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Top US group gives one star to Modi's draft forest policy, says it's climate change plan is "unworkable, regressive"

By Our Representative
Top US-based advocacy group, with branches in several countries, including India, Climate Scorecard, which tracks the implementation of Paris Climate Commitments of top Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting countries, has rated the controversial Draft Forest Policy, 2018, released by the Government of India, with a one star rank out of five because "it contains strategies for climate change mitigation which are unworkable."
Pointing out that the draft fails to recognise the rights of tribal and forest dweller communities of forests, promotes industrial plantations by the private sector that may impact India’s Paris Climate Goals negatively, it's India country manager Ranjan Pandya, in a note forwarded to Counterview, says, “We have found the policy to be a retrogressive, even as concepts like climate change and REDD+ are liberally sprinkled in the text”.
Expert-cum-activist on water, environment and climate change issues in India, Panda says, “It is similar in intent and purposes to the Compensatory Afforestation Funds Act, 2016 scored by us last month, in that it seeks to enhance the control of forest departments over forests at the cost of communities."
"Given the past record of forest bureaucracy in India, there is little hope that this exclusionary, bureaucracy-centered forest policy will yield any positive results in mitigation and adaptation of climate change, and likely will have very negative outcomes”, he says.
According to him, “Our assessment found out that the 2018 Draft Forest Policy walks back on the gains of 1988 Forest Policy and the Forest Rights Act and seeks to go back to a state and private sector-based forest governance, which would not be healthy for India’s natural forests as well as climate commitments”.
Ranjan Panda
“The policy does recognise the challenges of climate change but its strategies have been criticised by conservationists, ecologists, tribals and community representatives", Panda explains, pointing out, Climate Scorecard' main criticisms are three-fold:
i) its use of climate change threats to recentralise power with the forest bureaucracy at the cost of communities;
ii) its deliberate subversion of the landmark Forest Rights Act; and
iii) it facilitates grabbing of burdened forest lands by private companies for industrial plantations.

According to Climate Scorecard, "The strategies of bureaucratically led large-scale afforestation and forest restoration with involvement of the private sector, will likely fail and lead to massive conflicts and wastage of scarce financial resources. The immense opportunity for climate change mitigation and adaptation through a rights based forest protection and restoration movement provided by the Forest Rights Act has been totally ignored in this new Forest Policy draft."
Claiming that its assessment is supported by commentaries by the "best Indian ecologists and forestry experts such as Madhav Gadgil, Ramchandra Guha, Sharad Lele and even serving foresters", Climate Scorecard calls it a "state-centered policy", insisting,"Given the past record of forest bureaucracy in India, there is little hope that this exclusionary, bureaucracy-centered forest policy will yield any positive results in mitigation and adaptation of climate change, and likely will have very negative outcomes".

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