India's new draft national forest policy 2016, which aims to bring a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover.
- Unlike the previous policies, which stressed on environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance, the 2018 policy focuses on the international challenge of climate change.
- While the ministry has done away with the environment cess that was proposed in the scrapped 2016 draft policy, it has retained several controversial clauses in its 2018 draft.
The draft National Forest Policy (NFP), 2016 proposed the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behavior and supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes.
- Public-private participation models: PPP models would be developed for undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded forest areas and forest areas available with Forest Development Corporations and outside forests. The environmentalists have pointed out that this would mean the privatization of India’s natural resources and creating “private forests”.
- The ecologically sensitive catchment areas shall be stabilized with suitable soil and water conservation measures, and also by planting suitable trees and grass-like bamboo," the draft suggests.
- It also suggests setting up of two national-level bodies—National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and National Board of Forestry (NBF)—for better management of the country’s forests.
- NBF needs to be headed by the central minister in charge of forests. The draft calls for state boards of forestry headed by state ministers in charge of forests to be established for ensuring inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, among other things.
- Checking man-animal conflict: Quick response, dedicated teams of well equipped and trained personnel, mobility, strong interface with health and veterinary services, rescue centers, objective and speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims would be at the core of the short-term action.
- The new draft also says efforts will be made to achieve harmonization between policies and laws like the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
- Participatory forest management: There is a need to further strengthen this participatory approach, for which a National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission will be launched.
- Finances required for management of forests: The compensatory afforestation fund which is being transferred to the states would be a major source of funds for taking up afforestation and rehabilitation works in degraded forest areas as well as for bringing new areas under forest and tree cover.
- Efforts for tapping funds from other national sectors like rural development, tribal affairs, national highways, railways, coal, mines, power, etc., will be taken for appropriate implementation of linking greening with infrastructure and other development activities.
- The 2018 draft also calls for “promotion of trees outside forests and urban greens", while stating that it will be taken up in “mission mode".