Strengthening Participatory Forest Management in India (SPFMI) Updates

Fifth SPFMI Inception Workshop in Himachal Pradesh

On Friday, 6th February, 2015, Enviro Legal Defence Firm (ELDF) conducted the fifth inception workshop for its pan India ‘Strengthening of Participatory Forest Management in India’ (SPFMI) project at Hotel Holiday Home, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. 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 in its phase I, ELDF team is diligently working to involve every relevant stakeholder, from the forest department, NGO sector as well as communities in this project from each 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. The ELDF team has conducted a 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. The project is in its Phase II wherein all state and national-level stakeholders would be engaged through series of inception workshops. Mr. Sanjay Upadhyay, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Managing Partner, Enviro Legal Defence Firm facilitated the workshop and explained the goals of SPFMI project and the current inception workshop– to inform the stakeholders about the objectives of this project, to share ELDF’s national and state-related findings from the literature review, and this culminated into 21 crucial questions to be addressed by the participants. The event provided a platform to the state-specific stakeholders and experts for sharing their concerns and field experiences to help revise the current participatory model of forest management in Himachal.

The workshop witnessed a great turn out and participation from key government officials including some of the senior most officials from the state government as well as the state forest department, other forest related institutions in the state, NGOs, subject matter experts, and community representatives from Himachal Pradesh among others. The Workshop was inugurated by Shri. Tarun Shridhar, Addl. Chief Secy, Forest who took out time to be there in the inaugural session. Some of the honorary speakers included Sh Subhash negi, Chairman, Electricity Regulatory Commission, Shri. Sushil. C. Srivastava, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Forces), Shri Sanjeeva Pandey, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PFM) and other officials from Himachal Pradesh Forest Department. The total number of participants reached 44. Shri. R. A Singh, Former PCCF moderated the panel discussion where Shri D.K. Sharma, Former Secretary Planning, Shri J. S Walia, PCCF (Wildlife), Shri Vinay Tandon, former PCCF and Shri. Rahul Saxena, Environmental activist from Lok Vigyan Kendra represented the various perspectives and voices that impact the PFM in Himachal Pradesh. A community leader, Shri Nek Ram Sharma from Karsog Mandi voiced the concerns of 40 villages that work on PFM in that region. The key message derived from this workshop is the need for strengthening Participatory Forest Management programme as a continued and evolving program rather than merely an externally-aided and funded series of pilot projects, in order to unify all the past efforts and derive true benefits for the local communities. The participants emphasised on the need to address the multiplicity of institutions in PFM.

The ELDF Team also had fruitful dialogues with Addl. Chief Secretary of State, Shri. Tarun Shridhar and Principal Secretary, Smt. Manisha Nanda, who offered their unconditional support to ELDF, in order successfully implement Participatory Forest Management in the state of Himachal Pradesh, during the course of this project, as well as beyond it.

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