This article was originally published on The Wire.


“India’s non-forest ecosystems are biting the dust in the absence of a holistic conservation policy. In place of the latter, we have a new National Forest Policy that outlines the use of forests in legally binding terms.

First drafted by the British to maximise timber production, this policy was revised three decades later, in 1988, to put conservation before commerce. While the revised policy aimed to safeguard environmental stability, natural heritage and ecosystem services, it focused entirely on forests. Forests are spaces dominated by trees that are rich in plants and animals, provide ecosystem services such as clean air, water, fuelwood and fodder, and have economic values in terms of tourism and timber.

However, our natural heritage extends beyond forests and includes deserts, grasslands and aquatic ecosystems that are just as important for biodiversity, ecosystem services and economic values. Yet these ecosystems were excluded from the only conservation policy we had because they were not forests.

Today, we have an opportunity to rectify this mistake as our policymakers revise the National Forest Policy in light of emergent issues in forest use and conservation. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change uploaded an online draft of the policy for civil societies to comment. In its current form, the policy reiterates its past mistakes, as grasslands and deserts are not considered in it. Instead, they receive a management prescription that will imperil their ecologies…”

Read on at: The Wire.