India and development of forests. The programme of

India is one of the few countries which has a forest policy since 1894. It was revised in 1952 and again in 1988.

Main plank of the forest policy of 1988 is protection, conservation and development of forests. The programme of preserving and protecting the forests is known as the Programme of Forest Conservation. Under the scheme of forest conservation the following measures have been adopted: (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 catchment area of rivers, lakes and reservoirs: (iv) Check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts; (v) Substantial increase in forest tree cover through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes; (vi) Steps to meet requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and soil timber of rural and tribal populations; (vii) Increase in productivity of forest to meet the national needs; (viii) Encouragement of efficient utilization of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood and; (ix) Steps to create massive people’s movement with involvement of women to achieve the objectives and minimise pressure on existing forests. Under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 prior approval of the Central Government is required for diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes. Since the enactment of the Act, the rate of diversion of forest land has come down to around 25,000 hectare per annum from 1.43 lakh hectare per annum, before 1980. Based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Ministry of Commerce has decided to allow the export of only value added items made out of legally procured Red Sanders Wood.

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Sandal wood oil, which was being exported freely till now, has been brought into the restricted list of items for export.

Forest Policy and Conservation of Forests:

Increasing human and animal population has adverse impact on natural vegetation. Areas which were once covered with forests, have now become semi-desert. Even Rajasthan had forests. Forests are essential for ecological balance which in turn is essential for human survival and development. For balanced ecology and healthy environment, at least one third of the land of India must be kept under forest. Unfortunately, we do not have even one-fourth of the total area under forest. The need for a policy for conservation and management of forest resources, therefore, demands no emphasis.

India laid down a forest policy in 1952, which stressed on the sustainable forest management to conserve and expand forest resources on the one hand and to meet the local needs of the people on the other. It may be noted that India has a large tribal population which depends on forests for livelihood. A new National Forest Policy was adopted in 1988 to stop further decrease in the forest cover. The policy aimed at bringing 33 per cent of India’s landmass under forest cover. The world coverage was 27 per cent, and India’s own coverage at that time was only 19 per cent.

The policy further stated that the effort would be made to maintain environmental stability and to restore forests where ecological balance was disturbed. The other objective was to conserve the natural heritage of the country, its biological diversity and genetic pool. The policy further aimed to check soil erosion, extension of the desert lands and reduction of floods and droughts. Other objectives of the policy were to increase the forest cover through social forestry and afforestation on denuded and unproductive land, increase in productivity of forests to make timber, fuel, fodder and food available to rural and tribal population dependent on forests, and encourage the substitution of wood.

Lastly, it emphasized the creation of a massive people’s movement involving women to encourage planting of trees, stop felling of trees and thus to reduce pressure on the existing forests. Several laws passed by the Parliament and state legislatures have emphasized regulated use of forests, ban on cutting of trees and encroachment on forest lands. In 1980, a Forest Conservation Act was passed for the reserved forest areas and in 1986 the Environment Protection Act gave the Central government powers to protect and improve the quality of environment and prevent pollution. These acts have helped in the creation of productive, protected and aesthetic forests, besides maintaining the supply of wood and forest products for medicinal, industrial and local use.


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