30 Jun 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
Question : “Forest restoration is an important climate mitigation strategy which can lead to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.” Discuss how India can become a leader in forest restoration.
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A-CUBE IAS Answer :
(GS Mains Paper 3)
In the last few years, India has witnessed a degradation of its dense forest cover at an unprecedented rate. Despite having strong policy framework and much financial aid forest cover in the country has grown by just 0.56 percent or 3,976 km2 since 2017. It is essential to revisit India’s forest governance to become a leader in Forest restoration.
There is need to redefine ‘forests’ and how to measure them. Rather than rely on satellite mapping of canopy cover or hectares of trees, focus should shift to the measurement of the relative density of a ‘thriving forest’ or an ‘ecosystem’. There is also a need to delineate areas under orchards, bamboo, and palm cultivation (such as coconut) for an exact assessment of carbon stocks of forest. Employing the latest satellite or aerial remote sensing and GIS technologies for real-time mapping of the forest land, would offer an important solution.
There is need for new policy formation to provide an overarching framework and direction for the management and regulation of forests. It should also focus on forest management aimed at curtailing deforestation and land use change. Employing a science-based methodology with a participatory approach will help government agencies determine the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to certain land use. The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) framework could be adopted at scale for rigorous analysis of spatial, legal, and socio-economic data to plan for the best interventions for forest restoration.
Numerous petitions have been filed with the National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court on the misuse of CAMPA funds and negligent monitoring by the states. The state governments must put in place robust action plans for appropriate fund management, conduct an inventory of interventions, and create transparent information systems for relevant stakeholders. Geo-tagging technology would prove a valuable tool for online recording, monitoring, and checking leakages as well as efficient mapping of forest landscapes.
Role of Local communities is critical when it comes to decide what and how to plant and regenerate degraded lands should be placed in the hands of local communities, who have greater capacity to undertake adaptive management. For example, The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s ‘Wadi’ model is an excellent example of community-managed plantations that have delivered significant ecosystem and economic benefits. A performance monitoring system created through a combination of remote sensing and GIS technologies and ground-level verification would be immensely useful to evaluate the impacts.
Although becoming a world leader in forest restoration would be tough target in context of India, but with a long term sustainable approach, strong political will and application of technology can take near to it.