The 19th Common Wealth Forestry Conference was held at Forest Research Institute, Dehradun from 3rd to 7th April, 2017. This is the second time that the international conference was held in India. It was last held in India 50 years ago at New Delhi. This year the theme was "Forest for Prosperity and Posterity". The conference had 19 technical sessions under six sub themes viz;
(i) Biodiversity Conservation and Management
(ii) Diversification, Multiple use and Sustainable Harvest
(iii) Livelihood and Economic Security from Forests
(iv) Good Governance in Forestry
(v) Forest Climate Change
(vi) Forest and Water focusing on socio-economic perspective of forests, resource assessment and monitoring, economic valuation, forest conservation and development, impact of climate change, adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation and management, bio-prospecting and value addition of forest produce, forest products diversification, tree outside forests, urban forestry and landscape management, and policy interventions.
Apart from the regular sessions, several side events also took place which included launching of Queen's Commonwealth Canopy Programme, poster presentation, local tour and cultural programme. About 700 academicians from commonwealth countries, forest officers, representatives of the governments, industries, research and conservation agencies from India and abroad participated in the workshop. Karnataka also had its representation with two papers presented in the technical session. A paper on "Eco-tourism for sustainable livelihood-Karnataka Model" by Sanjai Mohan, IFS, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Research and Utilisation) and 'Issues on Forest Conservation Act 1980' by Prachi Gangwar, IFS.
The broad recommendations that emerged from the workshop were:
1. Redefine forest management priorities: Considering the magnified expectations from forests, Commonwealth nations need to adopt a vision of multiple values and integrated use, reassess the current status of forests as well as public perceptions of forests and forestry.
2. Revisit forest policy, law and forest planning strategy for preparation of forest plans:
Consider and adopt new science-based approaches to forest planning for evolving the 'big picture' and the 'new perspective'. Forest Working / Management Plans must consider the cumulative effects of actions at a landscape scale and:
a. Reintroduce the strong 'population viability' clause within wildlife management.
b. Adopt adaptive management based on effective monitoring, and
c. Develop an administrative 'Code of Ethics' that will avoid political interference and preserve the integrity of scientific research and monitoring efforts. Maintain wilderness and protected areas.
3. Wilderness and protected areas provide a unique opportunity due to their size, relatively untrammeled state, and because they possess relatively viable populations of wildlife (broadly defined) and have capacity to sustain important ecosystem services and serves as breeding grounds for numerous rare and threatened species. Such areas serve as 'source' habitats or inviolate space and also provide an opportunity for researching ecological processes; hence they need greater protection efforts that involve local communities.
4. Protection of forests and ecological restoration of degraded forests Widely distributed, smaller and fragmented patches of managed forests often face enormous challenges of degradation.
a. Ecological restoration of such degraded forests, which have been functioning as 'sink habitats', is urgently required.
b. Crucial corridors and connectivity amongst 'source and sink' forests need to be prioritized.
c. Enhanced forest investments towards afforestation and restoration of functional corridors are required as a priority.
5. Investment for stakeholder engagement, community participation, co-ordination and consensus building for integrated approach Forest conservation and sound stewardship depend on integrated, landscape - scale perspectives to drive appropriate policy. The management of forest and other public lands can no longer proceed in a piecemeal manner with different states, communities, agencies acting independently, limiting their focus to particular resources or jurisdictional boundaries. New partnerships among the forest, agriculture, finance, energy, water and other sectors and engagement of indigenous people and communities are critical to accomplish the 'big picture' of forests. This will require:
a. Coordination among different sectors, various policies and relevant laws, regulations and development of required institutions and appropriate mechanisms for governance.
b. Mainstreaming the biodiversity concerns in various production sectors, which is of utmost priority. There is an urgent need to establish strong linkages between forestry and agriculture and other priority production sectors.
c. Search for and development of innovative financial investment mechanisms for the forestry sector including 'public-private partnerships'.
6. Capacity building
The evolving perspective of forest management requires:
a. Greater awareness and resolute support for capacity building through rigorous trans-disciplinary approaches;
b. Long-term and experimental research.
c. Effective monitoring.
d. The empowerment of women working in the sector and
e. Adequate and up-to-date training of all concerned.
We need to move boldly in addressing the emerging requirements of 'big and new perspective' of forests for prosperity and posterity. Participants gratefully acknowledged the hospitality received from the organizers and the Indian people while the organizers are thankful to the Commonwealth Forestry Association and the faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia for their wholehearted technical support and the generous financial support received from various international and national sponsors for successful conduct of XIX CFC.
(Source: This is an abstract taken from the "My forest" Journal; March - June 2017. The author is Prachi Gangwar, IFS. You can read the entire article at aranya.gov.in)