India urged to withdraw Draft National Forest Policy of 2018

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    By Our Correspondent

    NEW DELHI:For effective climate action, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) based in New Delhi today urged India to withdraw the Draft National Forest Policy of 2018 to protect the climate in India and worldwide.

    “The draft National Forest Policy of 2018 is nothing but a means to usurp the powers of the Gram Sabhas over the community forest resources and commercialise the afforestation programmes with the aim to take control over the Compensatory afforestation funds which stood at Rs 90,000 crores or about US$ 15 billion as on April 2018”- stated Paritosh Chakma, Director of ACHR while releasing its report, “Draft National Forest Policy 2018: A Conspiracy to Deny the Rights of the Scheduled Tribes”.

    As of 2015, a total of 1,18,213 Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) had been set up with control over 2,29,38,814 hetrare of forest area,  which is about a third of the country’s forested landscape. These areas are legally under the control of the Gram Sabhas under the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

    It was also further pointed out that the Forest Departments of the States and Union Territories have been unable to utilize the Compensatory afforestation funds which stood at Rs 90,000 crores or about US$ 15 billion as on April 2018.

     The use of the ever increasing compensatory afforestation funds shall require enormous human resources and skills on the other hand and degraded forests for afforestation which is under the control of the Gram Sabhas under the Forest Rights Act. Therefore, since August 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been trying to handover “participation of private sector in afforestation of degraded forests” which shall have disastrous consequences.

    “The aim to take the powers away from the tribals and Gram Sabhas through the Draft National Forest Policy is clear. The Draft National Forest Policy provides for creation of the National Board of Forestry headed by the central minister in-charge of forests and State Boards of Forestry headed by state minister in-charge of forests with the sole aim to undermine the Ministry of Tribal Affairs  It further overrules the Forest Rights Act by declaring that “as far as community forest resources management under Forest Rights Act is concerned, the new policy will address the same under participatory forest management and the same will be addressed through the proposed community forest management mission”. – further stated Mr Chakma.

    “The denial of rights to the indigenous peoples and the Gram Sabhas and commercialisation of afforestation programmed can destroy India’s climate action initiatives.” – also urged  Chakma.

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