Establishing Rights over Community Forest Resources in Himachal Pradesh

Establishing Community Forest Rights has been taken up as a process which makes communities understand the importance and collective assessment of their dependence on resources surrounding them. Over this year the process has moved deep into the communities in six districts and slowly the Government is also beginning to accept lack of capacity building of officials, understanding of the Act and how they are legally bound to implement the Act. This has resulted in engagement with the Government at all the tiers of local self governance. Over 900 habitations have been enabled to form their Forest Rights Committees and to identify and file claims for their Community Forest Rights.

Government policy formulation and implementation in the federal structure of the Country is not a smooth task and the same was seen happening with the acceptance and implementation of Forest Rights Act in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The context of tribal forest dwellers and other forest dwellers is distinguished in the Act for recognition of claims but the State Government took a stand that all rights have been settled long ago and some token work was initiated in the tribal districts leaving the context of other forest dwellers untouched. Himalaya Niti Abhiyan took the onus along with Environics Trust to challenge this understanding and moved ahead to began consultations with the communities, government and experts to take the route or process to embed the very understanding of the Act in letter and spirit. One of the important conscious decisions of the team was that Community Forest Rights will be taken up in the process which makes communities understand the importance and collective assessment of their dependence on resources surrounding them. It is nearly a year that the process has moved deep into the communities in 6 districts and slowly the Government is also beginning to accept lack of capacity building of officials, understanding of the Act and how they are legally bound to implement the Act. This has resulted in engagement with the Government at all the tiers of local self governance and a huge community base for future planning and management has been established.

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