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Decentralizing Forest Management: Pretense or Reality?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ghate, Rucha
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop 4
Location: Indiana University Bloomington
Conf. Date: June 3-6, 2009
Date: 2009
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/2014
Sector: Forestry
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): decentralization
forests--policy
Abstract: "Decentralization of forest management in India has taken a leap forward with declaration of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights on Forest) Act (also known as FRA), 2006. After more than a century of centralization, the Forest Policy of 1988 was the first step towards decentralized management. The Act is presented as an effort to set right the injustice inflicted on forest dwellers by handing over ownership of local resources to the local communities. However, the process of formulation of the act witnessed extreme polarization of 'conservationists' and 'human rightists', and also conflict of interest between the ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Environment and Forest. The elaborate process specified in the Act for each community to stake its claim on the resource, both for settlement of individual claims on cultivated land as well as on commons, provides ample space for the state authorities to make it difficult for communities to actually benefit from the Act. Previous experience regarding the provision of 'Village Forest' in the Indian Forest Act of 1927, and JFM program based on the liberal Forest Policy, 1988, in not encouraging enough for the communities to believe that 'production of local authority' will eventually take place. "The paper begins with some discussion on the concept of decentralization and devolution, followed by a brief review of the legislative provisions for decentralization of forest management in India. After discussing the present status of the Forest Rights Act (FRA)) in Maharashtra state, the paper draws some insights in implementation of the act from an informal study of 5 villages in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state, and a study of 8 villages located in different forest areas in the state of Maharashtra, India. The study then concludes by highlighting the need to go beyond granting of recognition to 'cultivated areas on forestland', attempted through the Forest Rights Act, to make the access and control over natural resources more meaningful."

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