Forests are vital to life on Earth. They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change. Forests offer a home to much of the world’s diverse array of plants and animals and provide essential natural resources from timber and food to medicinal plants. Forests also support the lives of local communities and help them to thrive.
But forests around the world are under threat. Despite the key role forests play in the world's environmental and economic health, we continue to lose forests, along with the endangered animals that live in them, at the rate of 18.7 million acres per year—equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. Illegal logging, poor forest management practices, and growing demand for forest and agricultural products contribute to their rampant destruction. Deforestation is especially severe in some of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, such as the Amazon, Borneo and Sumatra, the Congo Basin, and the Russian Far East. As a result, nearly half the world’s original forests have been lost.
Forests provide invaluable environmental, social and economic benefits to us all. Many of the world’s most endangered animals depend on forests for their survival. These forests also contribute directly to the livelihoods of 90 percent of over one billion people that live in extreme poverty. They play a central role in the world’s economic health, as the forest industry generates over $186 billion in global trade in primary wood products to supply the growing population of consumers around the world.
Wood based industries, as paper and wood based board manufacturers are governed by the National Forest Policy 2018.The Draft policy put in public domain for feedback till last week has attracted keen interest from the industry.
Plans for Public-Private Partnership in developing degraded forest areas available with Forest Development Corporations (FDCs), management of trees outside forests through agro forestry and farm forestry to increase tree cover while meeting wood demand and augmenting farmers’ income are among the features that address challenges facing wood-based industries.
Saurabh Bangur, President, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association, said the policy covers some of the aspects the industry has been following up with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for years. Pulp wood raw material is a constraint for the domestic paper industry which is dependent on the open market or from farm forestry operation in linkage with farmers apart from imports.
But assurance in supply, quality and pricing is a major concern. Now there is a third option. Paper mills should be able to tie up with FDCs in respective States, he said.
N Gopalaratnam, Chairman, Seshasayee Paper and Boards, said agro forestry and plantation on degraded forest land will need substantial financial resources. Support could be provided to farmers and participating industries through a Forest Development Finance Corporation with seed capital coming from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund, which is being transferred to the States.
Price assurance to farmers is a welcome move but the price determination mechanism has to be “fair and equitable,” he said. In addition to the tree species under consideration for forest plantations, the policy should include Subabul, tropical acacia hybrids, he felt.
CN Pandey, Principal Technical Advisor, Federation of Indian Plywood and Panel Industry, said the significant feature of the policy is that industry gains access to degraded forest land which can also help in enhancing green cover.
Integrating industries and farmers will help wood raw material availability for MDF, a recognised substitute for wood, particle board and engineered products will improve. But the situation continues to be grim for plywood industries. Pandey who was formerly Director of the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute, said plywood industries are facing a special challenge with countries in South-East Asia banning exports of such raw material. The industry is now looking to Africa. The new policy could prove a solution in the long term.
Krishi Jagran/New Delhi