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R.C. Sharma1


A new state is born

In 1956, the State Re-organisation Commission amalgamated a number of “left over states”, inter alia, Malwa, Vindhya Pradesh, Mahakaushal, Chhattisgarh, Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand in central India to form the separate state of Madhya Pradesh. Encompassing 44.3 million hectares, Madhya Pradesh became the largest state in the country. The state of Madhya Pradesh can be viewed as a microcosm of India itself, diverse in regions, languages and cultures, but linked through common aspirations (Singh 2000). Owing to its distinct identity and sense of marginalization, a movement for a separate state, known subsequently as Chhattisgarh began to gain momentum. No single factor was responsible for the creation of Chhattisgarh. A highly complex interplay of factors coupled with the longstanding demand for separate states of Uttranchal and Jharkhand accelerated the process. The Legislative Assembly passed a resolution for the creation of Chhattisgarh in March 1994. A bill towards this end was passed by parliament and presidential approval of the bill on 25 August 2000 resulted in the Madhya Pradesh Re-organisation Act, 2000. The culmination of this led to the formation of Chhattisgarh on 1 November 2000.

The 16 districts of the former Madhya Pradesh (Raipur, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Kawardha, Bilaspur, Janjgir–Champa, Korba, Raigarh, Jashpur, Sarguja, Koriya, Kanker, Bastar and Dantewara) covering 13.5 million hectares, constituted the new state. Chhattisgarh is larger than the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands and Sri Lanka as well as the states of Kerala, Haryana and Punjab.

Chhattisgarh is richly endowed with minerals, forests and freshwater sources. It has forest cover of approximately 44 percent and is home to diverse tropical flora and fauna. With an average annual rainfall of 125 cm, the state produces some of the best rice varieties and it is known as the “Rice Bowl” of the country.

Figure 1. Location of Chhattisgarh State

With a population of slightly over 20 million, the state has many scheduled tribes (ST) and scheduled castes (SC). In total the SC and ST population for India is 23.6 percent; in Chhattisgarh the combined population of SC and ST is 44.7 percent — 32.4 and 12.3 percent for ST and SC respectively.

Forest in Chhattisgarh

Prior to division, Madhya Pradesh had a total geographical area of 44.3 million hectares, accounting for about 13.5 percent of the land area nationwide. According to state records, 15.5 million hectares were classified as forest, constituting 35 percent of the geographical area.

Table 1 shows the distribution of geographical and forest areas in the newly created state of Chhattisgarh (CG) and the rest of Madhya Pradesh (MP) after division.

Table 1. Area distribution


Geographical area (mha)

Forest area (mha)


Former MP








Rest of MP




mha = million hectares.

There are three forest types in Chhattisgarh — Tropical Moist Deciduous, Tropical Dry Deciduous and Subtropical Broad-leaved Hill Forests (FSI 2000). The forests have been classified as sal (Shorea robusta), teak (Tectona grandis) and miscellaneous, including bamboo. Some of the best sal forests in the country are found in this state. Apart from timber, these forests provide many non-wood forest products (NWFPs) including tendu (Diosporous melaxylon) leaves, sal seeds, mahua (Madhuca latifolia) flowers and seeds, amla (Emblica officinalis), harra (Terminalia chebula), gum, lac (Indian shellac), tamarind and mahul (Bauhinia spp.) leaves. Moreover, several important medicinal plants are also found here. These NWFPs are important sources of income and serve as supplementary food sources during periods of famine and food scarcity, which are quite frequent. More than 50 percent of the people living in and around the forests depend on them for their livelihoods. The forests serve as a rich backdrop to the rural economy of the state.

This paper examines the importance and potential of the forest sector in Chhattisgarh. Opportunities are identified and ways to capture and strengthen them are analysed by revisiting the tensions that exist between ecology and livelihood security. In this context, re-inventing forestry agencies for the development of a sustainable, people-centred policy framework will be the core subject of this report.


Review of the government institutional structure in MP

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), the most senior forest officer in the state, heads the Forest Department (FD) of Madhya Pradesh and is the chief state advisor on all forestry matters. He is assisted by the Additional Principle Chief Conservators of Forests (APCCFs) and Chief Conservators of Forests (CCFs) who supervise different branches at headquarters.

In India, forestry is on the Concurrent List of the Constitution, which empowers both the Government of India (GOI) as well as the states to assume responsibility for forestry matters. In line with the All India Services Act, the GOI, through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) selects members of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) who are collectively called a “batch”. The GOI assigns IFS officers to states depending upon vacancy availability. Before separation of Chhattisgarh, the IFS cadre strength of MP was 385. This consisted of 270 direct recruitment (DR) posts and 115 posts to be filled by promotion.

Before the formation of Chhattisgarh, Mr R.D. Sharma, IFS was PCCF of the undivided state of MP. Under his overall control and superintendence were 14 branches housed at headquarters whose roles included the supervision of state-level functions.

In India’s institutional forestry structures, the most important administrative unit is the forest division, headed by a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). A forest division is then divided into six or seven forest ranges and for effective control and supervision, two to three ranges are combined to form a subdivision. A forest range is further divided into subranges and beats. A forest beat, which is the lowest administrative unit, may comprise 10 to 15 km2 of forest area. A range officer supervises a forest range while a subrange is headed by a forest deputy ranger or a forester. A forest guard, who is the most junior operative in the field, assumes responsibility for the forest beat.

Five to six forest divisions constitute a forest circle or conservancy, which is manned by a Conservator of Forests, who is a senior member of the IFS. The conservator is the highest field operative in the Forest Department. Senior officers at APCCF and CCF levels who are stationed at forest headquarters also assume responsibility for a circle vis-à-vis coordination and guiding field staff.



Immediately after enactment of the Madhya Pradesh Re-organisation Act in August 2000, the state government appointed a committee to ensure that all the necessary arrangements pertaining to the restructuring of the state were complete by 31 October 2000 so the new government would be in place on that day. Similar committees headed by senior officers were created at the department level. The Forest Department established a committee headed by an APCCF; this officer visited the proposed capital city of Raipur in Chhattisgarh to take stock of existing infrastructure for the establishment of a state forestry headquarters. The immediate requirement was identification of a suitable building to house the office. There was already considerable pressure on existing government buildings to accommodate the state secretariat and other department heads and it was not possible to occupy a public works department (PWD) building, so arrangements needed to be made to re­allocate existing offices. Another stop-gap measure was the repair and improvement of existing buildings and subsequent construction of new ones.

Storehouses, machinery, tools, furniture and other equipment were inventoried in detail and allocated by headquarters. Field vehicles were distributed on the basis of existing location.


Forest area and the number of existing forest management units formed the basis for determining required IFS cadre strength. The GOI fixed Chhattisgarh’s IFS staffing at 115. The GOI asked all members to express preferences for state assignment. It was decided that those officers who were residents of Chhattisgarh would be allocated to their home state. In order to avoid undue hardship, it was also decided that those who were retiring within two years would be permitted to remain in MP if so desired. On this basis the Ministry of Environment and Forests allocated 110 IFS officers to Chhattisgarh. In the meantime, officers in charge of different branches of the existing forest headquarters prepared background information on existing and intended functions, responsibilities, relevant acts, rules, regulations and guidelines. Apropos to redistribution of SFS members, it was decided that those officers who opted to work in Chhattisgarh would remain there and any shortfall would be made up by allocating officials whose home district was in Chhattisgarh. Out of 457 SFS officials working in the undivided state, 135 were appointed to the new state.

The new department thus had a cadre strength of 115 IFS, 135 SFS, 484 forest rangers, 541 deputy rangers, 1 441 foresters and 5 556 forest guards. The composition of field formations after division is given in Table 2.

Table 2. Field formations in MP and Chhattisgarh



Madhya Pradesh

Territorial Circle




Territorial Divisions




Production Divisions




Social Forestry Divisions




Working Plan Divisions




Tiger Reserve Divisions




National Park Divisions




Wildlife Divisions




Forest Ranger College




Forest Schools




Creation of the department

His Excellency the President of India appointed Shri Dinesh Nandan Sahaya as the first Governor of Chhattisgarh. Shri Sahaya took office on 1 November 2000. The State Government of Chhattisgarh appointed Dr R.C. Sharma, IFS, as Head of the Forest Department (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests) who likewise took charge on 1 November 2000.

Institutional structure

At the divisional level, it became apparent that there were coordination problems and human resources were not being optimally utilized. The workloads in some forest divisions were quite heavy and there was a shortage of field operatives.

At headquarters the problem was more acute. In undivided MP, there were 14 branches headed by the APCCF/CCF. However, Chhattisgarh was assigned only five officers at the APCCF/CCF level and there was no immediate possibility of increasing this number. Hence the workload at headquarters was disaggregated into the following five branches:

  1. Administration (both gazetted and non-gazetted ), vigilance and coordination.
  2. Social forestry, research and extension, working plan and land management.
  3. Wildlife, protection and the World Food Programme.
  4. Development and planning.
  5. Production, budget and accounts.

There were six territorial circles supervising various forest divisions in the field. Initially there were 26 forest divisions and a 27th one, Khairagarh Division, was later established. In order for the divisional office to be more responsive and people-friendly, it was decided to adopt a “single window” concept for forest administration by merging the functions of production, social forestry and wildlife divisions. This would result in increased workloads, so geographical boundaries were redrawn. To make the exercise participatory, a series of discussions was held with senior officers at headquarters as well as with field operatives and representatives from the general public. Thus four social forestry divisions (Rajnandgaon, Durg, Kanker and Ambikapur), seven production divisions (Mahanadi, Bhanupratap Pur, Kondagaon, Raigarh, Dantewarah, Awapalli and Bijapur) and one wildlife division at Raipur were abolished and their activities merged with corresponding territorial divisions. In the re-organized structure, efforts were made to ensure that the jurisdiction of a territorial division would be either consistent with the revenue district or form part of one district only, for better coordination with district administration.This led to the creation of six more territoral divisions (Marwahi, Katghora, Dharmjaygarh, Udanti, South Kondagaon and West Bhanupratappur).The administrative structure in the field before and after re-organization is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Field formation after re-organization in Chhattisgarh

Name of unit

No. on 1 Nov. 2000

No. after re-organization

Territorial Circle (conservancy)



Working Plan circle



Field Director, Project Tiger



Territorial Divisions



Production Divisions



Social Forestry Divisions



Soil Conservation Division



Working Plan Division

7 (including MIS Division )

7 (including MIS Division )

National Parks



Wildlife Division



Forester/forest guard school



Wildlife sanctuaries



Forest guard school



A major problem in Chhattisgarh was the lack of established work plans. The usual time frame for completion of a work plan is three years. However for various reasons this period elapsed and many work plans due for revision were not addressed on time. As the Supreme Court demands approved work plans, no felling permission could be granted. Timely revision of work plans became a high priority for participatory management as without it, villagers were not able to obtain their share of harvested forest produce. To overcome this dilemma, three social forestry division posts were suspended and redeployed to create three more work plan divisions.

Management structure and style

Management structure and style in Chhattisgarh have responded to new public expectations and the directions provided by the National Forest Policy (1988) and State Forest Policy (2001).

The State Forest Policy envisaged that Joint Forest Management (JFM) practices should form the basis of forest management in the state. Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) were created in villages situated within a 5-kilometre radius of a dense forest area. Village Forest Committees (VFCs) were established in villages, excluding those with FPCs, within a 5-kilometre radius of a degraded forest area. Local Forest Department staff convened village meetings to introduce the JFM concept and, if villagers voluntarily decided to participate in forest protection and management, then a formal meeting with the help of local public representatives was organized. Necessary provisions were made for participation by landless people, marginal farmers and women in all JFM bodies, such as VFCs and FPCs.

In the context of participatory forest management, 6 994 JFM committees operate over 2.8 million hectares of forest area. This includes 3 591 FPCs and 3 403 VFCs in healthy and degraded forest areas respectively.Additionally, there are 938 primary cooperatives of minor forest produce gatherers who are engaged in collection and marketing of NWFPs, as well as a Forest Development Authority (FDA) in every forest division. This well-knit and widely spread network of forest committees provides a sound base for launching other development schemes.

International interest in sustainable forest management (SFM) demanded a management paradigm that ensures forest sustainability. Since the 1990s, many international and national actors have been labouring to formulate Criteria and Indicators (C&I) for SFM. Despite extensive scientific, social, economic and political debate, there continue to be different objectives and no consensus has been achieved on what constitutes SFM. At our present level of understanding, there are no agreed upon measures of sustainable harvesting levels, rejuvenating power and consequent resource implications. Markets for many of the societal and environmental services that forests provide are still immature. In India, uncertain tenure and resource access encourages overharvesting. Generally, forest revenues are credited to national or state exchequers and are not ploughed back into resource development or shared with local communities; with the consequence that locals perceive forests to be of little direct benefit to them.

Therefore, while seeking to maintain forest health and vitality, Chhattisgarh has accorded priority to evolving a package of proactive and people-friendly forest management practices to contribute simultaneously to SFM and people’s well-being.

Important challenges

In the new set-up, managing forests for enhanced community well-being (including poverty reduction) was an important aspect in gaining political visibility and support. To address the issue, innovative programmes — people’s protected area (PPA), public–private partnership (PPP) and equitable benefit sharing arrangements (BSA) — converged with development activities outside the classical forestry domain. Although staff had excellent training and professional experience in executing silviculture and other technical forestry activities, the shift in management focus called for an altogether different set of skills. Therefore a key challenge facing the department was to build staff capacity and competency to address the new focus areas: participatory forestry; collaborative partnership (including biopartnership); interfacing with NGOs, the private sector and civil society; conflict analysis and management, negotiation and mediation; and gender sensitivity. This involved the twin challenge of developing improved tools, methods and human capacity as well as building and upgrading the institutional capacity of training institutes.

In a new state the expectations of the general public are usually very high; however the morale of the senior forest officers transferred from Bhopal to Raipur headquarters was very low. Many of the IFS officers who were supposed to occupy senior positions at forest headquarters were not happy with the cadre bifurcation formula followed by the GOI. Some of them wanted the GOI to revise the cadre allotment scheme and many requested cadre changes on various grounds. Senior officers of the other two All India Services, i.e. the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) were also dissatisfied with the norms followed by the GOI. Thus senior members of all three of the All India Services allocated to Chhattisgarh united to approach administrative and legal authorities.

Similarly departmental staff were distressed, particularly women, about having to leave their family members, including small childeren, in Bhopal. Raipur had not been developed as a capital town and amenities were scarce. The mass exodus of government employees from Bhopal to Raipur further compounded the problem.There were too many potential tenants for a limited supply of housing and finding accomodation became difficult. Therefore providing “shelter” to the staff who were shifted from Bhopal was a sensitive challenge. The local conservator of forests identified a few houses where headquarters’ employees could be lodged in groups temporarily. This arrangement helped to allay the bruised feelings of the staff, but the dissatisfaction continued. After receiving petitions from employee unions and individuals, the MP government decided to re-assign female employees to Bhopal, and considered transferring cases on a mutual consent basis. Although this was a sympathetic gesture, it contributed to a general sense of instability.


Setting the ball rolling

In an address to the people of Chhattisgarh, the Chief Minister stated:

We are in a hurry to catch up with the developed states of India. Our endeavours would be meaningful only if the most backward areas within the state — in particular those inhabited by the tribes, the dalits, and other backward communities are paid adequate attention and the rays of development sweep them steadily and purposively. This in short would be an important element of development strategy.

The forest cover in Chhattisgarh helps sustain a substantial population. Forest-based industries would be encouraged in an environmental manner; people’s participation would be a necessary element of this approach. The role of the Forest Department would be that of a facilitator and motivator.

We should try to encourage industries based on our raw materials and produce, right here in Chhattisgarh, so that we add value to our efforts and also employ our population gainfully to alleviate poverty.

This laid the ground rules for crafting of the Forest Department’s agenda.

Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the new focus of the Chhattisgarh Forest Department

Undivided, MP had the largest forest area in the country — more than 20 percent coverage — varying from scrub to multi-tier dense forests. The Madhya Pradesh Forest Department had pioneered or embarked upon every facet of forest administration; be it abolition of the contractor system in forest harvesting or endowing ownership of minor forest products to village-level organizations. It was also one of the first states in the country to adopt JFM. However despite several bold initiatives, many issues and grey areas remained and institutional structures needed strengthening. Realising that the Chhattisgarh Forest Department was a replication of the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and that relations and ethos could not be undone overnight, it became imperative to develop new strategies to meet public expectations.

These issues included that:

  1. Although JFM had led to better forest protection and regeneration, its sustainability was fragile. Outsiders perceived it to be a departmental programme for protecting the forest and questioned the power balance in partnership.
  2. JFM resolutions were not supported by legal and financial legislation.
  3. Entitlement regimes and appropriate benefit sharing among those who participated in JFM were not developed and made operational.
  4. The World Bank Forestry Project helped to strengthen JFM. Many donor-driven JFM committees were constituted but with the project approaching termination and with no withdrawal strategy, many of them became dormant.
  5. Minor forest produce or NWFPs, which are of major importance to forest dwellers, did not figure in the World Bank project, thus they suffered relegation in forest management.
  6. Cooperative structure for NWFP management needed strengthening.
  7. The role of medicinal plants for primary rural health cover (which is weak in forest areas) need to be accounted for.
  8. There was a need for convergence of intersectoral development schemes and linking of forestry with poverty reduction strategies.
  9. Although action was initated in the 1980s to involve the private sector this had not been brought to any logical conclusion.
  10. Apart from territorial divisions, multiple activities in the field led to poor coordination: A single window system was needed.
  11. Biodiversity conservation through a protected area network with a sharp focus on faunal biodiversity had an exclusionary approach that needed to be rectified.

In short, the aim of the Chhattisgarh Forest Department was to ensure that JFM moved forward. This required a change in the thinking of the forestry administration, taking into account sociocultural norms, beliefs and systems born of history, culture and traditions.

Forest–rural poverty nexus

At the outset, it was considered appropriate to examine the dynamics of people’s impacts on forests and vice versa. It was hoped that the results of such an investigation would help to develop changes in policies, legislation and institutional arrangements for an effective forestry strategy that encompassed rural poverty. In the primary sector, people harvest natural resources to satisfy their basic needs through the use of traditional techniques and with products either consumed by producers or supplied to the market. But with anthropogenic pressures on natural resources that exceed carrying capacity, the problem has become acute in forest fringe areas where there is neither enough arable land nor sufficient employment opportunities. Many people practise subsistence agriculture with very low productivity; and in order to meet their growing foodgrain requirements they attempt more extensive cultivation including shifting cultivation or encroachment upon forest areas. Degradation of forests resulting from exploitation for fuelwood and illicit felling of trees is another indication of this problem. In this situation, steep slopes and areas unfit for cultivation of annual crops are brought under the plough, often with adverse environmental impacts. The water balance is adversely affected as well by disruptions in vegetation. Distortion of the hydrological cycle and consequent decreases in productivity contribute further to the cycle of poverty. Poverty and illiteracy coupled with malnutrition can be indirectly linked to population growth, accentuating resource degradation still further. Thus poverty in these areas becomes both the cause and the effect of natural resource degradation (Sharma 1999). This is exemplified in much of the country’s forest areas, and no less so in Chhattisgarh.

Beyond strict economic measures, poverty is also equated with a deficit of particular skills, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for generating adequate livelihoods. Livelihood security thus involves safety nets for ensuring people’s physiological and psychological basic needs are met. Forests are often an essential element of these safety nets where poverty is prevalent.

Developing a new paradigm: people’s protected areas

NWFPs are recognized as providing important support nets, and in April 1999 the GOI with UNDP support initiated the preparation of an action programme for NWFP-related sustainable forest development, rural income generation and biodiversity conservation, covering Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat states (GOI 1999a). As a part of the project, the Managing Director of the Minor Forest Products Federation was asked to address “NTFP2 — Resource issues and constraints for their conservation and management”. In light of his previous experience and data collected from fieldwork, he reported that for biodiversity conservation in India currently, protected areas have been established focusing largely on faunal aspects, excluding human activity. His report recommended the establishment of protected areas for floral diversity but with a difference — that there should be a human conservation model to provide a sustainable flow of goods and services to meet the needs of the communities involved. This formed the starting point for the development of the People’s Protected Areas (PPA).

Preparatory work was started by the Madhya Pradesh MFP Federation in a forest in Sehore Forest Division. Villagers indicated that this area had once provided many NWFPs but due to uncontrolled exploitation, the resource base had degenerated significantly. When asked why they had not controlled such activities their reply was “This is an open green gold treasure. We have neither any authority to check nor any share in the produce so why should we care?” The message was loud and clear — any attempt at conservation and protection of the resource must clarify the rights, responsibilities and profit-sharing of the people involved.

In India, goods and services from the forests constitute a critical lifeline for poor forest dwellers by providing sustenance and livelihoods. Forests have been sources of invaluable medicinal plants because their preventive and curative properties became known and they were first used to address human health. However, during discussions it became evident that forest resources per se cannot make a significant dent in poverty alleviation. Hence a new search for additional components of PPA was needed.

Land and water are two of the most important natural endowments. With a judicious mix of interventions such as the development of irrigation facilities, the application of improved and modern agricultural practices and the creation of other income generation activities based on sustainable use of locally available natural resources, the possibilities for developing livelihoods can be enhanced. Activities involving NWFP collection, rope-making, honey collection, and nurseries or mushroom cultivation, shop-keeping and grocery stores provide a range of options (Sharma 1997).

The single most important asset of the poor is their labour potential. It follows that economic growth can reach the poor if it increases the demand for their labour, increases the demand for the products of their labour, or provides complementary inputs with which to make their labour more productive (Fields 1993). These human assets can be enhanced through education, training, shared learning and other capacity building exercises.

Thus the PPA capital base extended beyond environmental assets to include physical, human and social assets as well. Apart from macroeconomic problems, restricted or insecure access of the poor to environmental assets also fundamentally entraps them, so developing an appropriate entitlement regime became the prerequisite of the framework.

Figure 2. PPA formulation and capital base

Development of institutional rationale

The primary objective of the Forest Department is to address the changing needs of forest-dependent communities by ensuring better synergies between people and forests through effective approaches that encompass the social, environmental and economic elements of forest management. In order to address these elements in Chhattisgarh it was imperative to harness the human side of the equation by adopting local technologies and traditional knowledge and mainstreaming them within broader development programmes. Rather than transplanting methods and technology without question, the thrust was on the improvement of existing local technology, including the use of information technology. Therefore, instead of focusing on ecology and forestry per se, the new assignment of the department was to enhance human livelihoods by employing the “E” strategy, i.e. “empowering”, “educating”, “enlisting” (their support) and introducing “equity”. Similarly, apropos resources, “enhancing and enriching” and “efficient” and “economic” were approached as windows of opportunity.

This approach is illustrated by the green triangle in Figure 3 (Sharma 1998).

Figure 3. The local (green) triangle

During the consultative process it became clear that forests in Chhattisgarh have significant potential to contribute to poverty reduction, food security and rural health by generating income, supplementing on- and off-farm income and raising the bargaining power of the poor via better access to natural capital assets. Accordingly the department crafted an institutional vision and core values.


To tap the vast array of forest resources on a sustainable basis in order to enhance local well

being by converting open access resources (OARs) into community-controlled, prioritized,

protected and managed resources.


  • Highest respect and concern for local people and their traditional knowledge.
  • Caring and sharing.
  • Capacity building at all levels.
  • Upgrading local technologies including the use of information technology.

Although these statements are not formally approved by the state government, they guide and direct the basic philosophy of the department. They have been incorporated, in one form or another, in state forest policy.

In order to convert these values into an implementable programme, the following issues were prioritized for inclusion within the work plan:

Towards a new forest policy

In order to address the above issues, it was strongly felt that the state should have its own forest policy. Although a National Forest Policy was promulgated in 1988 by the GOI, it was deemed necessary for the state to evolve an independent forest conservation strategy that addressed the state’s unique characteristics and challenges.

A draft policy paper was prepared by the department, which was discussed at a workshop organized by the Department of Culture in April 2001. This workshop was attended by anthropologists, archeologists, sociologists, NGOs, voluntary organizations and representatives from the media, besides government officials from different departments. In the first week of July 2001, members of forest user groups, presidents of various JFM committees, representatives from tribal, women’s and other village-level organizations were invited to a three-day workshop organized by the Forest Department, which tackled various issues relating to forests, including the aspirations and expectations of Chhattisgarh citizens. The meeting provided useful inputs for the draft policy. Finally in October 2001, a revised draft was submitted to the state cabinet for consideration. After cabinet analysis and incorporation of members’ suggestions, the forest policy was finalized. The state government endorsed the Chhattisgarh State Forest Policy, 2001 on 22 October 2001 (Government of Chhattisgarh 2001a).

Important developments in the State Policy are explained in Table 4.

Table 4. Forest policy — objectives

National Forest Policy, 1988

Chhattisgarh Forest Policy, 2001

Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance adversely disturbed by serious depletion of forests nationwide.

Unlocking the vast array of forest resources on a sustainable basis for the enhanced well-being of local people by converting OARs into community-controlled, prioritized, protected and managed resources.

A shift in focus from major to minor forest produce, from crown to multi-tier forestry and from flagship species to smaller denizens of the forests.

Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of ecological balance adversely disturbed by serious depletion of forests in the state.

Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving remaining natural forests with their vast variety of flora and fauna, which represent the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.

Conserving the biocultural heritage of the state through preservation of biologically rich natural forests essential to the state's tribal castes.

Forest policy – essentials/principles

Existing forests and forest lands should be fully protected and their productivity improved.

Existing forests and forest lands should be fully protected and their productivity increased. Efficient timber harvesting and utilization need to be promoted.

For the conservation of biological diversity, the network of national parks, sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and other protected areas should be strengthened and extended.

The network of national parks, sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and other protected areas should be strengthened and extended for the conservation of biocultural diversity in the state.

Targeting the broad range of goods and services in terms of physical, human, social, cultural and environmental assets in conjunction with appropriate entitlement regimes, PPA envisages a proactive and people-friendly framework to ensure long-term protection and maintenance of biological diversity; at the same time providing a sustainable flow of natural products and ser vices to meet local community needs. Therefore, a network of PPAs should be established as a livelihood asset for poor people

Other specific provisions to the National Forest Policy, necessary for translating the vision of the new department, are summarized below:

The state not only formulated the policy, but also has started implementation and monitoring.

Creating an enabling environment: benefit-sharing arrangements

The National Forest Policy (1988), the State Forest Policy (2001), the JFM Resolutions issued by the GOI and directives, as well as the Supreme Court of India’s decisions, provide the basic policy framework for forest administration. The legal framework flows from the Indian Forest Act (1927), the Wildlife (Protection) Act (1972), the Forest (Conservation) Act (1980) and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (1996).

In order to inculcate the philosophy of “caring and sharing” in community-based conservation and development of forests, the state developed mechanisms to ensure communities received their share of forest produce. Tangible forest products can be grouped under two headings — timber and non-timber forest produce — and the state JFM resolutions of 2001 and 2002 make specific provisions for the sharing of these benefits.

In this context, when a committee has performed satisfactory JFM work, it is entitled to retain 100 percent of the forest produce obtained periodically from mechanical thinning and cleaning of rehabilitated areas and the cleaning of bamboo clumps in degraded forests. FPCs or VFCs that fell timber/bamboo receive 15 and 30 percent respectively; they can keep the produce or exchange it for cash value. In August 2003, the state enacted further provisions for the sharing of forest produce, which were eventually used in the development of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to involve the private sector in the rehabilitation of degraded forests.

The department helps VFCs to prepare microplans as well as with their execution and monitoring. The committee receives training on maintaining the accounts and the department helps with account auditing. It also ensures that forest produce and other benefits are distributed among the members and that weaker actors, especially women, participate in decision-making and distribution of benefits.

Methods, system and approaches

Recognizing the importance of public involvement, the department has tried to engage as many stakeholders as possible in its approaches. The primary stakeholders (the FPCs and VFCs) are involved in the preparation of microplans with the help of the Forest Department. The village and forest areas allocated to each committee are included in this plan, which also contains forest management and village resource development programmes. Forestry operations have to be in alignment with the principles laid down for forest and wildlife management. To ensure a smooth working relationship between the Forest Department and the JFM committees — and also to imbue a sense of empowerment and accountability — an MOU was signed between the Forest Department and the JFM committees outlining short- and long-term roles, responsibilities and implementation of the work programme. The MOU reflects the consumption and livelihood needs of forest-dependent communities, plans for rehabilitation of vegetation, and clearly spells out roles, responsibilities and powers. The MOU defines the procedures for transparent accounting of all types of forest produce (seasonal, annual and periodic) accrued from the forests according to the work plan. It includes financial accountability and mechanisms for distribution of benefits including the re-investment of revenues into NWFP management programmes.

An important task for the department is the training of field staff and JFM committees to cope with the new roles and evolving challenges. Initially, the human and material resources of the forester and forest guard schools was reviewed with a view to enhancing capacity and skills, and upgrading facilities. Curriculums were revised to better reflect the department’s philosophy, and the key issues and roles the new department was expected to undertake. DFOs were directed to ensure that field staff working under them attended these training courses. Training modules for VFC and FPC members were also crafted and regular batches were sent for training.

From promises to performance

Action has been taken to execute the work plan under the new paradigm. The process of initiation, development and details of the operational modalities along with the impacts are described below.

PPA at work

Initially 1 500 hectares of Dugli–Jawarra forest, located 100 km south of Raipur, were selected as a model site for implementation of PPA. A meeting of all JFM committees and staff posted in this area was convened and the basic concept of PPA was explained to them. At the outset villagers were reluctant, perceiving PPA to be yet another mode for establishing a protected area and curtailing their access to forests. But when: (1) They were asked to identify 1 000 hectares of forest adjoining their villages for grazing and other bona fide needs; (2) they learned that the balance of 500 hectares would be treated as a core area to be strictly protected against fire and other biotic pressure; and (3) that harvesting on a non-destructive basis could continue, some elders visualized the rationale behind the concept and became supporters.

Detailed clarification on sharing of produce and initiation of other off- and on-farm income-generating activities helped to allay resistance. Field staff had initial reservations but after assessing the overall costs and benefits, they agreed to the proposal. As VFCs and FPCs had participated in site selection, demarcation and preparation of the microplan from the start, people felt that they had been positively involved. When forestry operations were executed through the committees, resulting in waged employment and sharing of the harvested produce, the momentum increased with encouraging results. As testimony to the success of the model site, FAO selected Dugli–Jawarra as one of 30 case studies of exemplary forest management in Asia-Pacific, for its In Search of Excellence initiative.

To upscale the programme, regular planning was formulated with funding from the state budget. The Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce Cooperative Federation Limited (CG MFP Federation) also earmarked funds to support establishment of PPAs. As a result, 32 PPAs, each extending over 15 000 to 20 000 hectares and encompassing more than 300 villages, have been established and serve as models of sustainable forest use. The programme has achieved in situ conservation in 122 632 hectares of forest and over 200 hectares of ex situ conservation and propagation. Facilities in forest schools at Mahasamund, Jagdalpur and Sakti have been upgraded and training related to non­destructive harvesting, collection, grading, processing and value addition of forest produce has been imparted to 3 220 people from VFCs and FPCs as well as frontline forest managers. In order to extend basic health cover in interior areas, 39 forest hospitals have been established where traditional healers and local vaidyas (Ayurvedic doctors) provide treatment, mostly based on medicinal plants. Furthermore, various income-generating activities based on forest and other resources are underway, including NWFP collection, bamboo handicrafts, other handicrafts (leaf cups, mats and sabai rope), honey collection, lac cultivation, fish farming and sericulture.

Dhamtari model: principle and practices

It has already been indicated that the various line departments in the institutional framework are not truly effective due to limited infrastructure and facilities in interior areas. Thus, there is a clear need for an innovative system to be developed.

Box 1. The proposed model

The Forest Department in conjunction with VFCs, FPCs and NWFP primary cooperatives provided a practical option to facilite, coordinate and, in some cases, execute the socioeconomic development programmes of various government line departments. This would be particularly valuable vis-à-vis the Forest Department’s physical presence and familiarity with forest dwellers in these areas. Collectively, these groups could form a Forest Fringe Area Development Authority (FFDA). To build technical capacity, experts could be inducted or hired and technical assistance could also be sought from line departments. Rural development funds available from the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) for administrative units could be divided between the existing agencies and the FFDA.

The state agreed in principle to this concept, but as it involved other line departments, the matter had to be submitted to the cabinet. After deliberation, the cabinet approved the proposal to implement the concept as a pilot model for integrated development of villages located within a 5-kilometre radius of forests in Dhamtari District. The “Dhamtari model” is a unique venture where villages located in the fringe areas of the forests have been brought under the umbrella of forest administration through the merging of development schemes.

In Dhamtari District, 401 villages are within a 5-kilometre radius of the forest. Initially, rapid rural appraisal (RRA) was conducted with the involvement of VFCs/FPCs and self-help groups (SHGs) in 100 villages located near the forest. The total population of these villages is 31 711, of which 73 percent is scheduled tribes and 3.5 percent is scheduled castes. Out of 7 525 families, 4 721 are below-the-poverty-line families (BPLs) and 1 122 families are landless. Average family income varies from Rs.6 000 to Rs.8 000 per annum and the average landholding is one hectare.

To improve livelihoods, microplans were prepared for clusters of five to ten villages using RRA. The microplans address forest development as well as village infrastructure activities such as irrigation, roads, culverts and other matters relating to agriculture, horticulture, apiculture and animal husbandry. Each cluster has a forest official as the nodal officer, who is assisted by specialists and resource persons. Line departments also develop master plans for the planning of activities in each cluster. The formulated plan is submitted to the village panchayat3 or gram sabha4 — the grassroots levels of governance in India. Adopting the same approach, integrated block- and district- level plans are developed. Each line agency is involved in preparing plans for a village cluster, block and district. After approval from the district panchayat or the village panchayat/gram sabha, the microplan is implemented through its target group. VFCs, FPCs and SHGs execute the work and depending upon its nature, line departments also participate. Staff and villagers’ capacity building, training and skill development form an integral part of the plan

Impact of the Dhamtari model

More than 39 percent of the district’s population resides in the project area. Prior to the project, line departments tended to opt for work in more easily accessible areas. Figure 4 illustrates increased allocation to the project area by line departments.

1. Rural Development & panchayats

2. Tribal Welfare

3. Agriculture

4. Horticulture

5. Fisheries

6. Animal Husbandry

7. Health & Family Welfare

8. Woman & Child Welfare

9. Public Health

10. Public Works


Figure 4. Allocation to the project area by line departments

This increased and more dispersed allocation and execution of development schemes in the project area has had a direct impact on the quality of life of inhabitants, as well as on the environment. For example, enhanced allocation by the Rural Development and Panchayat Department led to a foodgrain distribution jump from 375 000 to 2 748 200 kilograms, a rise in small-scale production activities from 102 to 434 and earnings increasing from Rs6 million to Rs75 million — all within three years.

These initiatives have resulted in lower incidence of wildfires and better control of illicit felling, grazing and encroachment. According to resource assessments carried out from 2001 to 2002 and 2004 to 2005, there has also been a distinct improvement in natural forest regeneration. Table 5 shows the impact on the availability and collection of NWFPs gathered on an annual basis.

Table 5. Collection and value of NWFPs





Quantity (kg)

Value (Rs)

Quantity (kg)

Value (Rs)



6 480

95 000

11 875


2 820

78 960

2 080

62 400

Dhawai flower

5 260

31 560

21 000

147 000


3 680

22 080

68 800

447 200

Mahul patta

620 000

18 600

900 000

315 000


5 150

257 500

15 300

918 000


2 118

19 062

9 250

92 500


1 835

3 670

4 000

8 000



1 215

12 540

119 130


82 400 pieces

65 920

456 000 pieces

410 400





14 400


505 497

2 545 905

Note. US$1.00 = Rs47.00 (8 September 2006).

Thus there has been an increase of over 400 percent in the collection and trade of NWFPs.

During the three years of project implementation, development initiatives costing approximately Rs30 million established drinking water facilities, irrigation and construction of schools using village resource development funds.

A leading national newspaper reported the dramatic changes being experienced by the Dhamtari tribal belt in the following words:

Decentralisation of power can do wonders for people. A proof of this are more than 2,500 tribal families in Dhamtari district. Over the past two years, life styles of mostly primitive Kamhar and Gond tribals has undergone a sea change, (sic, TOI 2005).

Public–private partnership (PPP)

More than half of the people living in the vicinity of the forests depend on them for their livelihoods, consequently the state is making efforts to arrest the pace of forest degradation and simultaneously promote rejuvenation of depleted forests. However, this remains a Herculean task. With a large forest plantation programme, India has no arrangement/system for timely procurement/collection, cleaning, testing, classification, certification and safe storage of tree seeds to date (GOI 1999b). Planting is carried out to meet numerical targets. There are several reasons for exploring other avenues: the lengthy time period required for government rehabilitation of these areas; limited financial resources; the quality and general performance of previous efforts; and lessons learned from private sector participation in various countries, including China.

Chhattisgarh has tried to formulate a model by involving local people directly in the management of forests. Towards this end, during 2002, the Forest Department invited expressions of interest from all concerned with forest management, including forest-based industry. However because of much uncertainty, no response was forthcoming. Subsequent discussions were held with various industrial houses that use forest-based raw materials. A representative of JK Paper Mills Ltd Raigarh (Orissa) made a presentation at forest headquarters in Raipur which explained the details of an agroforestry model for plantations using eucalyptus clones on farmers’ land in Orissa. Such plantations can be harvested after five years and a farmer can obtain three more coppice crops. JK Paper Mills supplies quality planting material and technical guidance in addition to providing a buy-back guarantee of produce for all farmers.

A group of senior forest officers inspected and collected relevant information on plantations raised by JK Paper Mills in Orissa. The group was impressed by the agroforestry plantations and suggested that the model be tried in degraded forests. It was proposed that a pilot project be implemented through JFM samitis,5 with ten VFCs identified in Mahasamund Forest Division, which borders Orissa. With a view to involving the samitis from the beginning, VFC members were taken to Orissa so that they could learn first-hand from the plantation initiative. After visiting these areas and discussions with counterpart farmers, the VFC members were enthusiastic and eager to initiate a similar scheme in degraded forest areas allotted to them.

On 5 August 2003, the state government made the following decree: VFCs that mobilized resources for rehabilitating allotted degraded areas either in cash or in kind from financial institutions or other employment generation programmes initiated by the state, would obtain 100 percent of the forest produce obtained from these areas on maturity. The samitis would be free to sell their share of non-nationalized forest produce and — after deducting the expenditure incurred by plantation formation, as well as the interest accrued on loans taken — the balance could be used by the samiti.

Figure 5. Predicted income and expenses under PPP over ten years

Thus for the first time in the country, rehabilitation of degraded forests through PPP mechanisms were initiated on a pilot scale in 2003 in Chhattisgarh. Mangalam Timber Ltd., the leading industrial house, supplied good quality planting material and provided buy-back guarantees to purchase eucalyptus wood with bark including twigs up to 2 cm in diameter. Twenty-three samitis in Jagdalpur, Raipur and Bilaspur Forest Conservancy planted eucalyptus, bamboo and aonla (Table 6).

Table 6. Plantation from 2003 to 2004

Name of conservancy

No. of samitis

Area (ha)

Total no. of plants




269 860




97 854




275 000




642 714

Encouraged by the performance of the plantations established in 2003, an additional 52 samitis came forward and more than 1 100 hectares were planted during the rainy season of 2004 (Table 7). During the 2005 season, approximately 1 500 hectares of degraded forest area had been brought under PPP.

Table 7. Plantation from 2004 to 2005

Name of conservancy

No. of samitis

Area (ha)

Total no. of plants




226 680




120 800




85 500




373 871




421 414




260 927



1 149.54

1 489 192

On average one hectare of plantation generates 275 workdays of employment for VFC members, equivalent to Rs.16 500/hectare calculated at a wage rate of Rs.60/day. Thus during 2003, 2004 and 2005, the VFCs earned about Rs.10 million, Rs.18 million and Rs.25 million respectively in wages. At maturity, after five years, the VFCs will harvest 25 to 30 tonnes/hectare of eucalyptus biomass per year, the market value of which will be approximately Rs.2 million to Rs.3 million. The VFCs can further augment incomes through intercropping of suitable species and medicinal plants and collection of NWFPs. Carbon trading offers another opportunity for income generation. A spin-off effect of this programme will be employment generated in forest areas. Even landless forest dwellers will be assured income, processing industries will access necessary raw materials and the Forest Department will succeed in expanding green cover in degraded forests without any departmental investment. This is a win-win situation for all partners.


Although there were initial teething troubles in the creation of Chhattisgarh, the Forest Department has made remarkable progress in pursuing its vision for the future. Enunciation of the State Forest Policy in 2001, its implementation, monitoring and documentation has been widely applauded as the first action of its kind in India. Using forests for the enhanced well-being of local people, and implementation of PPAs are innovative approaches to addressing various social, environmental and economic facets of forest management. Involvement of user groups including forest-based industries for the rehabilitation of degraded forests through PPP is yet another national “first”. The state has developed one of the most people-friendly benefit-sharing arrangements in the country. NWFPs are being mainstreamed into forest management and Chhattisgarh is one of the few states to endow ownership of NWFPs on the Panchayat Raj Institutions. Chhattisgarh is the first state in which the powers of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies have been awarded to forest officials to facilitate the work of cooperatives in the collection and trade of NWFPs. The Dhamtari model exemplifies the delegation of rural development officials’ powers to forest officers, the outcome of which has widely been seen as a success.

Despite these initiatives, there have been a number of difficulties. The new state faces a crisis of rising expectations. People are in a hurry to catch up to other more developed states in the country. However historical neglect and infrastructural deficiencies cannot be rectified in only a few years. Some political extremists are active and there is social unrest in northern and southern parts of the state. Moreover there is the problem of few entrepreneurs in interior areas.

Forestry has its own peculiar challenges. It has a long gestation period and the output requires considerable time to bear fruit. To meet multiple societal needs, considerable time and effort are required for successful re-invention. People living in and around forests are poor and are not in positions to wait indefinitely before realizing benefits. The frontline managers are ageing and as there have been no new recruits, forest guards are 48 to 50 years old on average. In the initial phase, staff were reluctant to come to Chhattisgarh and their morale was very low.

Another challenge is that JFM committees do not have legal backing. Many committees have been established by line departments to implement their departmental agenda but target groups are baffled by the plethora of schemes. Although serious efforts are being made to link JFM committees with the panchayats, this has yet to materialize. Similarly, for fear of losing their authority at the village level, line departments are not keen to merge their committees with others.

During the last two years, while JFM has generated substantial funds for some VFCs/FPCs, this has not transpired in many locations for a variety of reasons. This raises the need for improved tools and methods to develop human capacity.


The desire and determination to attain a distinct position within the country have been key factors in the success of Chhattisgarh’s initiatives. This was made possible mostly by the dynamic political leadership of the state’s chief minister. Realizing the role and importance of forests in maintaining livelihood systems and providing local, non-destructive opportunities for disadvantaged forest dwellers, the state was committed to unlocking these resources for the improve of the lives of rural communities. “Think globally and act locally” became the slogan of the department. The vision and a new role for the department found support even in unexpected sectors of society. Encouragement and appreciation at political, social and administrative levels boosted the morale of Forest Department staff and led to the development of a new institutional culture and ethos. More importantly, the cooperation and meaningful participation of forest dwellers provided the basic foundation for launching innovative forestry programmes. All of these factors resulted in a vibrant, empowered forestry department.

However there is another side to the story. As part of the World Bank Forestry project, many forest officers from Madya Pradesh were sent to international institutes to undergo specialized training courses in the 1990s, but none returned to Chhattisgarh. Moreover, nearly a dozen forest officers were selected by the state government to occupy senior positions in other (non-forestry) departments, including the state secretariat, because there was a severe shortage of experienced and competent officers in the state. This had implications for the quantity and quality of senior officers left in the department.

Another important factor flowed from the federal polity of the country. Forestry is on the Concurrent List of the Constitution, therefore both the central and state governments are charged with addressing matters relating to forestry. If the same political party is in power both at central and state levels, things run smoothly. But in Chhattisgarh, there were two different political parties in power during the formative stages, which created tensions and complexities.

Nonetheless, despite setbacks, which are an integral part of re-invention, the proactive and people-friendly framework of poverty alleviation, sustainable forest management and biocultural conservation conceptualized by the state is expected to provide a roadmap for addressing the complex scenario of rural poverty and forest conservation.


The Forest Department has never claimed its role is to resolve all social and environmental problems, but rather has sought to devolve responsibilities for problem resolution to community levels. Hence, very strong emphasis has been placed on the role of local people and their traditional knowledge. However, with new multistakeholder programmes for poverty reduction, such as PPA and PPP, their sustainability will directly depend upon cultivating the genuine support of new players in the process — communities and industry. This will require the department assuming multiple roles, often for which it has no precedent. This is a real challenge.


Anderson, J. 1998. Four considerations for decentralized forest management: subsidiarity, empowerment, pluralism and social capital. Paper presented at the International Seminar on Decentralization and Devolution of Forest Management in Asia and the Pacific, Davao City, Philippines. 30 November to 4 December 1998.

Chadha, C.S. & Sharma, R.C. 1998. Theory and Practice of Forest Fringe Area Development Authority (FFDA): Conceptual Framework. Submitted to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India, New Delhi.

Chhattisgarh Forest Department (CGFD). 2003a. Endowment of ownership rights of Minor

Forest Produce (MFP) — an analysis of promises and performance. Raipur.

CGFD. 2003b. People’s Protected Area (PPA) — unlocking forest of people. Raipur.

CGFD. 2003c. Mahanadi Protected Area (MNPA) — principles and practices. Raipur.

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GOI. 1998b. Report of the expert committee on conferring ownership rights of MFP on panchayat/ gram sabhas. New Delhi, Ministry of Environment and Forests.

GOI. 1999a. GOI/FAO/UNDP Project No. IND/97/966. Second Workshop for Preparation of Action Programme for Non-wood Forest Products (NWFP) for Sustainable Forest Development, Rural Income Generation and Biodiversity Conservation, Bhopal, 27–29 January 2000.

GOI. 1999b. National forestry action programme — India. New Delhi, Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Government of Chhattisgarh. 2001a. State forest policy 2001. Raipur, Forest and Culture Department.

Government of Chhattisgarh. 2001b. Chhattisgarh in charts and graphs. Raipur, Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

Sharma, R.C. 1997. Total forest management (TFM). Paper presented at the XIth World Forestry Conference, Antalya, Turkey.

Sharma, R.C. 1998. What ails JFM? Paper presented at the International Seminar on Decentralization and Devolution of Forest Management in Asia and the Pacific, Davao City, Philippines. 30 November to 4 December 1998.

Sharma, R.C. 1999. FAO/UNEP International Technical Consultation on Protected Area Management and Sustainable Rural Development – how can they be reconciled? Paper presented in Harare, Zimbabwe, 26–29 October 1999.

Shi Kunshan & Co-workers. 1997. China’s country report on forestry, APFSOS/WP/14. Bangkok, FAO RAP.

Singh, D. 2000. Chhattisgarh — a state is born. Bhopal, Sanket.

Times of India (TOI). 16 August 2005. New Delhi.

1 Indian Forest Service (retired).

2 Non-timber forest product (synonymous with NWFP).

3 Local governmental body.

4 A body of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village or a group of villages which elects a panchayat.

5 Another local government body.

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