aerial seeding across the state on a pilot basis with special focus on the Aravalli region.

Do you know?

The Aravalli range is considered the “lungs” of the polluted National Capital Region.

What is Aerial Seeding?

  • Aerial seeding is a technique of plantation wherein seed balls – seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char and other components.
  • They are sprayed on the ground using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.

How does this technique work?

  • Seeds balls or seed pellets are dispersed in a targeted area by the low-flying drones, falling to the ground with the help of the coating of clay, compost, char and other material.
  • Coating provides the required weight for seeds to drop on a predetermined location rather than disperse in the wind.
  • These pellets will then sprout when there is enough rain, with the nutrients present within them helping in the initial growth.

Why Aravallis?

  • Aravallis these days is severely inundated due to heavy mining and has undergone rapid development and construction activities.

What are the advantages of this technique?

  • Areas that are inaccessible, have steep slopes, are fragmented or disconnected with no forest routes, making conventional plantation difficult, can be targeted with aerial seeding.
  • Furthermore, the process of the seed’s germination and growth is such that it requires no attention after it is dispersed – the reason why seed pellets are known as the “fire and forget” way of the plantation.
  • They eliminate the need for ploughing and digging holes in the soil and the seeds do not need to be planted, since they are already surrounded by soil, nutrients, and microorganisms.
  • The clay shell of these pellets along with the other items in the mixture also protects them from birds, ants and rats.

What kind of species can be dispersed using aerial seeding?

  • The species selected have to be native to the area and hardy, with seeds that are of an appropriate size for preparing seedballs and have to have a higher survival percentage.
  • It is critical that the timing of the seeding be correct in order for the plantation to be successful.

Can this replace conventional plantation methods?

  • Seeding should be done only on a pilot basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology and the dispersal mechanism.
  • Conventional methods of afforestation cannot be replaced but supplemented with areal seeding.
  • In this case, the technique will allow plantation in sections of the Aravallis that are either difficult to access or inaccessible altogether.

Back2Basics: Aravalli Range

  • The Aravalli Range is a mountain range running approximately 692 km in a south-west direction, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan, and ending in Gujarat.
  • The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 metres (5,650 ft).
  • The Aravalli Range, an eroded stub of ancient mountains, is the oldest range of Fold Mountains in India.
  • The natural history of the Aravalli Range dates back to times when the Indian Plate was separated from the Eurasian Plate by an ocean.
  • Aravalli, being the old fold mountains, have stopped growing higher due to the cessation of upward thrust caused by the stopping of movement of the tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust below them.
  • In ancient times, Aravalli was extremely high but since have worn down almost completely by millions of years of weathering, whereas the Himalayas being young fold mountains are still continuously rising.

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Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GFRA

Mains level: Forest conservation in India

India has ranked third among the top 10 countries that have gained in forest areas in the last decade a/c to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA).

Possible prelim question:

Q.The Global Forest Resources Assessment Report recently seen in news is published by-

a) UN-FAO

b) UN Forum on Forests

c) International Union of Forest Research Organizations

d) None of these

India gains in forest cover

  • The top 10 countries that have recorded the maximum average annual net gains in a forest area during 2010-2020 are China, Australia, India, Chile, Vietnam, Turkey, the US, France, Italy and Romania.
  • India accounts for two per cent of total global forest area.
  • Globally, 12.5 million people were employed in the forestry sector. Out of this, India accounted for 6.23 million, or nearly 50 per cent.

Global prospects

  • The Asian continent reported the highest net gain in a forest area in 2010-2020, according to the report.
  • It recorded a 1.17 million hectares (ha) per year net increase in forests in the last decade.
  • However, the South Asia sub-region reported net forest losses during 1990-2020.
  • But, this decline would have been much higher without the net gain in India’s forest during this period, according to FRA 2020.

How did India gain?

  • The FRA 2020 has credited the government’s Joint Forest Management programme for the significant increase in community-managed forest areas in the Asian continent.
  • The forest area managed by local, tribal and indigenous communities in India increased from zero in 1990 to about 25 million ha in 2015, the assessment said.
  • India has been taking up massive afforestation and plantation schemes.

About Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
  • It reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), forest conservation, and sustainable use.

Back2Basics: Defining forests as per FRA

  • The definition excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems, such as fruit tree plantations, oil palm plantations, olive orchards, and agroforestry systems when crops are grown under tree cover.

The FAO definition of a forest includes:

  • land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ
  • does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use

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Species in news: Cestrum nocturnum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cestrum nocturnum

Mains level: Invasive alien species

Nilgiris forest officials are restoring native Shola habitats in places overrun by the invasive species ‘Cestrum nocturnum’.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in the news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Cestrum nocturnum

  • Cestrum nocturnum is commonly known by the names night-blooming jasmine and raatrani.
  • It is native to the West Indies but naturalized in South Asia.
  • Its spread is a threat to all Shola and grassland habitats as it does not allow any native flora to thrive.
  • The plants unless completely removed with their roots, keep sprouting and keep taking over Shola and native grasslands.

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Nagar Van (Urban Forest) Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Urban Forest Scheme

Mains level: NA

On the occasion of World Environment Day (5th June), the union govt has announced the implementation of the Nagar Van Scheme to develop 200 Urban Forests across the country in the next five years.

Do you know?

India has 8 per cent of world’s biodiversity, despite having many constraints like only 2.5 % of the world’s landmass, has to carry 16% of human population and having only 4% of freshwater sources.

Urban Forest Scheme

  • The scheme will be implemented with people’s participation and collaboration between the Forest Department, Municipal bodies, NGOs and corporates.
  • These forests will work as lungs of the cities and will primarily be on the forest land or any other vacant land offered by local urban local bodies.
  • This urban area rejuvenation scheme is based on the Smriti Van in the Warje area of Pune City
  • This forest now hosts rich biodiversity with 23 plant species, 29 bird species, 15 butterfly species, 10 reptiles and 3 mammal species.
  • This Urban Forest project is now helping maintain ecological balance, serving both environmental and social needs.

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Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Global Forest Resources Assessment

Mains level: Global afforrestation measures and its success

The deforestation rate globally declined between 2015 and 2020, according to the Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2020. This decline is a result of sustainable management measures worldwide.

Possible prelim question:

Q. The Global Forest Resources Assessment Report recently seen in news is published by-

a) UN-FAO

b) UN Forum on Forests

c) International Union of Forest Research Organizations

d) None of these

Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • The FRA reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), legal and institutional frameworks for forest conservation, and sustainable use.

Click here for amazing visuals of the FRA

Highlights of the 2020 report

  • The rate of forest loss in 2015-2020 declined to an estimated 10 million hectares (mha), down from 12 million hectares (mha) in 2010-2015, according to the FRA 2020.
  • The FRA 2020 has examined the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.
  • The world lost 178 mha of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya, according to the report.
  • However, the rate of net forest loss decreased substantially during 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in the forest area in others through afforestation.
  • The largest proportion of the world’s forests were tropical (45 per cent), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.

Data on losses and gains

  • The world’s total forest area was 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which was 31 per cent of the total land area. This area was equivalent to 0.52 ha per person.
  • Among the world’s regions, Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.
  • On the other hand, Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.
  • However, both Europe and Asia recorded substantially lower rates of the net gain in 2010–2020 than in 2000–2010.
  • Oceania experienced net losses of forest area in the decades 1990–2000 and 2000–2010.
  • More than 54 per cent of the world’s forests were in only five countries — the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
  • The highest per cent of plantation forests were in South America while the lowest was in Europe.

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Species in news: Carissa carandas (the Great Hedge of India)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Carissa carandas

Mains level: NA

 

Carissa carandas, a  multi-utility wild berry, whose thorny plant the British had used to build a barrier through India in the 1870s, has a hitherto unknown wilder cousin in Assam, a new study has revealed.

Carissa carandas

  • The Carissa carandas was also among several thorny plants the British had grown 140 years ago for a 1,100-mile barrier apparently to enforce taxes and stop the smuggling of salt.
  • It has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for a number of ailments such as diarrhoea, anaemia, constipation, indigestion, skin infections and urinary disorders.
  • The leaves have been used as fodder for silkworms while a paste of its pounded roots serves as a fly repellent.
  • It is better known as karonda in Hindi, kalakkai in Tamil, koromcha in Bengali and karja tenga in Assamese, the Carissa kopilii is threatened by the very river it is named after — Kopili in central Assam.
  • The “sun-loving” plant was distributed sparsely, rooted in rocky crevices along the Kopili riverbed at altitudes ranging from 85-600 metres above sea level.

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Private: Need for Inclusive Forest Rights

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level: Mains level : Read the attached story

Introduction

  • During a public meeting of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch held in Telangana in early March, the Central government was accused of delaying and denying forest land rights of nearly 53 lakh Adivasi families. 
  • The allegations against the central government included subverting pro-poor policies by opting for subsidy cuts and also catering to corporate interests at the expense of Adivasi settlements. 

Diluting Forest Rights: 

  • Forest rights” in India, both for the forest itself and for the communities that inhabit it, have been largely non-existent.
  • The fate of forests and their ecosystems have historically been at the mercy of capitalist interests, and governments—both colonial and post-independence—have restructured law to suit vested interests.
  • The callous nature in which natural resources are being extracted and justified for their “development” agenda has been unprecedented.
  • In Jharkhand, the Centre is currently looking into the “feasibility” of opening up 43,000 hectares of forest land for iron ore mining.
  • Further, the draft Indian Forest Act, 2019 seeks to undermine the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, to confer rights to traditional forest dwellers.
  • This act would override the powers of state governments and exacerbate the already-precarious conditions of local forest tribes.
  • Forest officials are to be given quasi-judicial powers in deciding whose claims of land and titles are authentic, and for those perceived to have committed forest-related “crimes,” officials can “shoot, search, seize property, and arrest citizens,” with the burden of evidence on the accused.

Eco-sensitive Zones and Erroneous Classifications:

  • The conception of ESZs is ill-conceived—it is an exclusionary mode of conservation that displaces local communities and denies them their livelihoods—but also largely redundant as buffer zones already exist between forests and wildlife sanctuaries and human settlements.  
  • The villages in this area are of two types—traditional ones and others resettled from the core zone of CNP.
  • The Forest Department shifted villages from the core area, gave villagers the patta (documents) of the land, but we are still treated like encroachers.
  • The status of forest villages deprives them of any developmental activities.
  • There are no schools, healthcare facilities, electricity and water connection.
  • These villagers are denied permission to make pucca houses (permanent concrete structures), claim old dried or felled trees in their courtyard, make fencing around their houses or claim compensation for crop loss as these areas are considered to be forest lands owned by the Forest Department.

Pressure of Tourism:

  • Capitalist practices are immune to the ecological fragility of these areas.
  • While locals are made to shift and have their land taken from them, ESZ guidelines do not ban tourism in the ecologically fragile areas.
  • While the Uttarakhand government claims to support “ecotourism,” ground reports prove that such practices are largely non-existent.
  • As the pressure of tourism is rising, the government is developing new sites and gateways to the CNP.
  • Initially Dhikala was the only entry gate for the park. However as tourism grew many new zones were subsequently opened for tourism.
  • Recently Powalgarh Conservation Reserve has been created in the areas adjoining the village Powalgarh, and is being promoted as a tourist destination.
  • It is only the locals who have been made to sacrifice their rights and privileges, by privileging outside interests.

The Fate of Forests: 

  • While the Forest Act, 2006 had its own set of issues, it saw success in empowering local communities and in making forest areas more “democratic,” in that the locals had rights to their land and there were more checks to resource exploitation.
  • The draft bill gives the forest department more power to claim rights over forestland and private companies can also access forestland.
  • The proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA) which, among other things, would empower forest officials to use firearms and to take away forest rights merely through the payment of monetary compensation.
  • Both of these would essentially destroy the FRA.  

 

The Forest department and the Implementation of the FRA:

  • The forest department officials have been reluctant to implement provisions of the FRA, 2006.
  • The act was supposed to rectify the “historical injustices” to tribal victims, but forest officials opposed it on the grounds of the inevitable destruction to forest cover and wildlife. 
  • The implementation of FRA has not been effective or delayed, for instance (i) when the claims made by the “other forest dwellers” are numerous;
  • (ii) where the number of claims with the evidence of occupation of land in forest are either recent or after 25 October 1980;
  • (iii) where the demand for claims on the forestland is more than two and half hectares per nuclear family; and (iv) if the claims happen to be in the proximity of wildlife sanctuaries or parks.

Way forward

  • India’s approach towards forests and ecology remains rooted in colonial constructs—that of revenue generation.
  • Such a stance is disconnected from such an environment’s realities.
  • If effective forest management practices are to be implemented, then local stakeholders need to be at the forefront of such policy decisions. 
  • Even when the Chipko Movement challenged them, the response was to restrict timber-oriented forestry and shift the focus gradually to conservation, without paying attention to local needs or changing the allocation of management rights.
  • This coincided with an increasing attention to wildlife conservation, both nationally and internationally, and led unthinkingly to the formation of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks (that is, protected areas) where local rights were extinguished without due process or thought to the long-term role of those communities in conservation..
  • For the sustainable use of forests and their conservation to be truly effective, all the stakeholders (locals, forest department officials, and government) need to accept the idea of democratic multilayered governance model and work in unison.
  • The only way forward is to have a more open dialogue with department officials, rather than curtailing their powers. 
  • Gaps in the act are significant, and amendments need to be introduced to reduce the trust deficit between tribals and officials.

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[pib] Person in news: Gaura Devi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gaura Devi and her contributions in Chipko Movement

Mains level: Chipko Movement

 

 

Union HRD Minister along with senior women officers of the Ministry planted a sapling in memory of Gaura Devi, Chipko Activist in New Delhi.

Gaura Devi

  • Gaura Devi was born in 1925 in a village named Lata in the state of Uttarakhand. She moved to a nearby village named Reni by the Alaknanda River.
  • She was elected to lead the Mahila Mangal Dal (Women’s Welfare Association) in the wake of the Chipko movement. The organization worked on the protection of community forests.

Her contributions in Chipko Movement

  • Gaura Devi came to notice in 1974 when she was told that local loggers were cutting the trees.
  • The men of Reni village had been tricked out of the village by news that the government was going to pay out compensation for land used by the army.
  • She challenged the men to shoot her instead of cutting down the trees and she described the forest with her maika (mother’s house).
  • They managed to halt their work by hugging the trees despite the abuse of the armed loggers.
  • They kept guard of the trees that night and over the next three or four days other villages and villagers joined the action. The loggers left leaving the trees.

Impact

  • After this incident, the Uttar Pradesh Government established a committee of experts to investigate the issue of felling of trees, and the lumber company withdrew its men from Reni.
  • The committee stated that the Reni forest was an ecologically sensitive area and that no trees should be felled there.
  • Thereafter the government of Uttar Pradesh placed a 10-year ban on all tree-felling in an area of over 1150 km².

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Plantation Corporation of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PCI

Mains level: Terms of reference for PCI

The Union government is likely to announce the setting up of a Plantation Corporation of India in the upcoming budget.

Plantation Corporation of India

  • The PCI will subsume all afforestation-related schemes currently underway in India including the Green India Mission, National Afforestation Programme and compensatory afforestation.
  • The corporation will use Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) money to undertake the plantations and investment will also come from the global pension fund.
  • CAF is a huge corpus of money collected from projects proponents for diverting forest land to be used for non-forestry activity.

Issues with PCI

  • Critics have raised concerns over the move’s impact on the federal structure of forest governance in the country.
  • While forests are a concurrent subject, land-related issues are the responsibility of the states.

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Threat of Invasive Alien Species in Shola Forests of the Nilgiris

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Shola Forests

Mains level: Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

 

Shola Forests

  • The Shola forests of South India derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rain forest’.
  • Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’ the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.

Vegetation

  • The upper reaches are covered with grasslands, known as Shola grasslands.
  • The vegetation that grows in Shola forests is evergreen. The trees are stunted and have many branches. Their rounded and dense canopies appear in different colours.
  • Generally, the leaves are small in size and leathery. Red-coloured young leaves turning into different colours on maturity is a prominent characteristic of the Shola forests.
  • Epiphytes like lichens, ferns and bryophytes usually grow on the trees.
  • The occurrence of Himalayan plants like rhododendron in these Shola forests is a mystery.

Significance of Sholas

  • Sholas thus act as ‘overhead water tanks’. They play a major role in conserving water supply of the Nilgiris’ streams.
  • The trees are slow-growing varieties which produce timber of little or no value and probably take at least a century to mature.
  • The rolling grasslands found on top of the Western Ghats, enhance the beauty of the region. Usually, Shola forests and grasslands are found in a ratio of 1:5.
  • The rain received from the Southwest and Northeast monsoons is harvested by the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem, leading to the formation of the Bhavani river that finally drains into the Cauvery.
  • Thus, the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem of the Nilgiris, also supports the prosperity of Cauvery delta farmers.
  • As tree species of the montane, evergreen forests are flammable, regeneration of any Shola tree species is completely prevented except for Rhododendron nilagiricum, the only Shola tree that can tolerate fire.

Threats to Sholas

  • Unfortunately, the Sholas have begun to gradually shrink due to the introduction of alien plant species and annual fire occurrences.
  • Alien species like Sticky Snakeroot, Gorse and Scotch Broom introduced during British rule, have encroached upon the grasslands.
  • During 1840, tree species such as Acacia and Eucalyptus were introduced from Australia.
  • Afterwards, between 1886 and 1891, Pine and Cypress were introduced, again from Australia. As the alien species grew, the forests and grasslands gradually became degraded and shrank.
  • In addition, unscientific agricultural practices like growing tea on the slopes, cattle grazing and fuel wood collection have become serious causes for degradation.
  • Unregulated tourism has created concrete jungles, traffic congestion and caused the generation of garbage.

Wrath of Eucalyptus

  • During 1849, the extent of Shola forests was 8,600 hectares (ha), grasslands 29,875 ha and agriculture was 10,875 ha.
  • No wattle or eucalyptus was planted in the area at that time.
  • The comparison of the results of the 1849 and 1992 studies shows that cultivation of tea, wattle and eucalyptus has reduced the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem to a great extent.

Protective measures

  • After realizing the seriousness of the situation, the government banned the planting of wattle and eucalyptus completely in 1987.
  • Ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation were given importance.
  • Under the Hill Area Development Programme since the mid-1980s, seedlings have been planted in degraded patches and protected with chain-link fences to restore the forests.
  • Special Shola forest protection committees were formed involving teachers, nature lovers, ecologists, environmentalists, students and villagers in the Nilgiris.
  • They were motivated to remove plastic garbage from the nearby forests, protect Shola trees, remove alien species and learn about the importance of the Sholas.
  • Presently, the Tamil Nadu forest department is now focusing on eradicating wattle, providing fencing and planting shola seedlings in degraded shola forests.

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Green Credit Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green Credit Scheme, CAMPA

Mains level: CAMPA

The Forest Advisory Committee has approved a scheme that could allow “forests” to be traded as a commodity.  FAC is an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends.

Green Credit Scheme

  • The proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme’, as it is called, allows agencies — they could be private companies, village forest communities — to identify land and begin growing plantations.
  • After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land if they met the Forest Department’s criteria.
  • An industry needing forest land could then approach the agency and pay it for parcels of such forested land, and this would then be transferred to the Forest Department and be recorded as forest land.
  • The participating agency will be free to trade its asset, that is plantation, in parcels, with project proponents who need forest land.
  • This is not the first time that such a scheme has been mooted.
  • In 2015, a ‘Green Credit Scheme’ for degraded forest land with public-private participation was recommended, but it was not approved by the Union Environment Minister, the final authority.

Impact

  • In the current system, industry needs to make good the loss of forest by finding appropriate non-forest land — equal to that which would be razed.
  • It also must pay the State Forest Department the current economic equivalent — called Net Present Value — of the forest land.
  • It’s then the Forest Department’s responsibility to grow appropriate vegetation that, over time, would grow into forests.
  • Industries have often complained that they find it hard to acquire appropriate non-forest land, which has to be contiguous to existing forest.
  • If implemented it allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.

 Individuals outside

  • One of India’s prongs to combat climate change is the Green India Mission that aims to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30, and this involves adding 30 million hectares in addition to existing forest.
  • Critics held that it does not solve the core problems of compensatory afforestation.
  • It creates problems of privatizing multi-use forest areas as monoculture plantation plots. Forests are treated as a mere commodity without any social or ecological character.

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Miyawaki Method

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Miyawaki Method

Mains level: Miyawaki Method of Afforestation

Kerala Forest Dept. has adopted Miyawaki afforestation concept to be used in govt. offices, schools and puramboke land.

Miyawaki Method

  • Miyawaki method is a method of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests.
  • It includes planting trees as close as possible in the same area which not only saves space, but the planted saplings also support each other in growth and block sunlight reaching the ground, thereby preventing the growth of weed.
  • Thus the saplings become maintenance-free (self sustainable) after the first three years.
  • It helps to create a forest in just 20 to 30 years while through conventional methods it takes anywhere between 200 to 300 years.

The technique

  • The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
  • The quality of soil is analysed and biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
  • A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density — three to five sapling per square meter.
  • The ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.

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Species in news: Senna spectabilis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Senna spectabilis

Mains level: Impacts of the invasive alien species


The Kerala Forest Department is planning to adopt steps to arrest the rampant growth of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis, in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR).

Senna spectabilis

  • The Senna spectabilis species was planted as avenue trees in Wayanad. The vayal ecosystem (marshy land) of the forest area now has this plant in large numbers.
  • The spread is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the reserve, owing to its quick growth and coppicing character.
  • The tree species was found in nearly 10 sq km area of the 344.44 sq km sanctuary around five years ago.
  • The plant has started to invade the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka and the Mudumalai tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Now, it had invaded to more than 50 sq km of the sanctuary Wayanad WLS.
  • A recent study of the Ferns Nature Conservation Society recorded the presence of the plant in 78.91 sq km area of the sanctuary.

Impact

  • An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes thousands of seeds after gregarious flowering.
  • The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous tree and grass species and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores.
  • Moreover, wildlife will not feed on the leaf of the treeas it is not palatable for them.
  • The allelochemicals produced by this plant adversely affect the germination and growth of the native species.

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Also Read: Evolution of Forest Rights in India from 1856 to 2006 | In Depth Analysis of FRA & Its Issues

The environment ministry came out with a draft National Forest Policy (NFP). The policy has been prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) and is aimed at facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour among stakeholders.

source

The proposed NFP is going to be third such document after India’s independence with first in 1952 followed by the second in 1988.


Why is there a need for Forest Policy?

  • Forests and trees constitute nearly one fourth of the geographic area of the country.
  • Protection of this vast and valuable resource, improving and increasing the forest and tree cover requires adequate investment keeping in view the pressures on these forests, and the ecosystem services that they provide to the nation.
  • Large tracts of forest area in the country have degraded due to immense biotic pressure and lack of adequate investment.
  • The crux of the problem in India’s existing forest policy — the Forest Policy of 1988 — has been that it made the forest department the manager of the forests and the people lost their rights over it.
  • But as the Uttarakhand forest fires showed recently, a few hundred forest officials and a few thousand employees of the department can do nothing when a calamity strikes. They need community support in such emergencies.

Key highlights

  • Less forest on hilly areas: Although the policy continues with the national goal of maintaining a minimum of one-third of the geographical area under forest or tree cover, Hills and mountainous regions may not be required to maintain two-thirds of the geographical area under forest cover.
  • Board to monitor management of forests: The policy states that a National Board of Forestry and State Boards of Forestry are to be established to ensure monitoring of the spread of the forest areas and management of forest cover.
  • Technology to minimize damage to forests: The policy states that forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure need to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted.
  • Green tax on citizens: The draft National Forest Policy (NFP) proposes the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour and supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes.
  • Undermines FRA 2006: NFP ignores Forests Rights Act, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests, and proposes a joint forest management-like mechanism to enhance agro-forestry.
  • New Mission: The policy proposes to launch a new Community Forest Management Mission, bringing government, community and private land under the new proposed management system.
  • Provisions for responsible tourism: It calls for developing “sound ecotourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities.
  • Climate change to emerge as important factor in policy: It states that Climate change concerns should be effectively factored into all the forest and wildlife areas management plans and community ecosystem management plans.
  • Purchase of wildlife corridors: The draft policy indicates that CAMPA funds from diversion of forest land by industry are to be used for purchasing wildlife corridors from people.
  • Maintaining Urban forest: The policy also asks for management plans for city forests, parks, garden and woodlands to nurture and sustain urban health, clean air and related benefits.
  • Supports the Government Vermin Policy: In a nod to the Union government’s controversial decision to declare certain animals as “vermin” and implicitly sanctioning the slaughter of nilgai, wild pigs and monkeys in certain States, the forest policy recommends mitigating human-wildlife conflicts by taking up habitat enrichment, providing adequate and timely compensation in case of injury or loss of human life, property, crop damage or livestock casualties and developing teams of well-equipped and trained forest personnel.

Significance of the policy

  • The policy recommendation for the launch of a national forest streams revival programme in a mission mode to tackle intensifying water crisis in India in the last few decades is a good step.
  • The levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour, supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes will act as a step to mitigate the effects of pollution.
  • Besides specifying how to manage forests, the draft policy said, “Other ecosystems such as alpine meadows, grasslands, deserts, marine and coastal areas should be protected and managed as well” and this will help to make it comprehensive.
  • It calls for developing sound ecotourism models with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities which is a commendable move.

Criticism of the policy

  • NFP ignores Forests Rights Act, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests, and proposes a joint forest management-like mechanism to enhance agro-forestry. 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.

Way forward

  • After facing much criticism from the Civil society the centre has withdrawn the draft policy recently. The criticism is not misplaced as the draft policy proposes to dilute the Forests Rights Act (FRA), do away with requirement of having two-third geographical area of mountainous and hill regions under forests, and for allowing industry to have commercial plantations on the forest land , increase the power of the forest bureaucracy and keep local communities out of the decision-making process.
  • While devising a new policy, the ministry must not only focus on increasing the forest area and bettering the quality of the forests but also ensure that the connection between forest-dependent communities and forests is not lost.

References:

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