New body to develop national forest certification system

A new body aiming to develop a national forest certification system and formulate standards was set up Monday to promote "responsible" trade in forestry sector for better management of forest resources.

New Delhi: A new body aiming to develop a national forest certification system and formulate standards was set up Monday to promote "responsible" trade in forestry sector for better management of forest resources.

The Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) would have representation from various stakeholders including the government and industry, and is expected to formulate certification standards within a year.

"It is the diversity and differences that NCCF, as the certifying body, shall take into consideration while developing our own standards. The forest management standards will be developed in a manner that it reflects the plurality of our forests and the link that they have with the people.

"Though India-specific, the national forest certification system and standards shall align with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification's globally-recognised sustainability benchmarks," said NCCF Chairman K K Singh.

Singh was speaking at an international conference on 'Forest Certification Positioning India', organised by NCCF in association with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) here.

NCCF officials said the idea behind this was that there should be "responsible" forestry practice and it should be socially equitable, economically viable and environment friendly.

Noting that forest resources have come under strain primarily because of commercial use of wood and deforestation due to changes in land use, they said two main approaches that have so far been adopted are 'top-down' approach wherein the government formulates and implements policies and the 'bottom- up' approach which is more of a participatory approach to protect forests.

However, "ineffectiveness" and failures of both these approaches have led to a third approach - forest certification - which introduces policy changes through commercial power rather than central or local power and uses market acceptance rather than regulatory compliance as an enforcement mechanism, the officials said.

"We strongly believe that PEFC-endorsed Indian national forest certification system will have a positive impact on forest management far beyond India, given the country's strategic position in international markets," said Sarah Price, Head of Projects and Development of PEFC-International.

NCCF said forest certification combats climate change by promoting responsible trade in forestry sector which leads to best management of forest resources.

China, Indonesia and Malaysia have PEFC-endorsed systems in place and Japan is likely to apply for global recognition through PEFC soon.

"Development of the Indian national forest certification system will benefit from the experiences of these Asian countries. Other countries, including the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are in various stages of developing their own national forest certification systems," it said.

Two case studies one by Malaysian Timber Certification Council and the other by PEFC China -- were showcased at the conference.

NCCF, in a statement, said that according to the India State of Forest Report 2013, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 78.92 million hectare, which is 24.01 per cent of the geographical area of the country.

Of this, only 0.8 million hectares of forest have been certified so far. State forest development corporations and forest departments have an immense scope of entering into the certified products market and get a premium value for their produce.

"Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tripura have initiated forest certification. However, a lot remains to be done. The total supply of certified wood in India is less than 10 per cent of the total demand for the same.

"The cost of certification can easily be offset by the premium that can be charged for certified produce but what is more important is the goodwill earned owing to higher level of social compliance and commitment to environment conservation," it said.

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