Strengthening Participatory Forest Management in India (SPFMI) Updates

On Friday, 23rd January, 2015, Enviro Legal Defence Firm (ELDF) conducted the fourth inception workshop

On Friday, 23rd January, 2015, Enviro Legal Defence Firm (ELDF) conducted the fourth inception workshop for its pan India ‘Strengthening of Participatory Forest Management in India’ (SPFMI) project in Van Sabhagruh, Maharashtra Forest Department, Nagpur. After the in-depth review and analysis of the legal and policy framework of participatory forest management regime in the eight study states of India, including Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, ELDF team is diligently working to involve every relevant stakeholder in this project from each study state.

SPFMI is a USAID supported project which aims to strengthen legal and policy framework as well as the institutional arrangement that governs the participatory forest management in India. After comprehensive literature review of all the relevant laws, policies, programs, judicial pronouncements and past work of ELDF in this sector for each state during the Phase I of SPFMI, all state and national-level stakeholders are being engaged through series of inception workshops in its Phase II. So far workshops have been conducted in the State of Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra. Mr. Sanjay Upadhyay, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Managing Partner, Enviro Legal Defence Firm facilitated the workshop and explained the purpose of the inception workshop– to inform the stakeholders about the objectives of this project, to share ELDF’s critical law and policy findings on Maharashtra PFM context. This culminated into 21 crucial questions which were raised before the participants to seek their comments. These included issues around legality and the latest village forest rules, the implications of Forest rights Act, the institutional questions and its legality, implications of PESA, the implications of global developments such as REDD+ on PFM among others. The event provided a platform to the state stakeholders for sharing their concerns and field experiences to make PFM model successful in Maharashtra.

The workshop witnessed intense and candid discussions amongst the participants present especially from the senior most officials from the state forest department, NGOs and subject matter experts from Maharashtra. Some of the honorable speakers included Shri. A. K. Saxena, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Forces, Shri. Shree. A.S.K. Sinha, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Planning and Monitoring, Shri. Shree Bhagwan, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, JFM, Dr.Vinay Sinha, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Mr. A.Ashraf, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, NTFP, Dr. Mohan Jha, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, JFM, one of the pioneers of JFM in the State was also present. The perspective of interface between PFM and CAMPA was brought in by Mr. S.H.Patil, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, CAMPA. Mr. Jayant Sarnaik, Director AERF, Pune, shared his experience of working in areas where the forest department’s presence is negligible in districts like Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg and shared frameworks of community initiated conservation regimes in form of Sacred groves. Mr. Dilip Gode, head of Vidarbha Nature Conseration Society stressed the need for community participation for strengthening the forest governance which is also the mandate of the Constitution of India. Other NGO representatives also brought their valuable ground level experiences and insights of working with the village communities in context of PFM and the need for ‘real’ involvement of the communities in forest management.

The key message derived from this workshop is the need for strengthening not only Participatory Forest Management programme but also the entire forest governance regime which can be done by convergence and rationalization of the different legal instrument governing forests. The need of doing away with multiple institutions at the ground level with overlapping roles and responsibilities was another aspect voiced during the workshop. The need for legal and policy regimes which cater to the unique State context that cater to the needs of the State forests and natural resources was also categorically articulated.
 
         

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