Call for a special developmental agenda for the forest fringe villages of Assam

By Jayanta Kr. Sarma


Photo Jayanta Kr. Sarma


Prelude


Covid-19 pandemic creates a different narrative, where health, food & nutrition and livelihood security are considered as primary issues to be focussed upon for ensuring wellbeing of the people in Assam. However, these issues are linked with the state of environment and environmental security, because ecological services are the primary determinant to build up foundation for health, food and livelihood security. Forestry contributes to a great extent to the economic and ecological stability of a region. Therefore since the period of 14th Finance commission, forest is considered as critical component of center state financial relation; even it is also considered as factor in 15th Finance Commission. 15th Finance commission considered forest and ecological aspects as factors of consideration to provide grant in aid for the period of 2020-21. It implies that forest cover of the state is a critical factor to get center’s grant in aid to pursue wellbeing measures for the people.


In this circumstance, we must remember, whatever forest cover is available in different parts of the state, it is the sacrifice of forest fringe villagers. If they would not lead an ecosystem approach of living, we may not get the forest as such; it may get converted to land of degradation. Actually, in so doing people living in such villages’ sacrifice many of the requirements which demands intensive land uses, rampant uses of forest resources etc. Therefore, such area deserves special developmental interventions.


Many a times it is interpreted as part and parcel of the duty of the Forest department to take care of forest fringe villages; however, forest department’s mandate is not same with the mandate of line department like Health, Education, Rural Development, Agriculture, Veterinary, Industry, Power, Transport, Handloom Textile, Sericulture etc. For holistic development of such forest fringe villages require an integrated approach of all the departments. The ongoing programmes of forest department like - Eco-development programme for the fringe villages of the protected area, Joint Forest Management programme for the fringe villages of the Reserve Forest area though has its own mandate for mobilizing and organizing community for forest and wildlife conservation and sustainable use of resources for livelihood generation. However, the forest department is not liable to address many of the basic needs for the people living in such area.


Therefore, it is high time to look into the context of the forest fringe villages and the people to cater their basic needs as well as support for development. It should be an important issue for consideration in the planning of post covid19 pandemic developmental.