Uttarakhand Forest Resource Management Society is an autonomous Society constituted under the Society Registration Act 1860. A High-Powered Committee (HPC) formed at the State level, also called the Governing Body of the Society, is the highest policy decision-making body guiding the Project at the apex level and is headed by the Chief Secretary of the State. An Executive Committee (EC) was formed to oversee the implementation of the Project at regular intervals. It is headed by the Principal Secretary (Forest) and PCCF as the Vice Chairperson.
Project Management Unit (PMU)
Project Management Unit (PMU) is an Autonomous Society created by the State Government and registered under the Society Registration Act 1860. Since the project’s inception, PMU has been implementing and monitoring work in the UFRMP. At the State level, the PMU is assisted by a Project Management Consultancy (PMC) to augment its capacity in providing necessary skill sets required for process improvement and expertise in various fields in Project Implementation.
Divisional Management Unit (DMU)
On the field, the Project is implemented by Divisional Management Unit (DMU), and headed by DFO, who is an ex-officio DMU Chief. A DAC (District Advisory Committee) is proposed at the District Level, headed by District Collector who will ensure Inter-Sectoral Convergence (ISC). A DAC forms an important strategy not only to achieve the Project goals, but also impart sustainability to the Project ingenuities. The DMU manages day-to-day project management activities implemented at the Division Level.
Field Management Unit (FMU)
Field Management Unit (FMU) is headed by Range Officer, who is an ex-officio FMU Chief. It supervises and monitors the project activities at the Village level.
A partner NGO team is assigned to each FMU. Field level NGOs (FNGOs) would be involved in microplanning and participatory processes UFRMP High Powered Committee (HPC) meeting is chaired by the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand.
FNGO sare required due to lack of staff having skills like community participatory approach, prevailing social structure and its attitudes and dynamics in the Project area. The FNGO would fill this gap by providing support of qualified professional staff to cover the social engineering aspects of the Project.
Van Panchayats (VPS):
Van Panchayats (VPs) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are the project implementers at the village-level with the assistance from VP Animator. Each VP will be given NGO support for handholding. VPs aid in preparing the comprehensive forest/village micro-plans.
In Uttarakhand, a state known for its hilly terrain and rich forest resources, Van Panchayats have played a crucial role in preserving and maintaining the forests. These institutions were established with the aim of involving local communities, who are directly dependent on forests for their livelihoods, in sustainable forest management practices. The key features of Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand include:
Van Panchayats comprise members from the local community, often elected by the villagers themselves. These members are responsible for making decisions related to forest protection, afforestation, and sustainable use of forest resources.
Van Panchayats are tasked with managing and protecting the forests in their jurisdiction. This includes preventing illegal logging, controlling forest fires, and regulating grazing and other activities that might harm the ecosystem.
Afforestation and Reforestation: Van Panchayats are actively involved in planting new trees and restoring degraded forest areas through afforestation and reforestation efforts.
While the primary focus is on environmental conservation, Van Panchayats also work to provide economic benefits to local communities. They often engage in activities like non-timber forest produce collection and sale.
These institutions also play a role in educating the local communities about the importance of forests, biodiversity, and sustainable resource management.
Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand are recognized under the state’s Forest Conservation Act, which grants them certain legal powers to manage and protect their designated forest areas.
Overall, Van Panchayats have been successful in fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility among local communities toward their forests. This model of community-based forest management has received praise for its positive impact on forest conservation and rural development. It empowers local people to take charge of their natural resources and contributes to the broader goal of environmental sustainability.
Selection of Van Panchayats in UFRMP:
Van Panchayat (VP) / Village Forest Council is an autonomous local institution having legally demarcated village forests. They were formed for sustainable management and protection of forests and its natural resources. The first VP, approved by the government, was formed in 1921. Uttarakhand has more than 12,000 VPs managing around 4,96,185 ha. of forests. The area under each VP ranges from small tracts of land to more than 2,000 ha. All the community forests are managed as per the guidelines in the Van Panchayat Act (Find attached document Van Panchayat Act 2005). It’s the joint responsibility of the state and communities to manage the Forest Council. For effective results, the Revenue Department guides the forest communities.
When it comes to selecting Van Panchayat as part of an Uttarakhand Forest Resources Management Project (UFRMP), the criteria often align with the overall goals and objectives of the project. These criteria are designed to ensure that the selected VPs are best suited to contribute to the successful implementation of the project and the sustainable management of forest resources.
Here are some specific selection criteria that might be considered for a Van Panchayat in a UFRMP:
Eligibility Criteria for Van Panchayat in UFRMP:
- Approximate area availability (it is proposed to treat 50ha average area under each VP)
- Willingness of VP members to participate in restoration works
Locations of certain VPs on SOI topo maps with approximate coordinates (Latitude-Longitude)
- Division/ Range wise list (which could not be located) have been provided to PMU
- Feedback on errors in plotting of VP locations, if any
Selection Criteria & Parameters of evaluation of VPs:
- Past performance of VPs
- Extent of forest degradation
- Possibility of VP cluster formation
- Distance from RF
- Population and Target group population Approach:
- Visualization / analysis of degradation and possibility of cluster formation requires study of maps showing VP locations
- Geographic Information System (GIS) shall be adopted to study such location-based information from SOI maps, FSI Forest Cover maps, Watershed Maps, etc.
Rejection of Van Panchayat:
- At times feasibility may be impacted due to reasons such as
- Other on-going projects
- Inactive VP
- Non-workable area (rocky or very steep slopes)/ insufficient workable area
- Alternate use by local community (grazing, etc.)
- Old plantations
- Final Selection after field feasibility report
It’s important to tailor the selection criteria to the specific goals and context of the UFRMP, while also considering the broader principles of community-based forest management. Ultimately, the goal is to select Van Panchayat who can work together to ensure the success of the project and the sustainable well-being of both the forest ecosystem and the local community.
During the Project, eco-restoration, livelihood enhancement, and community development activities will be carried out in 38,000 ha of forest area involving 839 Van Panchayats selected from the 13 forest divisions. Van Panchayats are chosen for these operations based on scientific metrics related to forest degradation, a cluster strategy, and socio-economic criteria.