DAY #117 – Free GS Answer Writing Practice

1)You are an Indian Forest Service Officer posted in a division which falls in the coastal
regulation zone and contains multiple wildlife sanctuaries. Recently, the State government has brought up a proposal of a new food processing park in your division. Under the proposal, around 175 square kilometers of forest land will be acquired as per the law. The developers of the project claim the various socio-economic benefits it can provide to the people in the area. Due to this a sizeable chunk of trees will be uprooted. There are studies which suggest that such initiatives have a long-term impact on wildlife and also leads to human-wildlife conflict.Some residents living in the periphery of the forest have supported this move in hope of employment opportunities. However, traditional dwellers of the forests have protested against this move. The government has constituted a committee to frame guidelines for sustainable operation of this project. The committee has asked for your suggestions in this regard.
(a) Identify the principles and values that would guide your suggestions in this regard.
(b) What course of action should be taken in order to balance the social and environmental needs in this case?

The aforementioned case relates to the ecological health of a region, wildlife protection and rights of traditional forest dwellers in comparison with developmental needs of an economy. The stakeholders involved in the case include the forest department, state government, residents of the peripheral region who wish to secure a source of income and livelihood and traditional forest dwellers who have economic and cultural affinity to forests.

a) As an Indian Forest Services officer involved in the process of consultation to frame guidelines for sustainable operation of the project, one has to be guided by civil services values and general principles that go behind sustainable forest and wildlife management in India. These shall guide me in the following way:

General principles guiding sustainable forest and wildlife management:
• Adopting an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach: Any recommendation in this regard must be informed by an integrated approach that takes into account sectoral concerns related to environment, protected areas, land, forests etc.
• Guaranteeing public participation in decision making: Due importance must be given to public participation across various levels of decision making since it directly impacts their interests and has the potential to garner a long-term solution acceptable to all.
• Striking a balance between service provision and rights of people: The decision-making powers should be exercised in a framework of fairness that transparently and fairly weighs benefits of proposed services against the rights of stakeholders and strikes a balance between the two.

Spirit of service: As an IFS officer, it is my duty to implement the National Forest Policy that ensures the ecological stability of the country through protection of natural resources. Hence, my suggestions would be informed by the value of being committed to public service without any personal motives.
Objectivity: To make any recommendation with the potential to impact stakeholders, choices must be made on merit.
Accountability: Any proposed decision or action must be available for appropriate scrutiny across various levels.
Empathy: Since the decision impacts the general population, many of whom are possibly vulnerable, it is important to understand their situation and address their concerns properly.
Courage of conviction: It is likely that some suggestions made in this regard may not find takers across some sections of stakeholders involved. However, my suggestions would be guarded by my courage of conviction.

b) Following would be the proposed plan of action that would strike a balance between the social and environmental needs of the region:
• A detailed feasibility study led by experts must be set up to ascertain the practical implications of setting up the food processing park, its social, economic and environmental costs, proposed benefits and alternatives, if any.
• The detailed findings of the study would then be divulged across various stakeholders and their suggestions/objections would be invited.
• A forum for bringing all the stakeholders together for deliberation on this issue would then be created, which offers everyone the right to voice their opinion.
• Special emphasis would be placed on the objections raised by traditional forest dwellers and the root cause of their concerns must be identified.
• If the concerns raised hold merely economic value, efforts must be made to ensure that part of the economic benefits of the project would be shared amongst them alongside addressing their resettlement and rehabilitation concerns.
• If the concerns raised are related to their cultural roots, efforts would then be made to rope in community elders to reach a consensus regarding the critical importance of the project and inform them of cost escalation due to avoidable delays in project implementation.
• The developers of the project must convince the traditional forest dwellers that due care would be taken to ensure that the project would come at the least cost to their culture.
• In case of no consensus, precautionary measures must be drafted that include additional personnel to maintain law and order in case the situation worsens.

The aforementioned plan of action balances the social and economic needs of the region with its ecological needs. This is necessary to protect the interests of both present and future generations.

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