Symposium on mountain forestry makes policy recommendations

Under the guidance of the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, ICIMOD, in collaboration with Forest Research Institute (FRI), India, organized the ‘International Symposium on Transforming Mountain Forestry’ from 18-22 January 2015 at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. More than 300 delegates representing 16 countries, the mountain states of India, universities, various international organizations, as well as Indian members of parliament (MPs) participated in the symposium.  

In his inaugural address, Dr David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD, stressed the need for paradigm shift in managing Himalayan forests. He called upon the eight member countries of ICIMOD to come together to create an interactive knowledge platform. Dr Rajan Kotru, Programme Manager at ICIMOD, explained the symposium’s goal, which was to discuss emerging challenges in mountain forestry and recommend possible management options and policies in the region.

In his keynote address, Dr Christian Koerner of the University of Basel, Switzerland, talked about the differences between old and new forests. Dr Maharaj Muthoo, President of Roman Forum, emphasized public-private partnership and forest certification as a mechanism for ensuring that the communities benefit from sustainable forest management. 

In his video-message to the conference participants, Shri Prakash Javdekar, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said, “Managing Himalayan forest ecosystems on a transboundary scale is critical for mitigating the impact of climate change and sustaining ecosystem services for the welfare of mountain communities and downstream people.” He said the symposium would be an important step in that direction, adding that he looked forward to its outcomes and recommendations. 

The five-day symposium included 26 plenary and parallel sessions on a wide range of issues related to mountain forestry. Some of the major issues covered were forest governance, transboundary cooperation, biodiversity conservation, forest fire, human-wildlife conflict, forest degradation, mountain forests and climate change, mountain forest management, and forest policies. The issues discussed fell under one of the five broad themes – governance and institutions; forest dynamics and management; incentives to stewardship; moving from subsistence to standard markets; and forest knowledge and regional cooperation for policy, practice and science. A ‘Lawmakers’ Session’ was held on 19 January where ministers and MPs of various mountain states of India and Bangladesh discussed the need for transboundary cooperation among the HKH countries for conserving the forests and improving people’s livelihoods. 

In his valedictory address, KK Paul, Governor of Uttarakhand, expressed his appreciation for the symposium and stressed that the recommendations made during the symposium should influence policy. Other delegates from HKH region agreed that the symposium provided an ideal platform for countries to work together on sustainable mountain forestry in the HKH region.