Salient Features of Himachal Forest Sector Policy

Newly Forest Sector Policy of Himachal Pradesh has been evolved through a dynamic and consultative process where an extensive evidence gathering process has been followed through primary and secondary sources through a range of stakeholders consultations including the forest department, research institutions, local communities, representatives of PRI’s, feed-back-workshop.JPGNGO’s community based organisations as well as people representatives

The need for a new forest sector policy emerges from the realization that there has been a paradigm shift in the objectives and management practices of forestry at the state and the national level. Post the first state forest policy for the Himachal Pradesh adopted on 3rd September 1980 in furtherance of the National Forest Policy Resolution of 1952, a new National Forest Policy, 1988 has come into place. The Forest Conservation Act 1980 has come into force and most importantly a constitutional devolvement of power to the Panchayati Raj Institution has been mandated to ensure democratic decentralization through the Constitution (73rd amendment) Act, 1992. New conceptual framework on forestry management such as Participatory Forest Management has been adopted since the early nineties as an alternative national approach to forest management and is premised on collaboration, decentralization and democratization and as a result the forest sector as a whole has become pluralistic – recognizing multiple use, multiple stakeholders and multiple values.

The new HP Forest Sector Policy 2005 suggests some specific policy measures with strategies to support such measures. However, it is to be noted that the strategies given are illustrative and inclusive and not limited to them. The essentials of the new policy measures are enumerated below:

  1. A new classification of forests where conservation needs, production needs urban and aesthetic value of forests and most importantly the livelihood needs of the communities have been recognized.

  2. While the government of Himachal Pradesh is committed to bringing more area under forest and tree cover it pragmatically recognizes the uniqueness of Himachal Pradesh as a hill state and considering the uncultivable, barren land, snow covered peaks -which cannot sustain forests, has set a target of 35.5% of the total geographical area under forest and tree cover.

  3. Systematic planning and implementation of afforestation and equally important rehabilitation programme in degraded and open forests and available non-forest lands have been envisaged.

  4. The policy re-emphasizes the need for integrating the forest sector into the larger land use planning process.

  5. Realizing the increasing human and cattle population and increasing demands and commercial needs the rights and concessions in forest areas will have to be reviewed in a participatory manner and significantly the right holders will have the responsibility to identify themselves with protection, development and management of forests to ensure the continuity and sustainability of such rights and concessions. Consequently, the timber distribution rights will be routed through the institution of Gram Sabha and the periodicity, quantity and rates for TD rights will be rationalized. Similarly, for grazing rights of both, migratory and otherwise, population, a consultative mechanism will be evolved along with the Gram Sabha.

  6. As regards biodiversity and wildlife management the thrust of new legislations such as the Biodiversity Act, 2002 and the new amendments in the Wildlife Act will be followed where linkage of biodiversity conservation to livelihoods, traditional knowledge systems, equitable benefit sharing and recognizing the unique role of women will be the guiding principles.

  7. Watershed management is integral to sustainable forest management and therefore watershed approaches through concerned departmental and non-governmental synergies will be promoted through a nodal agency.

  8. A special focus on medicinal and aromatic plants as a part of non-wood forest product management would be developed with an emphasis on livelihood security in both public and private lands.

  9. The existing forest management systems needs to be reexamined in light of significant shift from tree centric to multiple use base and people centric approach to forestry. Consequently, forest harvesting needs to be based on scientific principles and approved working plans.

  10. It is envisaged that the government will develop incentives to encourage forest based industries and procure raw material for such industries from sources other than government forests.

  11. It is proposed that nature based tourism including wilderness tourism will be promoted in consonance with the ecotourism policy of the state.

  12. It is further recognized that the farming systems needs to be interfaced with forestry to ensure long term viability of rural livelihoods of rural communities and sustainable forests.

  13. A special focus of the policy is the cold desert areas of the state where native medicinal and aromatic plants and cooperative micro enterprises will be promoted.

  14. Demarcation and settlement still awaits urgent attention of the state which has resulted in maximum encroachment and illegal occupation on forest land. Thus the survey, settlement and demarcation of un-demarcated and unsettled notified forests will be taken up on high priority.

  15. Forest fires, invasive weeds and stray cattle problems have become serious threats to forest and forest based resources and thus measures to control them will be taken up on an urgent basis.

  16. The requisite institutional support to implement the new forest sector policy has also been outlined. A key feature is the strengthening and re-constitution of an independent, autonomous and multi-sectoral Centre for Policy and Planning.

  17. The role of information technology, research and development, a comprehensive HRD strategy and robust monitoring and evaluation systems are the other focus areas.

  18. A good policy is one which is supported by enabling legal instruments. The policy also delineates specific legal and administrative measures and changes that are required to support the new forest sector policy. It also includes the efforts to promote cross-sectoral collaborative mechanism and converges extra sectoral policy influences.consultation-with-local-communities.JPG

Lastly, new forest policy is a response to the emerging needs and aspiration of people of the state. This policy has a unique mountain area focus and centralization through Panchayati Raj Institution in forest management of forest resources from the bedrock on which the policy stands. The policy envisages a long term investment programme for forest sector funding commensurate with the contribution of the State GDP through public sector participation and need based international funding and regular budgetary allocation.

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