Experts moot distinct western Himalayan forest policy to protect sensitive ecosystems

imageShimla: For the critical role the western Himalayan states play as a watershed to north Indian plains, the three day National Conference on Forestry Solutions proposed the need for formulating a separate and distinct forest policy for the region in view of their high vulnerability to climate change.

Speaking at the conclusion of the conference JP Nadda, the forest minister said that political will not be found wanting in implementation of the recommendations made.

Asking foresters to include people in the planning as without their participation all efforts would prove futile, the minister sought a holistic approach to the whole issue of environment protection, saying, “sectors like tourism need to be managed from a sustainability point of view.”

Earlier PB Gangupadhay, additional director general with ministry of environment and forestry in his address disclosed that under the greening mission additional fund allocation of Rs 500 crore was being marked for the western Himalayan states.

Depending upon the forest working plans and related capacities of the respective states, the funds flow could be increased to Rs 1000 crore in the second and third years, he added

Including the proposal for a distinct forest policy for western Himalayan state, the conference drew up a 16 point agenda for responding to climate change in the region.

Pointing out the need to establish long term monitoring plots to gather scientific data on climate and biological parameters, mapping climate change driven adaptations in natural resources and livelihood patterns, the conference recommended development of databases on carbon sequestration potential.

Another recommendation pertained to revisiting forestry operation to realize full water conservation potential leading to development of ‘water sanctuaries’. A need for gender specific policies was expressed.

The conference sought re-designing of existing tourism policy to produce alternative mountain specific tourism models focusing on environment sustainability.  The deliberations sought to impress upon the central government to move beyond ‘Green Dividend’ to adequately compensate for ecosystem services flows.

The practice of payment for ecosystem services needed to be integrated and extended in order to compensate for foregone land use and occupation options adversely impacting environment.

While advocating that foresters need to become more proactive in influencing policies of other sectors such as road construction, transportation, power and industries that impinge on environment issues they also expressed the urgent need to incentivise community involvement in forest activities such as protection, afforestation and fire fighting.

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