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The Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS)

Context:

Amid rising international concerns on deforestation and illicit trade in timber, the Government of India has launched its own national forest certification scheme – The Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS).

Relevance:

GS II: government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS)
  2. Need for the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS)
  3. Significance of the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS)

Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS):

IFWCS aims to provide certification for sustainable forest management, including trees outside forests and a chain of custody for traceability of forest products in the supply chain.

Components of IFWCS:
  • Certification for Sustainable Forest Management:
    • Focuses on ensuring sustainable practices in forest management.
  • Sustainable Management of Trees Outside Forests:
    • Extends certification to cover sustainable management of trees in plantations.
  • Chain of Custody:
    • Guarantees traceability of forest products throughout the supply chain, from origin to market.
Potential Users of Certification:
  • Forest management units, corporations, or wood-based industries.
  • Tree growers, timber or NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Produce) traders.
  • Saw millers, exporters, or importers of wood-based and NTFP-based products.
  • Other end-user industries.
Forest Management in India:
  • Forests in India are managed based on their working plans.
  • The Indian Forest Management Standards, comprising 8 criteria, 69 indicators, and 254 verifiers, guide forest management.
  • Mandatory implementation of these standards for all forest divisions in the country.
  • While certification is not compulsory for forest divisions, adherence to standards makes them eligible.
  • Certification remains optional, dependent on specific needs and requirements.

Need for the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS):

  • Global Deforestation Concerns:
    • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) uncovered serious issues with the integrity of existing forest certifications globally.
  • Impact on International Markets:
    • The credibility concerns raised by the ICIJ investigation have affected the acceptance of Indian forest-based products in international markets.
  • High Dropout Rates Among Certified Entities:
    • The doubts surrounding forest certifications have led to high dropout rates among entities previously certified.
  • European and US Markets Significance:
    • Europe and the US, being major export markets for Indian forest-based products, particularly handicraft and furniture, have tightened import rules due to increased sensitivity around deforestation and climate change concerns.
  • Global Climate Change Commitments:
    • The Glasgow climate change conference in 2021 witnessed over 100 countries pledging to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  • Government’s Response:
    • In response to global concerns and commitments, the Government of India is planning to introduce its own certification scheme, IFWCS.
    • Aimed at enhancing market regulation and ensuring the credibility of Indian forest-based products in international trade.

Significance of the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS):

  • Alternative to Foreign Certification Agencies:
    • IFWCS provides an alternative to private foreign certification agencies that have been active in the Indian market for the past two decades.
  • Enhanced Trust and Transparency:
    • The scheme aims to bring greater trust and transparency to the certification processes.
    • This ensures that the certification of forest-based products aligns with international standards.
  • Improved Acceptance in International Markets:
    • IFWCS is expected to enhance the acceptability of Indian forest-based products in international markets.
    • By addressing concerns raised by global investigations and meeting international standards, Indian products are likely to gain more credibility.
  • Government-Initiated and Backed:
    • Currently, IFWCS is a government-initiated and government-backed scheme.
    • This government involvement adds authority and reliability to the certification process.
  • Evolution into an Independent Entity:
    • While currently government-driven, there is a potential for IFWCS to evolve into an independent entity.
    • Similar to institutions like the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) or the Quality Council of India (QCI).
    • This evolution can further strengthen the autonomy and credibility of the certification scheme.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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