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Friday, January 13, 2012

Forests in India

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The extensive tract of land covered with naturally growing trees and undergrowth, sometimes intermingled with pastures is called as a Forest.

Buddha has defined forest as- ‘peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demand for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it offers protection to all beings, offering shade to the axe man who destroys it.’

A forest is a big natural ecosystem comprising numerous producers, consumers and decomposers alongwith non-living components. It is a renewable resource and wealth of the country. The forest cover in India is 6, 75,538 sq. km which constitutes 20.55%of its total geographic area. As per the “State of Forest Report” 2001, the mangrove cover of India occupies an area of 4,482 sq. km which is 0.14% of the geographic area. Madhya Pradesh, the state of India, accounts for the largest forest cover of the country (20.68 percent) which is followed by Arunachal Pradesh (10.08 percent), Orissa (7.38 percent), Maharashtra (7 percent), and Andhra Pradesh (6.94 percent). These seven states of north eastern India constitute 25.70 percent of the total forest cover of India

Importance of Forests
(i)Forests provide timber for building and furniture besides providing raw materials for various types of industries like paper.
(ii)Forests serve as habitat for numerous types of organisms besides providing fodder to cattle.
(iii) Forests provide protection from adverse effects of solar radiations and regulate water cycle as well as temperature.
(iv) Forests maintain gaseous balance of O2- CO2.
(v) Forests provide valuable herbs and fruits of commercial importance.
(vi) Forests check soil erosion, floods, landslides, desertification etc. and help in causing rains.
(vii) Forests provide various medicines and chemicals like resins, gums, alkaloids etc.

Degradation of Forests
Widespread damage to forests and depletion of vegetation is being caused by various human activities of cutting trees, overgrazing by cattle, conversion of forest land into crop land and pollutions. Vast tracts of forests are destroyed every year through different natural and human induced calamities across the globe. Some of these calamities are forest fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, landslides, avalanches and cyclones. Forest fires may be (i) Surface fires (burning of undergrowth and dead materials on the floor of the forest), (ii) ground fires (fire burns roots and oily materials on the ground), (iii) Crown fires (burning of canopies of trees) and (iv) Fire storms (intense forest fire covering very large area). 

India formulated its ‘Forest Policy’ in 1894 which was revised in 1952 and again revised in 1988. Protection, conservation and development of forests of India are the main focal objectives of this policy. 
The aims of Indian Forest Policy are-
(i)Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance.
(ii)Conservation of natural heritage.
(iii)Check on soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers.
(iv)Check on desertification and extension of sand along coastal areas.
(v)Increasing forest cover upto minimum 80% of the total geographic area of the country through massive   Afforestation and social forestry programmes.
(vi)Steps to increase fuel wood, fodder, minor-forest produce for tribal and ruralpopulations etc.

The Govt. of India initiated Joint Forest Management (JFM) in 1990, by issuing guidelines to involve the village community in the development and protection of vanishing forests on share-basis. Till 2005, 1 7.83 million hectares of forest area wasbrought under the Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme.

Key Words : Forest, Forest Policy, Joint Forest Management

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