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Govt of India push for 'commercially important' invasive timber for afforestation to damage ecology, groundwater

By Our Representative
The recently-released draft National Forest Policy (NFP), says a representation before the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), would adversely affect scheduled tribes, 90% of whom live in forest areas and intractable terrains, by turning them into migrant construction labourers by displacing them for the exploitation of minerals and other development projects.
Pointing out of that 95% live of them live below poverty line and totally depend on forest, agriculture or agriculture-based activities, the representation by mines, minerals & People (mm&P), a network of NGOs working for people affected by mining, in response to the reactions sought by the ministry, says that, even as seeking to "mitigate climate change", the draft policy places "more-than-required emphasis on the commercialization of forests".
Thus, by seeking to achieve afforestation in the name of increasing tree cover and not forest cover, mm&P says, the draft policy "emphasizes on monoculture", which can lead to "major disturbance in the local ecology. For instance, studies have shown that the plantation of eucalyptus in the name of afforestation has depleted groundwater in Arkavathi Basin, which led to fall in water supply in Bengaluru".
Pointing out that the draft focuses on "the need to stimulate growth in the forest based industry sector and encourage forest corporations and industrial units", mm&P comments, "Commercialization of forest is a major threat to the forest dwelling communities and tribal communities." The representation has been signed by mm&P chairperson Rebbapragada Ravi and secretary general Ashok Shrimali.
It underlines, "Most of the livelihood of these communities (350-400 million people) depend on non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The focus on increasing the timber species which will lead to reduction in the NTFPs. It has to be remembered that forests are much more rewarding in terms of NTFPs than timber produce", adding, "Economic use of timber can be very dangerous -- as there is no specification of how government can monitor the exploitation of the forest by the corporates."
Sharply criticizing the emphasis on compensatory afforestation in the draft, mm&P says, "Pushing non-indigenous 'commercially important' invasive timber species to meet afforestation targets will damage local ecology and groundwater recharge. A recent report of CAG has pointed out that 50%-60% compensatory afforestation has not taken place."
Pointing out that the draft policy "is not in line" with the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, which are "protective legislations for the indigenous communities", mm&P says, it "does not elaborate on engaging local people in forest management.
Noting that "participatory approach" is vaguely used, with little emphasis on Gram Sabhas for important decision makers in all matters concerning forests and ecosystem, mm&P says, The draft policy, even as talking of "extension of protected areas and corridors for maintaining the forest cover", ignores the "flaws in the exclusionary model of protected areas governance which has caused displacement of local population".
Objecting to the draft policy refusing to consider "mining as a threat to forest conservation", mm&P says, "More than 50% of mining happens in forest areas and hence mining should be seen as a threat to forest ecosystem and proper regulations and guidelines should be issued."
Then, says mm&P, in the name of "promotion of cultivation, harvesting, transportation and marketing of wood by relaxing the existing felling and transit regime in the country”, the draft policy seeks to "open window for illegal transportation of timber leading to high levels of corruption in the bureaucracy."
In fact, according to mm&P, the draft policy "is a shift from tribal to timber" by aiming to aims create "new 'zamindars' and turn the tribals into slaves. It will dilute the access of tribal community to the forests and disturb the natural ecosystem affecting the life and livelihoods of millions of people."

Comments

Ashok Sharma said…
This govt is bent upon giving land to corporate houses and depriving forest dwellers and tribals their rights. I think this will have to be changed after 2019

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