REDD+ and Promoting Synergies for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

As post-Cancun actions and forest management and conservation related action points of Government of India, I would like to highlight the scope and possible processes towards the implementation and acceptance of REDD+ in India.

In the recent Cancun Summit, the UNFCCC agreed on a new framework for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries). Given that, REDD + is a carbon trading scheme, meant to enhance market-based forest stocks, in which developing countries will be compensated for keeping their forests intact. As per Cancun agreement UNFCCC agreed that developing countries will get more avenues for carbon credits from carbon capture and storage projects in land use and forestry.

Though the agreement formally backs the program of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, there are concerns related to rights of indigenous people, which were raised during the CoP16 summit itself.  One of the Indigenous Caucus’s mentioned in an opening statement on November 29, 2010 at Cancun that “It’s a matter of life and death if they come out with wrong solutions. REDD threatens our human rights, including our right to free prior and informed consent among many others. Our land and territories, food sovereignty, biodiversity, cultural practices and traditional life styles are being placed in further jeopardy, and we reject these false solutions.”

In above context, the latest report of Forest Right Act Committee- Link (Forest Right Act (FRA)-2006 provides certain rights on forest to forest dwellers), the committee members field visits observed that, the provision of the FRA were violated, and Forest officials in many places in India have summarily evicted forest dwellers. The report runs in 284 pages, I have summarized major points relevant to REDD+ discussion here which is follows:

  • Implementation of FRA needs to be dealt sternly and as per the law.
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), the Nodal Agency for implementation of FRA needs to considerably enhance its role, by more closely monitoring progress, gathering more robust and disaggregated data among others. There is a need of systemic change in the way MoTA and state tribal departments function; their approach must change from implementation of simple departmental schemes to knowledge based advocacy with the concerned Ministries/departments.
  • Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) needs to urgently implement governance reforms as suggested and ensure that projects on forest land get legal backing in FRA/FCA (Forest Conservation Act), stop all relocations from protected areas that are illegal, take action on officials obstructing or violating the FRA, ensure FRA process is respected in all afforestation/plantation programs and move towards reforming the MFP/NTFP (Minor Forest Produce/Non Timber Forest Produce) collection and trade regimes.
  • Form a National Forest Rights Council which can regularly and systematically monitor the FRA implementation, guide states to take necessary action, and hold or authorize the holding of public consultations and independent assessments.
  • The JFM program that covered 100,000 villages over 22 million Ha of forests across the country, have generated many positive outcomes and now need to be seen in terms of promised share of forest products to the community with legal backing.
  • Rather than improve the bargaining power of the poor, Government policies have often acted in favor of traders and created monopolies, almost all important NTFPs are nationalized, that is, these can be sold only to government agencies. This means in practice, while collection is generally permitted by anybody, they must be sold only to the government or its authorized agents. In other words, the government is the monopoly buyer of the produce.
  • The role of Forest Development Corporations-FDC needs to be radically changed in terms of control and objectives of management of forest lands.

The State of Forest Report of FAO published in 2009, talks about rapid socio-economic changes in Asia and Pacific region, that have profound impacts on forestry sector which in turn will increase demand for wood products. It mentions that, in the region poverty is more pervasive in forested areas and many people depend in large part on forests for their livelihood, while the efforts to improve agriculture in response to escalating food prices will increase the impact on forests.

After doing a thorough analysis of forest degradation (from 2006 to 2009), for the diversion of forest land to non-forestry purposes, as approved by MoEF, for various infrastructure projects, shows that we have lost much more than we claim protected or increased forest cover. Even for a common man, it would be hard to believe the statistics of FSI, that with high demographic changes, high economic growth, paradigm economic shifts, high illegal logging for industries and infrastructure, poor environmental compliances, poor forest plantation, agriculture and horticulture acquisition, encroachment, poor survival rate and high energy demand, how the forest cover has increased.

One of the studies in India has shown that, there is a positive correlation between Forest cover percentage and Poverty ratio, and Forest and Tribal population. It means higher the forest cover, higher the tribal population that confirms the positive relationship between forest and tribal population. These facts prove that, the tribal population has concerns about forest and played active role in protecting the forests. The only issue would remain here would be fulfilling the needs of tribal population to reduce the burden of poverty, to save our forest resources at large through schemes like REDD+.

Based on the data of Wasteland of NRSA-National Remote Sensing Agency, 2005, more than 50 percent wasteland has been recorded in Himalayan states like; Manipur, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, whereas in Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand it ranges between 20-30 percent. This is an opportunity to use this land for productive purposes in projects like REDD+.

Apart from discussing the role of government, we would specifically suggest to the international agencies working in India, that they must have a robust and practical sub regional or country strategy that leads to useful outcomes on the ground. Working for the sake of funds in bits and pieces, and in solitary manner will be waste of our common resources.

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