Economics India

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Forest Management in India Needs Urgent Attention

A recent World Bank report on forest management in India observes that over a quarter of India’s poorest people, many of whom are indigenous people, depend on forests for part of their livelihoods. Almost half the country’s forests have been degraded, and their average productivity is a third of potential.

If national and state level reforms are introduced and forest productivity improved, forests can significantly reduce rural poverty and increase government revenues. Globally, many governments are increasing the rights of forest communities to use and manage forest resources. This has raised communities’ incomes and has improved forest cover.

The World Bank Report advocates that India should:

1. Give communities greater rights to use forest resources and wider responsibilities for forest management after building local capacity. This will enable communities to tap the enormous forest potential and also conserve valuable forest cover;

2. Introduce stronger forest management systems. This includes the provision of more reliable maps of forest tenure, computerized databases of forest resources, monitoring systems that track forest and livelihood changes, and market information for timber in national and global markets;

3. Improve communities' access to more open markets. As communities gain capacities and confidence, better access to unregulated markets can help them capitalize on new domestic and international opportunities; and

4. Build capacities and strengthen local governing institutions. This can help all community members to benefit equitably from commercial forestry. Forest department field staff can benefit enormously from training in new approaches to community forest management. Greater investment and training in forest monitoring and regulation will help support conservation.

I recall having worked on a Bank-assisted Forestry Project in China some 20 years back. The focus of that project was precisely to assist China to implement a forestry development program on the above lines, which became a model for nationwide implementation.

Clearly, India is behind China by two decades in many respects including forestry development. Also, India’s implementation capabilities in the public sector tend to be bureaucratic and inefficient with little or no incentives available to local communities to take charge and use forestry resources judiciously with emphasis on renewal. Instead, communities (on their own or in conjuction with corrupt forest officials) exploit forestry resources indiscriminately for personal benefit, without any regard to the renewal and sustainability of this crucial natural wealth.

Hopefully, GOI and state governments will act on a priority basis on World Bank recommendations and end this sorry state of affairs in the nation's forestry sector in the interest of povery reduction, environment protection and welfare of future generations.


  • China used a model that provided incentives both to: (a) local communities -- to plant and harvest trees in terms of low cost long-term loans and a share in profit realized at harvest; and (b) village and municipal goveernmets as a source of revenue. India may have to do something along these lines to ensure that forests are managed as a sustainable source of renewable source of energy and other products, and help enhance enviornment. Hope India learns from China in this case!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 PM  

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