As seen on eKantipur
Community forest user groups and experts working in the sector have slammed the government’s budget for the fiscal year 2013/14 stating that it has ignored the contribution made by the locals in forest conservation for decades.
They are upset that the new budget announced on Sunday evening did not even mention ‘community forestry’ in the concerned programmes on the forestry sector for the fiscal that began on Tuesday.
With more than 16,000 user groups in the country, community forestry is hailed as a successful management intervention helping to replenish greenery and encourage community involvement in management and benefit-sharing of the natural resources.
Ghanashyam Pandey, coordinator of the Global Alliance of Community Forestry, said the budget has failed to acknowledge the role of thousands of community forest user groups that managed to transform the denuded lands into lush forests. “The government has shown its intent to snatch the rights of the communities over their forest resource,” he said. “The government has not allocated a penny for the promotion and enhancement of community forests in the new fiscal programme.”
The new budget , however, has a programme to encourage the promotion of collaborative forest management—a model in which forests are owned by the government and the community in a collaborative approach unlike in the community forestry model where forests are owned by the communities—by allocating 50,000 hectares of forestland for its implementation in some Tarai and mid-Tarai districts. The aim is to benefit the communities living around the forest from the management model.
Similarly, the new budget has doubled the funds for the President Chure Conservation Programme, the project that has drawn severe criticism from all the concerned quarters for failing to protect the fast-receding greenery in Chure and the inner Tarai ranges due to the poor planning and weak institutional mechanism of agencies implementing the programme. The government has already invested over Rs 490 million in the Chure project which the recent budget has listed as a ‘national pride project’.
“There is a need to fight the government’s ill-intention towards community forestry management in the country,” said Birkha Shahi, secretary for the Federation of Community Forestry Users’ Nepal, an umbrella organisation of hundreds of community forestry users.
Meanwhile, Krishna Acharya, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, said community forestry was not included in the new budget programmes as it was repeatedly addressed by previous budgets. According to him, the ministry is working to endorse around 4,000 community forestry operation plans in the current fiscal year.
“We can’t include and address all the sectors in the budget every year,” Acharya said. “However, the ministry has priortised the needs of the communities and is committed to working towards their active role in forest management.”