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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 January 2022

Contents:

  1. The baton of forest restoration in the net zero race
  2. Instability in Kazakhstan will resonate in regional geopolitics

The baton of forest restoration in the net zero race

Contents:

India’s pledge to set a net zero target by 2070, at the COP26 summit, Glasgow, has again highlighted the importance of forests as an undisputed mechanism to help mitigate the challenges of climate change. 

Relevance:

GS Paper – 3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significance of Forests as Carbon sinks:
  2. India’s current figures
  3. Forest Degradation and Need for Restoration
  4. India’s efforts
  5. Decline in the Effectiveness of Projects under Joint forest management
  6. Way forward

Significance of Forests as Carbon sinks:

  • Study by Griscom (2017):  Land-based sinks (natural climate solutions which also include forests) can provide up to 37% of emission reduction and help in keeping the global temperature below 2° C.
  • Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: One of its report favoured a natural regeneration model of restoration over the existing much-hyped mode of tree planting as such forests are said to secure nearly 32% carbon storage. A recent study confirms the same.
  • The importance of forests to mitigate the challenges of climate change was already highlighted during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) framework (2013) of REDD+ for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, along with the ‘sustainable management of forests for the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks’.

India’s current figures:

  • India is said to have increased its forest cover by 15,000 square kilometres in the last six years
  • As per the State of Forests Report (1989), the country had 2,57,409 sq.km (7.83% of its geographical area) under the open forest category, having a density of 10% to less than 40%. This means every year on average, nearly 1.57 lakh hectare of forests was degraded.

Forest Degradation and Need for Restoration:

  • Despite the increase in Forest cover, degradation of existing forests in India continues.
  • Degradation is mainly due to the presence of anthropogenic pressures including encroachment, grazing, fire, which our forests are subjected to.
  • Developmental activities: Nearly 1.5 million hectares of forests have been diverted since 1980 for developmental activities.
    • Losing nearly 1.48 million hectares of forests to encroachers coupled with an intricate link between poverty and unemployment, India is witnessing enormous degradation of forests and deforestation.
  • This warrants the participation of people as an essential and effective route to achieve the desired target of carbon sequestration through the restoration of forests.

India’s efforts:

  • National Forest Policy, 1988: It marks an historic departure from pursuing commercial objectives to supporting the needs of people in a participatory manner.
    • Joint forest management: In 1990, an attempt was made to engage local communities in a partnership mode while protecting and managing forests and restoring wastelands with the concept of care and share.
  • Eco-development committees: The similar system of joint management in the case of national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves which existed in the name of eco-development committees. It was not only effective in the protection and development of biodiversity but also in the considerable reduction in man-animal conflicts and the protection of forests from fires and grazing.
  • Forest development agencies: It was introduced to consolidate the efforts in an autonomous model, which paved the way for fund flow from various other sources to joint forest management committees.
    • It resulted in the formation of nearly 1.18 lakh joint forest management committees managing over 25 million hectares of forest area. Most of these projects were financed by external agencies.

Decline in the Effectiveness of Projects under Joint forest management:

  • Lack of funding: This affected the functionality of projects especially those under Joint forest management.
  • Lack of support from local communities: The lack of support from participating local communities including associated non-governmental organisations further declined its effectiveness.
    • The lack of priority and policy support to ensure the participation of local communities via the institutions of joint forest management committees slowly made their participation customary.
    • Except for the National Mission for Green India, this was true for all other centrally sponsored programmes such as Project Tiger, fire management, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) including the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)
  • Role of Local Institutions: The role of local institutions of gram panchayat, Urban local bodies or joint forest management committees is now restricted to be a consultative institution instead of being partners in planning and implementation.
    • This hinders their participatory planning and implementation of various schemes. This in-turn affects the harmony between Forest Departments and communities, endangering the protection of forests.
    • This is more relevant while taking up restoration activities including tree planting outside the designated forest areas where motivation and encouragement of stakeholders are crucial.
  • All these have caused a gradual decline in their effectiveness.

Way forward:

  • It is necessary for India to focus more on climate change and devise strategies and programmes to achieve the net zero target.
  • The approaches for carbon storage and offsetting through natural sinks such as forests need to be given equal priority along with its efforts to reduce the quantum of emissions.
  • Replicate Telangana model: To achieve net zero targets there is a need to:
    • revisit our existing legal and policy mechanisms
    • incentivise the local communities appropriately
    • ensure fund flow for restoration interventions
    • provide for the adequate participation of local people in planning and implementation through local institutions.
    • these should be supported by enabling financial and institutional support mechanisms
    • negotiate with stakeholders to incentivise local communities.
  • Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use: The considerations of land tenure and the forest rights of participatory communities with accelerated finances will help aid steps in the race toward net zero.
    • India is not a signatory to it.
  • Thus an inclusive approach with political prioritisation will not only help reduce emissions but also help to conserve and increase ‘our forest cover’ to ‘a third of our total area’. It will also protect our once rich and precious biological diversity.

-Source: The Hindu

Instability in Kazakhstan will resonate in regional geopolitics

Contents:

The protests that broke out in Kazakhstan on January 2 over a fuel price hike have snowballed into the biggest political crisis the oil-rich Central Asian country’s leadership has faced in over three decades. 

  • At least a dozen security and police personnel have been killed and over 2,000 protesters arrested.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Unfolding crisis in Kazakhstan
  2. Background
  3. Impact on the regional geopolitics

Unfolding crisis in Kazakhstan:

  • The protests, initially peaceful, erupted in violence and firing, as has been reported in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty as well as in other areas. 
  • President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for military aid from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. It is a Russia-led security alliance of former Soviet republics. The Russian “peacekeeping” troops are now reportedly present in the country.
  • The reason for the violent unrest is more than the rise in LPG prices and consequent inflation. The protests quickly became demands to outster the country’s powerful leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.
  • The protests, violence and backlash against an authoritarian government echo crises that preceded the fall of the Iron Curtain, exposing the fragility of even the most entrenched autocratic regimes.

Background:

  • Kazakhstan is the largest and most oil-rich of the former USSR’s Asian republics.
  • It has functioned under an autocratic regime, which has curbed citizens’ rights.
  • Despite the wealth it has gained from its oil reserves, it is deeply unequal society. Yet it has been largely secular and stable.
  • Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled the country since its independence from the USSR till 2019, and is still considered the power behind Tokayev, his chosen successor. This has become the main reason of public anger.

Impact on the regional geopolitics:

  • Instability in the country is also a challenge to equilibrium in the region, which is still reeling from the strategic consequences of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
  • The country receives international investments and is of strategic significance.
  • The call for Russia’s intervention shows that despite Chine being an economic might, Russia continues to be the main security provider in the region
  • Recently, Kazakhstan attended the NSA-level summit hosted by India. The current unrest if continues for long can complicate India’s plans in the region further.

-Source: Indian Express

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