Indian forest policy

Indian forest policy

Historically our communities have always lived in harmony with nature, and participation of community in protection and management of common property resources has been a tradition. The British introduced scientific management of forests through a centralised approach to forest management and development. The first formal government approach to forestry can be traced to the enactment of the National Forest Policy of 1894 which stressed on conserving forests for maintaining environmental stability and meeting basic needs of fringe forest user groups. The policy was revised in 1952 and the new policy emphasised on extension of forests beyond the traditional forest areas. This gave impetus to social forestry and agro/farm forestry.

This policy was the harbinger of the green movement in the country. It also proposed that 60% of the land in the hills and 20% in the plains and in all 33% of the total geographical area should be under forest/tree cover. The serious depletion of forest resources due to biotic and industrial pressure and other reasons made the policy makers review the situation in the late eighties and evolve a new strategy for conservation of forests. The National Forest Policy was once again revised in 1988, which envisaged community involvement in the protection and regeneration of forests. It accorded highest priority to sustainable management of the forest resource.

Aims of the policy :

  • Maintenance of environmental stability” through preservation and restoration of ecological balance;
  • Conservation of natural heritage;
  • Checking soil erosion and denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs;
  • Checking extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts;
  • Substantially increasing forest/tree cover through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes;
  • Taking steps to meet requirements of fuel, wood, fodder, minor forest produce, soil and timber of rural and tribal populations;
  • Increasing productivity of forests to meet the national needs;
  • Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood; and
  • Taking steps to create massive people’s movement with involvement of women to achieve the objectives and minimise pressure on existing forests.

An Integrated Forest Protection Scheme (IFPS) was being implemented during the Tenth Five Year Plan and is being continued during Eleventh Plan.

The Planning Commission suggested renaming the scheme as ‘Intensification of Forest Management’ during the 11th Five Year Plan. It is proposed to broad-base the scheme by including following two new components in addition to the existing components of IFPS, i.e., infrastructure development and forest fire control management.

The new components are: conservation and restoration of unique vegetation and eco-systems; protection and conservation of sacred groves; and joint forest management (JFM). The conceptual framework for JFM emphasises development of partnerships with forest fringe people.

The Government of India has assigned the ownership of minor forest produce to the people living in and around forests for the purpose of collection, processing, trade and marketing through a national level legislation named as the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Act, 2006. This will help the forest-dependent people to improve their economy.


Forest Conservation Act

To check indiscriminate deforestation and diversion of forest land for industrial or construction work the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1980. The Act was amended in 1988 to further facilitate prevention of forest destruction.

The basic objective of the Act is to put a check on the indiscriminate diversion of forest lands. Under the provisions of this Act, prior approval of the Central government is required for diversion of forest land to non-forest purposes. Since the enactment of the Act, the rate of diversion of forest land has come down.

As diversion of forest land is normally not favoured, permission under this Act is difficult to obtain. The rare exceptions carry stipulations for compensatory afforestation and other conditions as laid down in the Act and in the National Forest Policy, 1988.

Draft National Forest Policy, 2018

The ministry of environment, forest and climate change has framed a new draft National Forest Policy 2018 which proposes climate change mitigation through sustainable forest management. The new policy, which aims to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover, will replace the existing one that has been guiding the government to manage forests since 1988. Unlike the previous policies, which stressed on environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance, the 2018 policy focusses on the international challenge of climate change.

The policy also addresses the issue of human-animal conflict. It proposes short term and long term measures to reduce this. The draft says, “Quick response, dedicated teams of well equipped and trained personnel, mobility, strong interface with health and veterinary services, rescue centres, objective and speedy assessment of damage and quick payment of relief to the victims would be at the core of the short-term action. Monitoring and management of population of wildlife would be adopted on a longterm basis within and outside forests for maintaining the balance.”


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