Problems and solutions to protection and preservation of forests in Nagaland

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Forests play a natural multi-functional auto-balancing role in the ecosystem and are indispensable for survival and continuity of human race on planet earth. “The Lungs of the planet”, forests are a huge carbon sinks arresting major portion of greenhouse gas and helps to combat, address and stabilize climate change. Besides providing us with various intangible and tangible benefits, forests serves as an ecosystem, and sustains life for thousands of birds and animals.
But unfortunately, mankind has been a menace and threat to forests and thereby to “OWNRACE”. In the past, exploitation of forest was limited to personal and community uses. But in recent year, we are a witness to insensate abuse and exploitation of forest resources due to ever insatiable greed of human. This has led to loss of biodiversity, rise in temperature, increase in frequency of floods, extinction of several species of plants and animals and hence ecological imbalance.
As per India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017, whereas, most other states of the country witnessed an increase in forests cover, Nagaland has been ranked second among the north eastern states for a wrong reason, with reported loss of forest cover by over 2.5% of forest area measuring 450 sq km since 2015. But, with 88.3% of forestlands being privately owned; by individuals, communities or villages, who have absolute legal rights over the use of their ancestral inherited land, the government has little or no control over what the individuals, communities or villages decides to do with their forestlands other than advice-giving, and raising awareness about the importance of protection and preservation of forests. As such, effective management, protection and preservation of forests and wildlife in Nagaland, will definitely be ‘NEVER POSSIBLE’ without strong cooperation, active participation, involvement and contribution of local communities. And for this,
1. The concerned department and the government should promote the conservation of forests and wildlife outside PAs (Protected Areas), by encouraging, and creating facilitating and enabling environment for the communities and villages, to come forward to declare their forestlands as community reserves.
2. The government should bring in regulations in a way that makes it mandatory to all the recognised villages receiving grant-in-aids and various other development funds from the government to commit to keep and maintain some minimum percentage of area/s of forestlands under their respective village jurisdiction as reserved. This way protection and preservation of forestlands outside PAs (Protected Areas) could be achieved.
3. There should be delegation of powers/authorities to the local communities to manage, protect and preserve their forests and wildlife outside PAs (Protected Areas) as they know their forests best and are the better custodian for the best keep of their forests and wildlife. By delegation of authority to the local communities for the management, protection and preservation of forests and wildlife, they shoulder the three basics elements of delegation of authority i.e. responsibility, decision-making power and accountability.
4. For CRs (Community Reserve Areas), the chairmen and executive members of the management Committees should be elected from among the permanent residents of the village/s. Government servants or those not permanent residents of the village/s should not be allowed the membership of such committees as they cannot manage and protect the forests in absentia.
5. The chairmen and executive members of Community Reserves Forests Committees should have a fixed tenure say one year, for a management plan of 5 years and not permanent tenure for the entire period of plan. So that, more others get the opportunity to participate, involve and contribute in the management, protection and preservation efforts. By this, the success and failure of management plan can also be monitored, evaluated and assessed annually.
6. Considering the fundamental importance, the forest resources have, in the livelihood of the people that meets and addresses the very basic and subsistence needs of fuel wood, timber, fodder and other forest produce of the rural populace, particularly the poor living in villages; alternative livelihood measures on a sustained basis to improve the living conditions of forests dependent families should be the focus.
7. The success of any scheme, project, programme, be it international, national or local with regard to protection, preservation and development of forest resources in Nagaland will depend largely on whether the alternative livelihood measures have been effectively addressed. Without addressing this issue, the success if any claimed, will be only on papers. This is so because, for the agencies, department and the government, it is development, protection and preservation for the future but for the poor, it is about their daily subsistence needs for survival. “AS SUCH, FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, FORESTS DEVELOPMENT FUNDS/SCHEMES ETC SHOULD FOCUS MORE ON ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOOD AND LESS ON OTHER FOREST DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES AS FORESTS AND WILDLIFE WILL FLOURISH IF LEAVE IT BE, WITH NIL HUMAN INTERFERENCE”.
8. With complicated procedure of compensation for crop damage by wild animals, most often the affected families turns to exploit forests resources (cutting and selling of firewood, hunting, killing and selling of wild birds and animals etc) for immediate income source to sustain their family’s daily needs. And so, the grant of compensation/financial assistance for crop damaged by wild animals should be quick, easy and commensurate to loss. We just cannot add to the loss and rub salt to their wound letting them (poor illiterate aggrieved farmers) run from pillar to post to apply for compensation. By this, they expense more than they will receive as compensation. The concerned department and the government should therefore; streamline the existing complicated procedure of compensation for crop damage by wild animals to facilitate easy and prompt redressal of grievances.
9. Continuous awareness creation on the importance of forests and wildlife, awareness on Wildlife Protection Acts and its implication as far as possible covering all rural areas and villages.
10. Strengthening of Wildlife Crime Control agencies of the state in terms of manpower, mobility and resources to efficiently and effectively deal with wildlife crimes.
11. Setting-up of Wildlife Crime Control Unit in all district headquarters under respective Divisional Forest Officer to control and monitor Wildlife Crime.
12. Financial assistances, recognition, commendation to registered NGOs working in the field of forest and wildlife.
13. Yearly award/recognition/citation/commendation to district/area/village/individuals by the department/government for best conservation and protection efforts.
14. Soliciting the support and cooperation of press, media etc for creation of awareness on importance of forests and wildlife.
With the bulk of forestlands being privately owned, these above mentioned few among other things are critical for the success of any efforts on management, protection and preservation of forest and wildlife in our state.
That said, the appeal of the government, agencies, bodies, NGOs etc for protection and preservation of forests and wildlife should not be misconstrued as being covetous of the forestlands, the ownership of which is undisputable. Protection and preservation of own forests resources should be with or without government’s financial aid, assistance or support. It should be in true altruistic spirit of saving for the future generations and not for the sake of government schemes and financial assistances. While many villages have been protecting and preserving their forests and wildlife for ages, with “ZERO” financial assistance from the government, it is unfortunate that some are ‘MORE-ONLY’ concerned of the amount of financial assistance/grants rather than the success of protection and preservation efforts.
What is even more unfortunate and disappointing is the lackadaisical, apathetic, not my concern attitude of the many so called “THE EDUCATED, THE INFLUENTIAL, THE INTELLECTUAL, THE WELL-INFORMED, THE ENLIGHTENED AND THE LEARNED” when it concerns the cause of forests, wildlife and nature. Their-this Indifferent disposition I say, does much more damage than those actually doing it harm. The mindset that protection and preservation is the responsibility of the government agencies should change. We are all individually responsible for protection and preservation of forests, “THE COMMONWEALTH”. And so, every individual should contribute and do whatever little his/her part towards protection and preservation of this, “EARTH’S KEY LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM”, to ensure its sustenance for the survival and continuity of human race on earth.

“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
– Native American proverb

Hukai H. Zhimo
Forest Colony, Dimapur

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