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India’s tribal ministry slams draft forest policy

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A Maldhari tribal woman and her child collect sand in Gir forest, Ahmedabad. The new policy which seeks to amend the 1988 forest law will deprive tribal communities of their livelihoods. Reuters

BANGKOK (Reuters) – In a rare rebuke of another government agency, India’s Tribal Affairs Ministry has sent a letter to the forest ministry warning that its proposed policy would lead to the “privatisation” of forests and undermine indigenous rights.

The draft National Forest Policy 2018, released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in March, suggests allowing plantations of teak, eucalyptus and bamboo in forest lands under public-private partnerships.

That could open the door for private firms to grow and harvest commercial plantations, which would hurt the ecology and deprive tribal communities of their livelihoods, analysts say.

“The policy has disregarded the traditional custodians and conservationists of the forests, namely tribals,” the Tribal Affairs Ministry said in a June 19 letter,.

The draft forest policy ignores existing laws that give tribal people and forest dwellers rights over the resources.

The new policy seeks to amend the 1988 forest law by incorporating elements of ecosystem security, climate change mitigation, participatory forest management (and) robust monitoring.

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