CHENNAI: Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday released the State Forest Policy at Arignar Anna Zoological Park, while naming a 6-month-old lioness cub as, “Jaya”-after the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The draft of the policy was released in August after the Centre asked the States to formulate a State forest policy in accordance with the national forest policy which was brought in 1988. While it addresses several problems concerning forests and bio-diversity in the State, the policy does so only passingly, with specific references from the draft removed. For instance, the policy acknowledges that Tamil Nadu is characterised by its long coast line, the two ghats, dry climate, scare water resource and need for more tree cover.
But, the policy has not been significantly upgraded from the draft policy. However, it has subdued certain sub-headings such as climate change mitigation, wetland conservation among others into watered-down sub-points.The policy does not treat wetlands and grasslands with equal importance. For example, while the draft specifically suggests replacing exotic species such as eucalyptus with Shola species, the policy is devoid of problems faced by grasslands. Restoration of wetlands has been reduced to a water augmentation method. The policy does not delve into measurable importance of these landscapes, the way it does for reserved forests. Specific targets that were proposed in draft have been weakened in the policy.
The draft said that the geographical tree cover will be enhanced from the present level of 21.76 per cent to 30 per cent by 2025 and 33 per cent by 2030. The final policy skips the intermediate target and proposes that 33 per cent should be reached by 2030, zooming out of the need for short-term goals to attain long term ones. The draft also repeatedly focuses on rehabilitation of forests from natural calamities, importance of which has been reduced in the final policy.
The draft said, “As a special policy initiative, a corpus fund will be maintained to meet relief measures in the aftermath of natural calamities. The contributions to the corpus fund may be from a part of the revenue accrued from zoos, eco-tourism and contributions from the State and Central Governments and from private individuals and organisations.”