Forests in India

History of forests in India

All ancient texts have some mention of the forest and the activities that were performed in these areas. Forests were revered by the people and a large number of religious ceremonies centred on trees and plants. The Agni Purana, written about 4000 years ago, stated that man should protect trees to have material gains and religious blessings. Around 2500 years ago, Gautama Buddha preached that man should plant a tree every five years. Sacred groves were marked around the temples where certain rules and regulations applied.

Forest loss in India probably worse than thought

Researchers have questioned 2009 findings by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) that found that India’s forests were, unlike many tropical Asian nations’, on the rebound. According to the FSI, Indian forests had grown by almost five percent from the 1990s. Yet, were these finding too good to be true?

WWF India – Forests

Forest is the second largest land use in India next to agriculture. The forest cover of India is assessed as 67.83 million hectares which constitute 20.64 per cent of the country’s geographical area, ranging from the Himalayan Temperate to Dry Zone forests. The National Forest Policy stipulates that one-third of area should be under forest or tree cover. Being a mega-biodiversity country the nation possesses high level of endemism.

The forests play vital role in harboring more than 45,000 floral and 81,000 faunal species of which 5150 floral and 1837 faunal species are endemic. The nation has established 597 Protected Areas comprising 95 National Parks, 500 Wildlife Sanctuaries 2 conservation reserves covering 1.56 million ha area or 4.75 per cent geographical area of the country

Conservation of Forests in India (Wikipedia)

The role of forests in the national economy and in ecology was further emphasized in the 1988 National Forest Policy, which focused on ensuring environmental stability, restoring the ecological balance, and preserving the remaining forests. Other objectives of the policy were meeting the need for fuelwood, fodder, and small timber for rural and tribal people while recognizing the need to actively involve local people in the management of forest resources. Also in 1988, the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was amended to facilitate stricter conservation measures. A new target was to increase the forest cover to 33 percent of India’s land area from the then-official estimate of 23 percent. In June 1990, the central government adopted resolutions that combined forest science with social forestry, that is, taking the sociocultural traditions of the local people into consideration.

Conservation has been an avowed goal of government policy since independence. Afforestation increased from a negligible amount in the first plan to nearly 89,000 square kilometres in the seventh plan. The cumulative area afforested during the 1951-91 period was nearly 179,000 square kilometres. However, despite large-scale tree planting programs, forestry is one arena in which India has actually regressed since independence. Annual fellings at about four times the growth rate are a major cause. Widespread pilfering by villagers for firewood and fodder also represents a major decrement. In addition, the forested area has been shrinking as a result of land cleared for farming, inundations for irrigation and hydroelectric power projects, and construction of new urban areas, industrial plants, roads, power lines, and schools.

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