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The International Day of Forests, March 21, 2016

A recent Central government report showed India's forest and tree cover had increased by 5,081sq. km. and Tamil Nadu with 2501 had contributed to 50% of the increase in the country.
The International Day of Forests, the 21st day of March, was established by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2012. 
  • Each year, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests, for the benefit of current and future generations.
  • Countries are encouraged to undertake efforts to organize local, national, and international activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns, on International Day of Forests. 
  • The Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, facilitates the implementation of such events in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and international, regional and subregional organizations. 
  • International Day of Forests was observed for the first time on March 21, 2013.
Special Article Published In The Times of India (Chennai), Mar 21 2016 

WORLD FORESTRY DAY - PANTHER'S RETURN: Village sets green trend 
By C K Sridharan 
(The author is a retired principal chief conservator of for ests, head of forest force of TN) 

Community Forestry Project In Puli Kudivanam Helps Bring Back Biodiversity, Wildlife

A recent central government report showed India's forest and tree cover had increased by 5,081sq. km. and Tamil Nadu with 2501 had contributed to 50% of the increase in the country. The news is heartening and is the result of years of dedicated conservation efforts. But the achievement is only a fraction of what the state has to do to achieve zero deforestation and degradation. These are the challenges Tamil Nadu must work at consistently to achieve the goals set by Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) by 2020.

Since the early 1990s, forest degradation and destruction has been one of the crucial problems of forest management in Tamil Nadu due to years of exploitation of forest land for shift agriculture and infrastructure development.This has led to reduced land productivity and livelihood opportunities for people living around forest areas in Eastern and Western Ghats. To reduce and rein in the damage, TN has experimented with Joint Forest Management (JFM), a co-management programme between forest departments and the local people, in the past 20 years to find solutions to forest degradation and destruction. The JFM model has been a successful strategy in arresting forest exploitation by integrating conservation with socio-economic development of forest fringe villages in India. In 1996, the state adapted the JFM model to introduce the Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project (TAP). The project was undertaken with the assistance of the Japanese Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund (JICA) at a cost of Rs. 4,744 million.

Main features of the TAP approach included implementing the programme on a `micro-watershed' basis aiding natural regeneration of forests by giving the authority of the upkeep of the forests to the villagers and ensuring alternate job opportunities for them. The forest department, in a first, ensured integration of all the departments for free flow of funds. For instance the agricultural and animal husbandry departments provided villagers with high-yielding crops and cattle to wean them away from shift agriculture. The villagers were given a bigger role in forest management.Instead of enforcing laws, they were asked to form groups to work with the forest department. Alternative skill-building exercises like handicrafts and tailoring for women helped in providing a livelihood to the families who were over-de pendent on their surroundings.

The project was first initiated in Thiruvadisoolam village, located close to the reserved forest near Puli Kudivanam, in Chengelpet district in 1996. At that time, the forest was degraded due to overuse by the forest department and villagers. It became a barren land, but the participatory management practised over the years has resulted in a rising water table, restoration of the forest, and development of the village. Native species of plants have reappeared and animals like deer, rabbits, porcupine, have returned. The return of puli (panther) in 2014 to Puli kudivanam marks the success of restoration. The agricultural produce has improved and the socio-economic condition of the villagers too has changed for the better with better alternative incomes, better literacy and access to healthcare.
Forest management in TN is complex and challenging due to the existence of varied and multiple stakeholders, conflicts over resources, demand of land and forest product, and low priority for the sector. So, forest management needs to gear up to respond to present-day needs with a priority on participatory management over enforcement of laws. Tamil Nadu needs to have clear vision with sound policies and legal and regulatory frameworks, practical planning and decision-making processes and an effective implementation of projects. The basic principles of good governance like accountability , effectiveness, efficiency, fairness and transparency must become an integral part of forest management in all aspects.

Good forest management is critical for achieving positive economic, environmental and social outcomes for a climate sensitive state like Tamil Nadu, which is dependent on natural resources for meeting its economic needs. Apart from a healthy environment, forest will ensure high quality soils to enable sustained food production and clean and abundant water. The JFM, is perhaps the answer to make Sustainable Forest Management a reality in the state. It should be followed more emphatically to make ensure a zero deforestation and degradation state.


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