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An Assessment of JFM in Regeneration and Management of Degraded Sal Forest in West Bengal

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Roy, Somnath Baidya
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1682
Sector: Forestry
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
forest management
participatory development
joint management
land degradation
Abstract: "India, like many other Asian countries, is responding to forest degradation and food and energy shortages by experimenting with new forms of resource management. This paper examines recent experiences with joint forest management, a cooperative effort between forest dependent communities and state forest departments (FDs) to regenerate degraded forests. One of the most successful programs to date is in West Bengal where over 1,800 rural community based forest protection committees protect more than 240,000 ha. of natural sal (Shorea robusta) forest, dividing the forest products with the forest department. Prior to the initiation of the program, much of the program area suffered from severe forest degradation and conflicts between the forest community (FC) and the forest department (FD). "Efforts by the FD to gain the assistance of local people in forest management through forest protection committee formation began as early as 1970-72 when the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Purulia explored and encouraged such efforts (Palit 1970). Over the next 18 years the program evolved gradually, with FD officers and communities making informal management agreements. It was not until 1989 that a formal program policy was finally approved, and later revised in 1990 (Poffenberger 1989). The purpose of this paper is to examine how far the present government orders can: 1) provide legal justice to the people while allowing for a pragmatic approach for natural resource management; 2) empower the people to manage the forest for their own benefit under the existing forest law; and 3) to consider whether the situation can be improved by changing or amending the government order of the West Bengal Forest Department keeping in mind that 'any future legal reform concerning the forest must thus aim first of all at doing justice to the people and only subsequently at doing justice to the nature and future generation' (Singh 1986)...."

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