After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Introduction to Current Status of Forest Resources 2. Resource Exploitation 3. Deforestation of Tropical Forest 4. Developmental Activities (Mining, Dam, Infrastructure Development etc.) and their Impact on Forest 5. Forest Produces 6. Forest and Tribal Life 7. Forest Policy and Forest Protection Laws 8. Forest Conservation Management Strategy.
Introduction to Current Status of Forest Resources:
There are various forest types throughout the globe.
Primarily forest types and species composition varies with climate, soil types and other geomorphic features of the locations.
In tropics, forest diversity is much more with respect to temperate or polar regions.
An over view of global forest cover area is shown in the Table 6.1.
India has 67.55 million hectares of recorded forest area (2000). This accounts for 20.55% of total geographic area. Per capita availability of forests in India is 0.06 ha which is much lower than the world average of 0.64 ha. The distribution of forest cover area state wise/UTS of India is shown in Table 6.2.
Forest has multipurpose utility and direct use value. Many useful products obtained from trees of forest (Fig. 6.2). Tropical forest constitute about 6% of the earth’s land area. But since 1950s, such forest cover has been vanishing very rapidly.
The most widely accepted current estimate is that the world is losing remaining tropical forests at a rate of at least 154,000 sq kilometer per year—equivalent to about 34 city blocks per minute, or almost two football fields per seconds.
It is also estimated that an equivalent area of these forests is seriously degraded without being destroyed outright each year. In some place deforestation for resource exploitation is so high, that as a result country like Haiti has lost 98° o of its original forest cover, the Philippines 97% and Madagascar 84%.
Tropical forests touch the daily lives everyone on the earth through the products and ecological services they provide. These forests supply half of the world’s annual harvest of hardwood, hundreds of food products (coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, nuts, chocolate, and fruits), and materials such as natural latex rubber, resins, dyes and essential oils that can be harvested sustainably.
The active ingredients for 25% of the world’s prescribed drugs are substances derived from plants most of which grow in tropical rain forests. Such drugs are used to treat a huge variety of disease. Commercial sales of drugs with active ingredients derived from tropical forests total an estimated $100 billion per year worldwide.
In addition, most of the original strains of rice, wheat, and corn that supply more than half of the world’s food were developed from wild tropical plants.
Deforestation of Tropical Forest:
Deforestation of tropical forest was made for various reasons. Resource exploitation for commercial gain is definitely one of the major cause. But, mining, cattle ranching and dam buildup, etc. are said to be equally important causatives.
By and large, deforestation in tropical forest results from a number of inter connected causes, all of which are related in some way to population growth, poverty, and government policies. It is estimated that if the deforestation rate continues as usual, 20% of tropical forest species will be extinct by 2020 and 50% by 2050.
Conservation biologists have urged that we must identify and move rapidly to protect areas of tropical forests that are both rich in unique species and in imminent danger—so called hotspot (Table 6.3).
Environmentalists urge countries to reduce the flow of the landless poor to tropical forests by slowing population growth and discouraging the poor from migrating to undisturbed tropical forests; and to sharply reduce the poverty that leaves the poor no choice but to use the forests unsustainably. Programmes are also needed to help new settlers in tropical forests learn how to practice small-scale sustainable agriculture.
Developmental Activities (Mining, Dam, Infrastructure Development etc.) and their Impact on Forest:
For human welfare, various kinds of developmental activities were undertaken nationally, regionally and globally. The activities are mining in the forest area, construction of dam in the river catchment, construction of road and rail links as infrastructure development are very common activity.
In all cases deforestation or submergence of forest cover is imperative. To overcome these problems appropriate environmental management plan needs to be undertaken in each case.
Eco-restoration of mine areas particularly in opencast mining zone is common practice now a days. In most of the developmental projects soil erosion control, treatment and disposal of tailing waste water, massive afforestation around project area are very common practice.
Micro watershed management is adopted mostly instead of mega dam projects. Air pollutants from industrial areas often caused acid rain and thus damaged the forest area as reported in the past, but now such a situation is widely averted through adoption of appropriate pollution control and greenbelt development.
There are a number of forest produce, available from both natural and plantation forests in addition to timbers and fuel woods. These are mostly designated as non-wood or non-timber forest produce (NWFP/NTFP). The broad categories of such forest produces are listed in Table 6.4.
NWFP has a great importance in the rural area of our country. It is estimated that nearly 60% of India’s forest revenue are from NWFP and economic conditions of the most of the Indian tribal community depends on availability of NWFP resources in their locality.
Forest and Tribal Life:
There is no denial of facts that tribals mostly economically depend on forest resources and as such their life styles are ecologically linked up with forest ecosystem activities. From ancient time, tribals utilise forests wealth as a source of food, feed, medicine, fuel materials and other purposes too. In-spite of massive cultural changes among the forest dwelling tribals, they still mostly depend on these resources as available from the forest.
The rapid destruction of forests for developmental works, land conversion, has not only put pressure on forest resources and the forest dwellers but also disturb the ecological balance. Since independence, India’s forest depletes severely and thus forest polices has been revised from time to time for better management and protection of forest cover areas.
Tribal rights on NWFP sometime overlooked in many years. As a consequence forest dwelling communities are facing severe economic constrain for their livelihood.
Forest Policy and Forest Protection Laws:
India is one of the few countries which has a forest policy since 1894. It was revised twice after independence 1952 and 1988. The prime objectives of forest policy are protection, conservation, and development of forest. This policy has a number targets to achieve in a suitable time frame.
These are as follows:
1. Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance;
2. Conservation of natural heritage;
3. Check on soil erosion and denudation in catchment area of rivers, lakes and reservoirs;
4. Check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts;
5. Substantial increase in tree cover in forest areas and around through massive afforestation and social forestry programme;
6. Steps to meet requirements of fuel wood, fodder, minor forest produce and supply timber of rural and tribal populations;
7. Increase in productivity of forest to meet the national need;
8. Encouragement to efficient utilisation of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood;
9. Steps to create massive people’s movement with involvement of women to achieve the objectives and minimise pressure on existing forest.
For legal protection of forest, Indian Forest Act 1927 was adopted and subsequently it was also amended. In 1980, Forest (Conservation) Act was enacted for specific purpose of forest protection. Subsequent forest Conservation rules 1981 was framed for proper implementation of Act. In 2003, once again Forest (Conservation) Rule was amended.
A National Forestry action programme (NEAP) has also been formulated as a comprehensive strategic long term plan. In addition in 1990, the Government also issued guidelines to involve the village communities in the development and protection of degraded forests on the basis of their benefit sharing.
This is programme of Joint Forest Management (JFM). This is a country wide massive programme. As on 1st December 2002, 14.26 million hectare of forest land in the country is being managed and protected by 64,000 JFM groups.
Forest Conservation Management Strategy:
In order to protect the forest conservation as it exists today and promote more forest creation, a number of programmes were launched country wide. This involves protection of various forest area as protected wildlife habitats viz., biosphere reserves, sanctuary, natural park, reserve forest and community reserve.
In addition, wasteland afforestation, and social forestry programmes were also adopted for diversion of peoples pressure on natural forest. Many industries depends on forest resource for their existence, so commercial plantation of selected trees were also taken up to reduce the pressure on natural forest.
Ministry of Forest and Environment, Govt. of India, always provide legal and administrative support to state forest departments for undertaking appropriate protection measure, of course people participation in all the management programmes are very much essential for achieving appropriate goals.