Forest Act may be amended to save non-timber produce

Western Ghats Task Force chairperson Ananth Hegde Ashisar interacts with Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara during a workshop on Tuesday. Principal Conservator of Forest B K Singh and Additional PCCF Vinay Luthra are seen. dh Photo

In a bid to strike a balance between sustainable harvesting of forest produce and ensuring the livelihood of forest dwellers, the Western Ghats Task Force brought together representatives of the forest department, tribal associations, members of the village forest committees, medicinal plant experts and NGOs working in the sector, at a workshop in Bangalore on Tuesday.

The day-long State-level workshop, inaugurated by Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara, brought to light the fact that Karnataka lacked a data bank on the forest produce available in the Western Ghats, and the extent of their extraction, thus creating an inability to ascertain the actual damage caused to bio-diversity.

The forest department, represented by the conservator of forests, deputy conservator of forests, assistant conservator of forests and range forest officers, expressed its concern about over-exploitation of forest resources, and appealed for a blanket ban on their extraction.

While the tribal associations felt that the government should give them full rights over extraction, as is being done in the northern states, the village forest committees demanded streamlining of the system. Both groups were opposed to banning of extraction of forest produce.

Ananth Hegde Ashisar, chairperson of the Western Ghats Task Force, said that having taken into account the opinions expressed by the stakeholders, the forest department would first work towards putting together a proper database on the different species of NTFP found in the forests.

Karnataka is a huge storehouse of produce like ‘rampatre’, cane, soapnut, honey, ‘anturala’, ‘vayu vilanga’, ‘hole daasvala’ and ‘suragi’.

Ashisar, however, said many of the species had been over-exploited, and there were serious considerations to effect a ban on the extraction of produce like cinnamon, ‘halmatti dhupa’, ‘vayu vilanga’, ‘ramadike’, ‘guddegiru’ and ‘mapia’, enlisted as endangered.  

He said NTFPs had the potential to contribute extensively to the State’s exchequer, but their extraction had not been systematic, leading to losses to the government and the tribals.

It was also suggested that the department address the staff shortage problem, which had led to high incidence of smuggling of forest produce. The department will also have to work towards fixing prices for various products, monitoring the extraction process and movement, and streamlining the auction process.

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