BENGALURU: With public opinion and suggestions closing on Saturday, the Draft National Forest Policy, 2018 has evoked strong opposition from forest experts, former ministers, legislators, environmentalists and conservation groups.
Imagine re-defining degraded forest as a forest having canopy cover of 40 per cent or less and opening them up for private participation.
They collectively say the new forest policy should promote forest conservation and urged the government for a complete rethink and recasting of the concept to promote Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) by big business groups under the veil of sustainability.
Akhilesh Chipli, Malnad Green activist, adds, "There is absolutely no need to change or dilute existing laws in the illusive backdrop of forest cover increase and revenue generation. The forest cover data is wrong and misleading. Recent surveys were based on satellite imagery and not on ground-level surveys. Satellite imagery cannot distinguish between Coffee plantations, Areca Plantations, Rubber Plantations, Nilgiri and Acacia plantations and Natural Forests."
Former member of National Board for Wildlife and trustee, Wildlife First, Praveen Bhargav says despite overwhelming data on the massive threats that forests face, the draft policy is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions that have the potential to balance the competing needs of conservation and development. Failed ideas like compensatory Afforestation (CA), catchment area treatment and Joint Forest Management have been included in spite of massive evidence on failures documented by the CAG, parliamentary committees and other independent assessments."
Submitting their comments, conservationists have questioned the dangerous ideas of 'enriching dense forests' as also involving the profit -oriented big companies in the management of degraded forests.
In an ongoing campaign by many groups like Conservation India, Environment Support Group, Coorg Wildlife Society, Project Vruksha.com — they add, "Private partnerships — this is unnecessary as no private parties should have rights to implementation on forest land. Relaxing felling and transit regime of wood - this could lead to the problem of illegal transportation of timber and also have devastating consequences on tree cover."
Bhargav adds, "Where is the need to 'enrich' already 'dense forests'? We therefore submit that the policy must highlight the need for voluntary relocation from PAs for which funding from the CAMPA fund can be allocated as provided under the CAF Act 2016. Such 'policy prescriptions' are nothing more than seeds sown in the policy for more corruption-ridden projects to be included in Working Plans and Schemes and certainly not in line with the Government's avowed commitment to good governance."