The Future of India’s Forests

20 Sep, 2019

Green Cluster Conference 17-18 October 2019, New Delhi

Forests, and trees outside of forests, provide crucial services and products for Indian society and directly contribute to the livelihood and well-being of a large proportion of India’s rural population. At the same time forests maintain biodiversity, regulate micro and macro climate, water cycles and air quality and act as storehouses of carbon. Therefore, they provide huge potential in addressing the global challenge of climate change and play a key role in closing the emissions gap. While India has been able to maintain its forest and tree cover to 24% of its geographical area, 10 years from now, increasing societal and national demands of forest products and services propelled by rapid economic development, population growth and industrialisation will increase the pressure on its forests. 2030 is a critical benchmark year for India in achieving its international commitments and national targets of creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent and an increased forest cover by 9%.

In FAO’s recently launched study “Forests Futures” three scenarios are drawn for 2030 and 2050 respectively. In the “business as usual” scenario, the achievement of global targets like Global Forest Goals, SDGs, Bonn Challenge and Paris Agreement on climate change will be suboptimal. The “disruptive” scenario shows how the future will look if forest degradation and ecosystem detoriation accelerates and hence, have major negative ramifications on food and water production, human well-being and overall ecological stability. To reach the “aspirational” scenario, a transformational change in forest and landscape management is required to achieve the global targets.

Transferring these scenarios to the Indian context triggers the question: if and how India will achieve an aspirational future of its forests. How can India’ national policies and schemes in the forest sector be strategically planned to achieve India’s international commitments, while at the same time consider the changing national and local demand and need? Ambitious numbers might not be enough for the required transformational change in India’s forest management. By looking into the future, the questions arise on the pillars of India’s vision of its forests. Which roadblocks are on the pathway to initiate a transformative change? Do encouraging examples already exist? Which actions are required now?

Finding answers to these questions is the focus of GIZ India’s Green Cluster annual conference on the topic “The Future of India’s Forests” from 17-18th October, New Delhi. Together with our national and international partners, technical experts, practitioners and decision-makers we want to find realistic and workable solutions on how to initiate a transformative change in managing forests across sectors, scales and trade-offs.

By Patricia Dorn

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