Strengthening Participatory Forest Management in India (SPFMI) Updates

Eighth SPFMI Workshop in Assam

On Friday 7th August, 2015, Enviro Legal Defense Firm (ELDF) conducted the final inception workshop for its pan India ‘Strengthening of Participatory Forest Management in India’ (SPFMI) project at NEDFi House in Dispur, Assam. 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 Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Kerala, ELDF team is diligently working to involve every relevant stakeholder 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. It is a two-year project. 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 purpose of the 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 stakeholders for sharing their concerns and field experiences to make participatory model of forest management successful in Chhattisgarh.

The workshop witnessed a great turn out and participation from Key Government Officials including some of the senior most officials from the state, state forest department, other forest related institutions in the state, Community leaders, NGOs, Educationist, Environmentalist, Lawyers, and subject matter experts from Assam among others. Some of the honorary speakers included Dr. R.D Singh Tanwar (APCCF), Dr. Anil Kumar Singh (APCCF & CEO (CAMPA)), Dr. Alka Bhargava (APCCF & OSD to CM Assam (W&CW)), Dr. Ranjana Gupta (APCCF (Wetlands)), Mr. Amit Sahai (M.D, Jal Board Guwahati), Mr. Lakshmanan S, IAS (Dy. Secy., Guwahati Jal Board), Dr. Satyendra Singh (CCF - South Assam Circle), Mr. Hridesh Mishra (CCF – Wildlife), Dr. C. Muthu Kumarvel (DFO Golaghat & Head, pilot project on Green India Mission), Mr. Arupjyoti Saikia (HOD – Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT – Guwahati), among others.

The key highlights of the workshop included:

The JFM Rules fails to mention the operation of JFM in autonomous hill councils (VI Schedule Area) of Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills, and Bodoland Territorial Council and thereby, excludes such vast forest areas from the purview of participatory forest management. JFM operation in the Schedule VI Area must be given due thought by the state officials.

JFM program can include Chapories (river islands), big land area which is ignored for a long time and communities want to grow forests on those areas. Some legal provisions need to be put into place for community ownership of the resources such as NTFPs and timber if they plant in the chapories which are originally government land.

The ELDF Team also spoke with the Addl. Chief Secretary, Dept. of Environment and Forests, Mr. Davinder Kumar who offered his support to make Assam one of the leading states in Participatory Forest Management in India.

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