ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Forest Protection Committees in West Bengal

West Bengal S B Roy In West Bengal over 1,800 rural community-based forest committees protect more than 2,40,000 ha of natural sal forest. A report on the joint forest management experiment in the state ONE of the most successful forest management programmes in India is in West Bengal where over 1,800 rural community-based forest protection committees protect more than 2,40,000 ha of natural sal (Shorea robusta) forest, dividing the forest products with the forest department. Prior to the initiation of the programme much of the programme area suffered from severe forest degradation and conflicts between the forest community (FC) and the forest department (FD).1 One of the earliest experiences with joint forest management in West Bengal occurred during 1971-72 when A K Baner- jee, a divisional forest officer and silviculturist from south division in Mid- napur East, involved people from ten villages in Arabari in protecting 1,250 ha of totally degraded natural sal forest and plantations. Initially, through a series of meetings and contact programmes, 618 families comprising 3,607 people, inhabiting 11 revenue villages, agreed to cooperate in rehabilitating the forest in the project area. The villagers in the programme understood that, in exchange for the assistance, they would be given employment opportunities with the forest department, the right to collect fuelwood at an ecologically sustainable rale from the protected forest, and usufruct rights to the forest.

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