Forests have an intricate interrelationship with life and environment. These provide numerous direct and indirect advantages to our economy and society. Hence, conservation of forest is of vital importance to the survival and prosperity of humankind. Accordingly, the Government of India proposed to have a nation-wide forest conservation policy, and adopted a forest policy in 1952, which was further modified in 1988. According to the new forest policy, the Government will emphasise sustainable forest management in order to conserve and expand forest reserve on the one hand, and to meet the needs of local people on the other.
The forest policy aimed at : (i) bringing 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover; (ii) maintaining environmental stability and to restore forests where ecological balance was disturbed; (iii) conserving the natural heritage of the country, its biological diversity and genetic pool; (iv) checks soil erosion, extension of the desert lands and reduction of floods and droughts; (v) increasing the forest cover through social forestry and afforestation on degraded land; (vi) increasing the productivity of forests to make timber, fuel, fodder and fodder available to rural population dependent on forests, and encourage the substitution of wood; (vii) creating of a massive peoples movement involving women to encourage planting of trees, stop felling of trees and thus, reduce pressure on the existing forest.
Forests and Life
To a vast number of tribal people, the forest is a home, a livelihood, their very existence. It provides them food, fruits of all kinds, edible leaves, honey nourishing roots and wild game. It provides them with material to build their houses and items for practicing their arts. The importance of forests in tribal economy is well-known as they are the source of sustenance and livelihood for tribal communities. It is commonly believed that the tribal communities live in harmony with nature and protect forests. Out of a total of 593 districts 188 have been identified as tribal districts. The tribal districts account for about 59.61 per cent of the total forest cover of the country whereas the geographical area of 188 tribal districts forms only 33.63 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. It demonstrates that tribal districts are generally rich in forest cover.
Forest and tribals are very closely related. The age-old knowledge of tribals regarding forestry can be used in the development of forests. Rather than treating tribals as minor forest produce collectors they should be made growers of minor forest produce and encouraged to participate in conservation.
Based on the forest conservation policy the following steps were initiated”
Social forestry means the management and protection of forests and afforestation on barren lands with the purpose of helping in the environmental, social and rural development.
The National Commission on Agriculture (1976) has classified social forestry into three categories. These are Urban forestry, Rural forestry and Farm forestry.
Urban forestry pertains to the raising and management of trees on public and privately owned lands in and around urban centres such as green belts, parks, roadside avenues, industrial and commercial greenbelts, etc.
Rural forestry lays emphasis on promotion of agro-forestry and community-forestry.
Agro-forestry is the raising of trees and agriculture crops on the same land inclusive of the waste patches. It combines forestry with agriculture, thus, altering the simultaneous production of food, fodder, fuel, timber and fruit. Community forestry involves the raising of trees on public or community land such as the village pasture and temple land, roadside, canal bank, strips along railway lines, and schools etc. Community forestry programme aims at providing benefits to the community as a whole. Community forestry provides a means under which the people of landless classes can associate themselves in tree-raising and thus, get those benefits which otherwise are restricted for landowners.
Farm forestry is a term applied to the process under which farmers grow trees for commercial and non-commercial purposes on their farm lands.
Forest departments of various states distribute seedlings of trees free of cost to small and medium farmers. Several lands such as the margins of agricultural fields, grasslands and pastures, land around homes and cowsheds may be used for raising trees under non-commercial farm forestry.
You would have visited a zoo and may have seen animals and birds in captivity. Wildlife of India is a great natural heritage. It is estimated that about 4-5 per cent of all known plant and animal species on the earth are found in India. The main reason for this remarkable diversity of life forms is the great diversity of the ecosystem which this country has preserved and supported through the ages. Over the years, their habitat has been disturbed by human activities and as a result, their numbers have dwindled significantly. There are certain species that are at the brink of extinction.
Some of the important reasons of the declining of wildlife are as follows:
(i) Industrial and technological advancement brought about a rapid increase in the exploitation of forest resources.
(ii) More and more lands were cleared for agriculture, human settlement, roads, mining, reservoirs, etc.
(iii) Pressure on forests mounted due to lopping for fodder and fuelwood and removal of small timber by the local people.
(iv) Grazing by domestic cattle caused an adverse effect on wildlife and its habitat.
(v) Hunting was taken up as a sport by the elite and hundreds of wild animals were killed in a single hunt. Now commercial poaching is rampant.
(vi) Incidence of forest fire.
It is felt that conservation of wildlife is of great significance to the national as well as the world heritage along with the promotion of ecotourism.
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN INDIA
The protection of wildlife has a long tradition in India. Many stories of Panchtantra and Jungle Books, etc. have stood the test of time relating to the love for wildlife. These have a profound impact on young minds.
In 1972, a comprehensive Wildlife Act was enacted, which provides the main legal framework for conservation and protection of wildlife in India. The two main objectives of the Act are; to provide protection to the endangered species listed in the schedule of the Act and to provide legal support to the conservation areas of the country classified as National parks, sanctuaries and closed areas. This Act has been comprehensively amended in 1991, making punishments more stringent and has also made provisions for the protection of specified plant species and conservation of endangered species of wild animals.
There are 103 National parks and 535 wildlife sanctuaries in the country.
Wildlife conservation has a very large ambit with unbounded potential for the well-being of humankind. However, this can be achieved only when every individual understands its significance and contributes his bit.
For the purpose of effective conservation of flora and fauna, special steps have been initiated by the Government of India in collaboration with UNESCO’s ‘Man and Biosphere Programme’.
Special schemes like Project Tiger (1973) and Project Elephant (1992) have been launched to conserve these species and their habitat in a sustainable manner.
Project Tiger has been implemented since 1973. The main objective of the scheme is to ensure maintenance of viable population of tigers in India for scientific, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values, and to preserve areas of biological importance as natural heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people. Initially, the Project Tiger was launched in nine tiger reserves, covering an area of 16,339 sq. km, which has now increased to 44 tiger reserves, encompassing 36,988.28 sq. km. of core tiger habitats distributed in 17 states. The tiger population in the country has registered an increase from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010.
Project Elephant was launched in 1992 to assist states having free ranging population of wild elephants. It was aimed at ensuring long-term survival of identified viable population of elephants in their natural habitat. The project is being implemented in 17 states.
Apart from this, some other projects such as Crocodile Breeding Project, Project Hangul and conservation of Himalayan Musk deer have also been launched by the Government of India.
A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The Biosphere Reserve aims at achieving the three objectives as follows:
Conservation: Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem.
Development: Association of environment with development.
Logistics: International network for research and monitoring.
There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India. Ten Biosphere Reserves have been recognized by the UNESCO on World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
List of Biosphere Reserves
Name of the Biosphere Reserve and Total Geographical Area (km3)
Date of Designation
Location in the States/ UT
Part of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Madumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani Hills (Tamil Nadu, Keral and Karnataka).
Nanda Devi (5860.69)
Part of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora Districts in Uttarakhand.
Part of East, West and South Garo Hill Districts in Meghalaya.
Part of KOkrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup and Darang Districts in Assam.
Part of delta Ganges and Brahamaputra river system in West Bengal.
Gulf of Mannar (10500)
Indian part of Gulf of Mannar extending from Rameswaram island in the North to Kanyakumari in the South of Tamil Nadu.
Great Nicobar (885)
Southernmost island of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Part of Mayurbhanj District in Odisha.
Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts in Assam.
Dehang Debang (5111.5)
Part of upper Siang, West Siang and Dibang Valley Districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
Part of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chhindwara Districts in Madhya Pradesh.
Part of North and West Districts in Sikkim.
Part of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts in Kerala.
Part of Anuppur and Dindori Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh.
Part of Kachchh, Rajkot, Surendranagar and Patan Districts in Gujarat.
Cold Desert (7770)
Pin Valley National Park and surroundings; Chandratal and Sarchu and Kibber Wildlife sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.
Seshachalam hill ranges in Eastern Ghats encompassing part of Chittoor and Kadapa Districts in Andhra Pradesh.
Part of Pann and Chhattarpur Districts in Madhya Pradesh.