Critics say that the proposed changes are misdirected and anti-people, and betray proper understanding of the ground realities. Hence they can’t solve the real problems faced, particularly by the poor.
- The policy of timber rights only once every thirty-year and that too only to the head of the family, makes the law rather harsh. This will only encourage people to indulge in unlawful tree cutting, rather than stopping it.
- Increasing urbanization, industry and other development projects have destroyed millions of trees, which is much more than those cut by ordinary beneficiaries under their TD rights.
- It was unfair to blame the local forest-dependent communities for the destruction of forests when the Forest Department has not been able to get its house in order, it said.
- It is also alleged that the current developmental policies of allowing mega projects has destroyed more trees than the TD rights holders, besides causing large-scale destruction to ecology as well as loss of livelihood for the local communities.
It is estimated that just to lay the transmission line of JayPee’s hydel power project in Wangtoo Karcham, thousands of trees of extremely precious cedrus deodara of the alpine range would be sacrificed in Nichar tehsil the tribal district of Kinnaur alone.
Similarly the ecology is being devastated with the commissioning of various cement plants in the state.
- Gujrat Ambuja cements limited in Darla
- JayPee in Malokhar both in Solan districts
- Lafarge in Karsog in Mandi district, etc
These cement plants have not only adversely effected the ecology of the area but are also responsible for the sudden increase of asthma cases in the surrounding region.
- Poor Can’t afford it. The new policy states that timber would be provided at 30% of the actual cost. A cubic meter of timber of cedrus deodara costs around Rs 60000. Which means that 3 cubic meter would be for Rs. 1,80,000. Now 30% of this amounts to Rs 54,000. This is a huge amount for any poor family. Over 80% of the total land holders in the state are marginal farmers – they certainly would find it difficult to raise such a big amount of money.
- Ground reality different from premise of the policy. The policy promises of providing timber through sliviculturally salvage trees. Whereas the reality is that most of the jungles have not been marked for silviculture and the salvage wood is not been extracted. Such people would loose their right for TD.
Clearly, the policy makers are totally divorced from the ground reality faced by the ordinary people whom they claim to serve.
- Location of timber distribution centers. The new policy does not provide rights from salvage trees from the local forests where the traditional rights of the people existed or where the people dwelled. The people will have to get the timber from the Forest Corporation depots, which are at either the Sub divisions, or the Tehsil headquarters.
Now the problem is: How a peasant, who resides in a far-flung area and has no access to road (or even if he has), will buy the TD from these depots and then carry it to their homes. It is an improbable proposition for such farmers. Rich people can easily avail this timber from the such poor by paying them a small sum.
- More power to forest guards. From the angle of implementation, critics are also not happy with the idea of “giving central role to the forest guards”. They say that the guards will not be able to withstand pressures from the influential or dissatisfied people, which can lead to corruption. They say that it would have been better if the government had proposed a decentralized and transparent system operational at the village level for assessment of individuals’ needs and deciding the beneficiaries, the silvicultural availability and monitoring of proper usage of sanctioned timber.