Peoples Biodiversity Registers

India has recorded a marginal increase in forest cover, according to the India State of Forest Report 2017. Draft National Forest Policy, 2018 calls for increasing forest cover, involving communities in forest management, and creating plantations for industrial use.

People’s biodiversity registers

  • Forest cover had increased in India by 0.21% in 2017 from 2015, and that some areas had become ‘Very Dense Forest’ in this period.Between 2014 and 2017, India lost, or legally diverted, 36,575 hectares of forest area towards 1,419 development projects.
  • The claims of the new forests are under question. Absence of ground truths has meant that areas that look green, such as tea estates and commercial plantations, have been counted as forests.
  • Environmentalists refute the claim that India’s forest cover has become more dense in the last two years simply because this process takes much longer.

Hence there is a need to create mechanisms to calculate our actual forest cover and natural wealth, and this should form the basis for a forest policy.  Rigorous integration of the forest policy with other existing environmental legislation and policy can aid in this regard.

  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002, calls for setting up a Biodiversity Management Committee in each local body.
  • The Committee will prepare People’s Biodiversity Registers (PRBs), with tribals as members or people living in natural areas not classified legally as forest.

The Registers entail a complete documentation of biodiversity in the area — plants, food sources, wildlife, medicinal sources, etc.

Advantages of PBR

  • A good PBR will aid in tracing how habitats are changing, and to understand and estimate parts of our forests.
  • Being a bottom-up exercise, it is also a means of understanding the overlap of cultural and natural biodiversity.
  • PBRs will help identify forests that require conservation.
  • It envisages a decentralised way through a inclusive approach.

Hence it is vital for integrating PRBs and biodiversity management with the draft forest policy. [The Hindu]

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