Published: 25th September 2017
Tribespeople, ecosystem to be supported and protected by the Forest Department's new Ecosystem Management Fund
It will also aim to address local issues like man-animal conflict as well as provide better infrastructure to local tribal communities
The Forest Department has, in a novel move, decided to form an Ecosystem Management Fund (EMF) to improve the living conditions of tribespeople and also to improve ecotourism sites in the state. The fund will cater to the protection and overall improvement of forests and forest-dependent communities and will also include benefits for local communities who will be provided with soft loans, special trust funds and development schemes.
The EMF will be generated from the service charges collected from visitors to the 60 ecotourism sites under the Forest Department. It is expected the fund will enable a methodical management of ecotourism sites , as it will focus on ensuring security to visitors, conduction of environmental impact assessment studies of community-based ecotourism centres, promotion of guided tours and organising environmental awareness programmes.
Through a fund like this, we could address localised issues like mitigating man-animal conflict, and providing urgent medical assistance to tribals and others in a speedy manner. Also, as there is a pooling of a centralised fund at the State Forest Development Agency-level, we could use it for livelihood development projects for tribals and other forest communities. We were also planning to provide interest-free loans to VSS members
Prakriti Srivastava, APCCF for Eco Development and Tribal Welfare
Explaining the initiative, Assistant Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF) for Eco Development and Tribal Welfare Prakriti Srivastava said, "Actually, the EMF was originally the River-Forest Protection Fund. While the former fund was meant for the maintenance and protection of forest areas, the newly-formed EMF is devised more for the economic development of local communities. It will also come in handy for the overall development of the state, as well as in the case of an emergency."
It has been learned, in a detailed guideline to the ecotourism sites run by the Vana Samrakshana Samithi (VSS) or Eco Development Committees (EDC), the secretaries of the VSS-EDC concerned were entrusted with the collection of the EMF. The supervision of the collected fund will be carried out by the respective range forest officers.
Forty per cent of the fund will be used for the benefit of the local community, 10 per cent for forest protection and 15 per cent for management and maintenance of ecotourism locations and facilities, 4 per cent for environmental awareness promotion, 1 per cent for flexi fund with the CEO of Forest Development Agency and 30 per cent for Participatory Forest Management Fund
"Through a fund like this, we could address localised issues like mitigating man-animal conflict, and providing urgent medical assistance to tribals and others in a speedy manner. Also, as there is a pooling of a centralised fund at the State Forest Development Agency-level, we could use it for livelihood development projects for tribals and other forest communities. We were also planning to provide interest-free loans to VSS members," said Srivastava.
As per a government order issued in this regard, the APCCF for Eco Development and Tribal Welfare has been asked to formulate an effective machinery for inspecting, analysing and reporting the activities under EMF. The officer also has to evaluate the entire scheme regularly and submit a report to the government through the PCCF and head of the Forest Force.
(This story was first published in the New Indian Express)