Keywords: community forest management, CFM, community management, Sikkim Himalaya, carbon benefits, remote sensing, India, sustainable development, sustainability, biodiversity, conservation ethics, socio–economic resources, natural resources, environmental law, capacity building, climate change
Community forest management in Sikkim Himalaya towards sustainable development
Sikkim state is rich in biodiversity with a vibrant traditionally strong conservation ethics in place. This work aimed to understand the diverse systems of community forest management and their status with special reference to the nature of institutions governing them. As such, prolific and luxuriant state of the forests is perceptible through remote sensing data based on derivations of normalised difference vegetation index and land use/cover. Existing community forest management practices such as sacred landscapes/groves, gumpa (monastery) forests, private forests earlier managed by kazis/royal family members, taungya, bhasme and dzumsa/pipon system, etc. were field documented. Community management components of the state administered forests like joint forest management, eco–development committees for protected areas, watershed committees and panchayats/mandals were also observed. Practices still in existence, historical perspectives, management mechanism, administering authority, culture/tradition, forest status, traditional ecological knowledge and its constraints were assessed. Socio–economic and natural resources interlinking in all the practices was assessed which should be an important factor for environmental law capacity building. There are further scopes of carbon benefits from community forest management in the context of climate change regimes.