Forest Governance: An Engrained Development

Forest Governance means interference of the government for the management of the forest for the effective use and conservation of resources that are important for every individual’s survival. The management and governance are done with the help of the public as well as private entities coming together and making a binding decision on themselves. As many sectors that are a formal informal or indigenous group, enterprises like small, medium, or large, and stakeholders are significantly affected by the forest resources. The implementation of any decision has to be in accordance with the individuals who are affected by it. For successful forest governance and sustainable forest management in our country attempts have been made to analyse the steps taken by the countries who have a successfully attained a balance of resources, harmony between the sectors handling forest management, mitigating harmful emissions, and decreasing illicit activities. For proper governance various international organisation makes treaties to be signed by the member country to ensure a smooth working towards the forest regulation by the member state in their country.

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”

Abraham Lincoln

This paper delves into the way the public and the private sector is engaged in forest governance. How the forest should be governed? How does forest governance affect the sustainable forest management (SFM)? How is REDD+ responsible for effective forest governance? What is the list of legislation governing the forest governance? What changes are necessary to amend the give laws or any specific provision? Current position of India in forest governance?


What is forest governance?

Forest plays an important role in individuals’ life, in every aspect. Forests are important not only because it helps in maintaining the ecological balance but also because it is crucial in the social, industrial, and cultural development of any country. Forests fulfil the diverse needs of a multitude of consumers. Forest premiums can be understood by recognizing them as primary producers and protectors of a number of natural resources. They share attributes with many other resource systems, such as agriculture, animal husbandry, biodiversity energy, that their governance is difficult in a sustainable, efficient and equitable manner. Forests provide us with a wide variety of products and various ecological services. They are a rich source of biodiversity. A large number of poor people living in and around the forest areas depend heavily on these forests for their livelihoods. This makes it an important arena for governance. It is necessary to maintain good forest cover, both in terms of size and quality, and to use it in a sustainable fashion. Forests provide several benefits to a variety of individuals. Most of the individual’s livelihoods rely on forest sources, which make them a key part of their governance. If the forest is not properly managed, this multiplicity of users, growing demands, will generate situations of conflict that lead to resource depletion.

In general, governance refers to formal and informal legislation, structures and mechanisms by which entities involved, that can be public or private, express their objectives and  enforce decisions. forest governance is distinguished by the manner in which public and private bodies, including formal and informal governments, smallholder and tribal communities, small, medium and large businesses, civil society organisations etc make and enforce legal decisions on forest resource management, usage and conservation.

 The notion of forest governance has evolved to include diverse parties on various scales. It may include:

• guidelines on how forests will be regulated, government laws on who gets benefited from forest services, and common and customary rights;

• the use of private-sector initiatives such as voluntary registration to endorse SFM and legitimate procurement of timber;

• international initiatives to encourage forest compliance and good governance, such as the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and reimbursement systems for conservation resources, such as REDD+

In India the deeply engrained system for forest governance has came from a long way through polices, acts and amendments for a good governance in this sector as it engages actors from different sector and major proportion of population is dependent on the resources from the forest for their livelihood. 

The Forest Related Policy& Acts that has changed the arena from command to governance are:

  1. Constitution of India under section 10 (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 Article 48A:  The state shall endeavour Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife [1]
  2. Constitution of India under section 11 (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 Article 51A:  Protect and improve natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wild life [2]is one of the fundamental duties of every citizen.
  3. Forest Act, 1865:  The first Forest Act was enacted in 1865 mainly to facilitate the acquisition of forest areas that could supply timber to the railways without abridging the existing rights of the people.
  4. National Forest Policy, 1952 A resolution on the first post-independence Forest Policy was issued in 1952. It emphasized a balance across economic, ecological and social benefits from the forests. It thus proposed to classify the forests on a functional basis into (i) protection forests, (ii) national forests, (iii) Village forests, and (iv) tree lands. The provision of centralised management was continued in this policy.
  5. National Commission on Agriculture (NCA) 1976 Ushered major shift in the sector. Emphasized need to address the production of industrial wood for forest-based industry, defence and communication. Need of business management skill in forest managers. To meet the present and future demands for protective and re-creative functions.
  6.  National Forest policy, 1988 It was only about 25 years later that the Forest Policy 1988 underscored community Participation in protection and development of forests. The policy is in effect on date. It is comprehensive document with directives on afforestation, farm forestry, management of forests, rights and concessions, diversion of forest land wild life conservation, tribal communities, forest fire and grazing, forest-based industries, forest extension, education, research, personnel management, data base, legal and financial support.
  7.  National Wild life Action Plan, 2002 National Board for wildlife constituted in September 2003 with full strength of law and land behind[3]. responsibility to provide thrust to conservation activities.
  8.  Joint Forest management, 1990 (as per provisions of 1988 Policy The primary objective of the National Forest Policy, 1988 is to ensure environmental stability and ecological balance. The Policy also emphasizes on the need to meet the domestic demands of rural people for forest produce, and involve them in protection and management of the forests. The National Forestry Action Programme, 1999 also addresses the Government s concern towards Sustainable Forest Management. Forest management became the joint responsibility of communities and forestry personnel undergone a paradigm shift. By 2005 all 28 states as adopted 84 thousand committees looking after 17 million ha of forest land in September 2003. This figure has increased tremendously due to central funding through National Afforestation Programme (NAP) and externally funded projects. , the forest sector is being seen as a crucial component in eradicating rural poverty and providing livelihoods

What makes forest governance “good”?

Forest governance is generally considered to be responsible if it is characterized by the following:

  • Ensures compliance with the rules of law;
  • Transparency and low levels of corruption;
  • Role of stakeholders in the decision-making process;
  • Adequate balance of rights for stakeholders; accountability;
  • Low administrative pressure;
  •  A comprehensive system of laws and regulations – both in the forest sector and in other industries that affect land management;
  • Proper enforcement of the law; international harmony and
  • A sound capacity to rule safely and effectively.

The Framework for the Assessment and Monitoring of Forest Governance, developed by a group of experts and published in 2011 by FAO and PROFOR, sets out three pillars of governance, as well as the elements and sub-elements thereof. . Forest sector does not operate in isolation it is affected by many other factors like other sectors policies land government policies etc. This factor can affect the management of forest on a variety of scales and this should be kept in mind before taking any decision by the forest officers. For example, simple, equitable legislation on forest property ownership and access, combined with strong law enforcement, may be instrumental in the achievement of SFM. Good forest governance can include encouraging the police and courts to help track and deter criminal activities; cross-border coordination and exchange of intelligence; and providing forest users with sufficient access to information about how to comply with legal requirements. Forest policy and regulations will also be consistent with those of other sectors, such as forestry, which is a major cause of habitat destruction and deforestation. The lack of transparency in the agriculture sector would potentially impede the application of the SFM.


India has come a long way in this democratic system in which the government is by the people, of the people and for the people. Every aspect of individuals life is affected with respect to forest. This makes forest governance a crucial element to bring a simultaneous change in the society and its institutions. From a system of command to a system of governance has changed the structure of the forest regulation and has put forth a revolutionary change in its management. As the livelihood of thousands of individuals are affected by resource of forest the individuals involved in its governance is not only belong to public but also to private. With the help of supreme law of our country, i.e.  The Constitution of India, and the engrained legislation making body of our country we have developed a system encompassing rules and regulation and various amendments for a systematic and transparent governance of the forest. 

Provisions like Constitution of India under Section 10 (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 Article 48A in which The State shall strive to preserve and develop the atmosphere and to conserve forests and wildlife or Constitution of India under Section 11 (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 Article 51A to Protecting and preserving the natural environment, including trees, lakes, waterways and animals, is a fundamental duty of any person. India is a democratic country which directs the government to do a systematic governance of forest, this includes arrangements found in cultural traditions, laws, markets, and bureaucracies, which can influence how forests are managed, protected, and used. To make it a perfect blend of governance and also engaging with private individual this step resulted in emergence of new challenges for the government.

The required participation of relevant individuals, adaptive and interactive learning processes, comprehensive, holistic and inter-sectoral coordination and decentralisation to facilitate implementation along with principles and practices of good governance in diverse society like India is not easy to achieve. Nevertheless, forest governance has slowly modified many facets of the position of organizations, societies and socio-economic factors. As a result of this new outlook, there has been a significant diversification of the role of forest involved actors. However, this does not necessarily imply that paradigm shift in governance in the forestry sector has taken place; rather, it has increased complexity and further diversified. The definition and practice of government can be perceived to have contributed to a ‘revolutionary’ reform in the administrative and management of forests.


  1. What is forest governance? – Forest governance is defined as the way in which public and private actors, including formal and informal institutions, smallholder and indigenous organizations, small, medium-sized and large enterprises, civil-society organizations and other stakeholders negotiate, make and enforce binding decisions about the management, use and conservation of forest resources.
  2. How does the sustainable forest management (SFM) affect the forest governance? – Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. It keeps the balance between three main pillars: ecological, economic and socio-cultural, which is also important in an effective and successful forest management. Successfully achieving sustainable forest management will provide integrated benefits to all, ranging from safeguarding local livelihoods to protecting the biodiversity and ecosystems provided by forests, reducing rural poverty and mitigating some of the effects of climate change. This helps in achieving ends of all the factors involved in forest governance.
  3. How is REDD+ responsible for effective forest governance? – Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a mechanism developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).As REDD+ helps in the sustainable management of the forest and its reserves, plays a vital role in the conservation, and in enhancement of carbon stocks. It is overall an aid in the effective forest governance
  4. What is the division of joint forest governance in India? – Joint governance by the State and civil society is observed in India mainly in two forms, namely, (1) Van Panchayats, and (2) Joint Forest management. In case of Van Panchayats, the State is represented by the Revenue Department. In case of Joint Forest Management, the State is represented by the Forest Department.
  5. Economic contribution of Forestry sector to GDP in India? –  The economic contribution of forestry sector has increased to the ration of 1:1.66 from year 1997 to 2017. This value is in Indian trillion rupees.[4]













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