Realising that the community rights provided in forests have not been “very successful” so far, the Government today said it would reach out to the state governments to address this shortcoming.

“One of the reasons why we are stressing on community forest rights is that community control over the land can be exercised. Unfortunately, while the Forest Rights Act has succeeded in giving a very large number of individual forest rights, community forest rights have not been very successful,” Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said here.

“It would be our endeavour now to impress upon the state governments and forest departments to recognise and respect the community first as the rights of the communities over land is an integral part of the Act,” he said at a seminar.

Ramesh said that since the implementation of the Act, 10 lakh individual titles have been distributed.

The Environment Ministry would also work closely with the Tribal Affairs Ministry to set up a National Forest Rights Council, he said.

Ramesh said he has also written to the state chief ministers to declare bamboo as a “minor forest produce“.

“I have also written that the joint forest management committees should be brought into the control of Gram Sabhas,” he said, adding that most of the committees, at present, are under the Forest Department.

The seminar on the Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 made a series of recommendations after day-long deliberations which sought the state governments to follow the provisions of the Forest Rights Act “correctly” and in a time-bound manner to deal with the large number of claims which have been filed under the Act.

It suggested that rights should be verified only after proper verification through use of latest technology and national and state level monitoring mechanism should be galvanised for proper implementation of the Act.

It also suggested that the joint forest management committees be given legal back up and they need to be empowered to take management decisions under the Act.