(a) Deforestation (Forest Destruction) : Deforestation is a threat to the economy, quality of life and future of the environment. Main causes of deforestation in India are explosion of human and livestock population, increased requirement of timber and fuel wood, expansion of cropland and enhanced grazing. Another cause of forest degradation is construction of roads along the mountains. Increased demand for fuel wood, wooden crates, paper, board and newsprint have led to large scale tree felling. Ideally one third (or 33%) of land of a country must be covered by forest. In India, forest cover is only 19.43% out of which only 13% are thick forest. Rest is bushy land. Deforestation has caused intensified soil erosion, accentuated floods and drought and loss of precious wild life and has led to deterioration of economy and quality of life of two weaker sections of the society.
India is losing about 1.5 million hectares of forest cover each year. Nearly one percent of the land surface of India is turning barren every year due to deforestation. In the Himalayan range, the rainfall has declined 3 to 4 percent due to deforestation.
(b) Afforestation : Forests occupy central position in nature. They restore ecological balance of all ecosystems, maintain biological diversity, art as catchments for soil and water conservation, prevent floods and safeguard future of tribal people. In order to meet such needs, we need to develop massive afforestation programme of indigenous and exotic fast growing species for production and protection of forestry on suitable land including wasteland. A massive social forestry programme is needed to meet demands of local people for fuel, fodder, timber, etc. Then there is need for wood-based industry.
Today the two major goals for forestry are
(i) Supply of goods and services to people and industry by a well thought out plan of production, and long term ecological security through conservation of forest cover and its restoration.
(ii) Conservation of forest or Reserve forests, i.e., National Parks, sanctuaries, sacred groves, biosphere reserves and all ecologically fragile areas are covered by Government of India. No commercial exploitation can be allowed in these areas.
Limited production forestry : In these forests, the annual increment may be harvested in a very careful and controlled manner so as to avoid soil and tree damage. These forest are present in hilly areas at the height of more than 1000 meters.
Production forests : These are forests of plains. Their scientific exploitation does not pose any threat to environment.
Intensive plantation: This includes planting of all the available land from village fields, to community land and to road/rail sides and available space. Social and agro-forestry programmes are included in this category.
Production plantations : This is entirely commercial forestry developed to meet the need of the forest—based industry. Plantations are to be done on fallow land not being used for agriculture, mostly free grazing lands. Short rotation species are to be preferred over long duration sal and teak.
Social and Agro forestry : The social forest programme stared in 1976. It seeks the use of public and common land to produce firewood., fodder and small timber for the use of the rural community to relieve pressure on existing forests needed for soil and water conservation.
The programme includes raising, planting and protecting trees with multiple uses (firewood, fodder, agricultural implements, fruits, etc.) for the rural community.
The Agro-forestry Programme consists of reviving an ancient land use practice where the same land is used for farming, forestry and animal husbandry.
(c) The National Forest Policy, 1988 : The National forest Policy, 1988, stressed peoples involvement as one of the essential components of forest management in the development and protection of forests. The main features of the 1988 Forest Policy are : (i) maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance; (ii) conservation of natural heritage; (iii) check soil erosion and denudation of catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs; (iv) check on extension of desert areas; (v) substantial increase in forest density through afforestation; (vi) steps to meet requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest products and timber for rural and tribal populations, (viii) encouragement of efficient utilization of forest produce and optimum substitution of fodder and fuel wood, and (ix) steps to promote peoples participation in forest conservation.
Bio-diversity action plan. An ongoing national programme is attempting to reach out to tens of thousands of people in the making of a new vision and strategy related to environment and development. This is the National Bio-diverstiy Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).
There have been several international treaties and pacts relating to it, the latest and most comprehensive being the convention of Biological Diversity. The CBD was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 by 155 nation states and came into force in 1993. This legally binding treaty obliges ratifying countries to protect bio-diversity to move towards the sustainable use of biological resources and to ensure that benefits from such use are shared equitably across local, regional, national and global societies. India ratified this convention m 1994.
National Bio-diversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) has also been launched in January 2000 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
It is an attempt towards truly operationalising the much abused word in the development sector called ‘participation’. To achieve this there has been an effort to decentralize the entire process. The NBSAP entails the preparation of action plans at five levels.
About 20 substate sites ranging from a village like Nahin Kalan in Uttaranchal to a protected area like the Simplipal Tiger Reserve in Orissa to the Bio-diversity rich West Garo Hills in Meghalaya.
• All 13 states an union territories of India
• 10 interstate ecoregions, cutting across state
• A National themes
• A National Strategy and Plan building on all of the above.