The Future of India’s Forests: Recommendations

28 Oct, 2019

GIZ India’s Green Cluster Conference, New Delhi 17-18 Oct 2019

Why forests?

In “Forests Futures” (FAO, 2019) three scenarios are drawn for 2030 and 2050. 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 the future, if forest degradation and ecosystem deterioration accelerates, with 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 questions like: If and how India will achieve an aspirational future of its forests? How can India’s national policies and schemes in the forest sector be strategically planned to achieve India’s international commitments, while also considering the changing national and local demand and need? 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 was the focus of the forest conference which served as a cross-learning platform for the forestry and allied sectors to identify realistic solutions to meet international, national and local commitments and needs.

The Forest Conference

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%. 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.

Zooming in and out between different levels of forest management GIZ India’s Green Cluster conference on ‘The Future of India’s Forests’ at New Delhi provided a platform to discuss emerging scenarios facing the forestry sector in India from 17-18 Oct 2019. “We have a direct and shared responsibility to protect the world's forests. We must take action today to ensure that future generations also can benefit from this unique treasure”, said Mr. Dirk Steffes-Enn - Deputy Head, Economic Cooperation and Development; Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany speaking at the conference. In the keynote speech Mr. Siddantha Das – Director General and Special Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that, “the three objectives of forest management in India today are the conservation of resources, protecting the forest as a carbon sink and ensuring the livelihoods of the people.”

The conference offered an interdisciplinary and cross-learning platform to various national and international partners, technical experts, practitioners and decision-makers to find realistic and workable solutions to initiate a transformative change in managing forests across sectors, scales and trade-offs.

The sessions covered three thematic areas: Forest and Climate Change, Forest Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Forest, Trees and Livelihoods. They featured panel discussions, keynote speeches and lightening talks by experts from government, civil society, and academic institutions as well as national and international partners to gain from their vast and varied expertise and their engagements on all three levels: local, national and international. The event also witnessed the use of digital tools by the participants to collect and vote on relevant questions from the audience for the panellists. The top five recommendations from each session are listed below.


Forest and Climate Change

  • Governance perspective: Gradual decontrol of forest management, incentivising arboriculture, creating space for private sector, and target setting of forest and tree cover for states and corporate sector.
  • Finance perspective: Public Sector Afforestation Programmes must be tied to incentive-based mechanisms that are driven by performance (survival and quality) over time.
  • Local perspective: Local measures needed to enhance adaptive capacity of communities through biodiversity conservation, water restoration, energy security and livelihood improvements.
  • State level action perspective: Land use and their governance is so tightly grained in law and regulation that are not suitable for building an effective Climate Change Mitigation plan on ground. A more plausible policy paradigm under a different Climate Change statute to be undertaken under various sectors/departments.
  • Bonn Challenge perspective: A robust Institutional network involving all relevant stakeholders with adequate financial support base needed to ensure identification and implementation of Forest Landscape Restoration activities through convergence.

Forest, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

  • Forest landscape approach based on clear statutorily defined rights and responsibilities to promote transparency, delegation of power and accountability
  • CAMPA funds should be devolved to local stakeholders as well:
    • Those who lost forests
    • Those who will afforest (forest and non-forest land)
  • Forest policy should incorporate an inter sectoral and multi stakeholder approach as well as the diversity of bio-geographical areas
  • Incorporate key framework for management of Community Forest Reserves in the forest policy
  • Establish consultations to align international commitments on SDG, NDC and post 2020 CBD framework.

Forest, Trees and Livelihoods

  • Policy reforms to incentivise people to grow trees on private land.
  • Strengthening and promoting commercial use of existing Traditional Ecological Knowledge component through incentives, scientific validation in the existing Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism safeguarding community interest and development of new products.
  • Documenting and operationalising traditional knowledge to understand climate and weather phenomena can lead to drastic reduction in climate related loss and damage
  • Communities with ownership of forests, institutionalising forest-based livelihoods through sustainable utilisation of resources and managing forest diversity in a way that it consistently contributes to their livelihoods.
  • Forest based bioresources should have thorough value chain analysis with harvest protocol and benefits ploughed back to community.

These recommendations were welcomed by representatives from government and development cooperation expressing their willingness to integrate them into on-going discussions and put further efforts into their implementation.


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