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Challenges before Marginalized Hill Communities for Managing Community Forests, Status of the Village Forest Council in Uttaranchal, India

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Phartiyal, Pushkin; Tewari, Ashish
Conference: Survival of the Commons: Mounting Challenges and New Realities, the Eleventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Conf. Date: June 19-23, 2006
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/496
Sector: Forestry
Global Commons
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
state and local governance
community forestry
carbon sequestration
participatory management
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "Uttaranchal, the recently created Himalayan state has 65 percent geographical area under forest, which has been on the rise in resent years. However, because of the lack of adequate economic incentives for conservation, the local people suffering from acute poverty are finding it increasingly difficult to conserve forests. Thus though the area under forest cover is large, much of it is under stocking density that is far lower than the potential ones. Consequently forest degradation has set in many areas, resulting in denudation of tress, thinning of stocking density and loss of soil cover and decrease in crop field yield from forest resource based agriculture. "Apart from these demands of subsistence living forest are under frequent threats due to fires, spread of invasive species and unregulated extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). This degradation of forest is not only going to adversely affect the local subsistence living and water resources such as springs and streams, it can also impair the flow of ecosystem services from the mountain forest to the adjacent Gangetic plains, where more than 500 million people live. "Van Panchayats (VPs: village community forest council) were introduced in Kumaun division of Uttaranchal state in India in 1920s following agitation against British Empire's expansion of control over forest areas. The VP probably represents one of the largest experiments in common property management in collaboration with the state (both State Forest Department and State Revenue Department). It has a legal backing, and an elected body, which holds responsibility of using and managing village community forest resources. However, this form of management is functioning without any financial government support covering close to 1/3 of the total forest area of the State (about 0.5 million ha). "The VP forests normally have carbon stocks of 200-to 280 t c /ha and from the preliminary data it is evident that they sequestered approximately 2-4 tc/ha/yr. There is a need to conserve these forests, as the noble concept of managing forest resources by the communities themselves, today is facing a serious threat as a link between forests and livelihood of marginalized village communities has not been established. At the moment in the absence of opportunities for developing linkages with livelihoods the existence of community forestry is at risk, which can contribute in combating adverse effects of climatic change. Even though at present carbon sequestration by community forests is not a recognisable strategy under Kyoto (it is liable to be recognised in Kyoto phase II) an economic incentive in the form of payment to the local communities for carbon service may till the balance in favour of forest management that values 'standing forest' from which life supporting services continue to flow. As the concern for climatic change by the international community has opened the door of carbon trading the payment for carbon saved annually by these VPs may be the first initiative for conservation. This may be linked to other business opportunities by making sustainable use of NTFPs and forest biomass for enhancing livelihood by supporting livestock and compost making for horticulture and cash crops."

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