After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Historical Background of Forest Policies 2. Aims of the Forest Policy 3. Organization of the Forest Sector in India 4. Failure of the 1952 Forest Policy 5. National Forest Policy of 1988.
- Historical Background of Forest Policies
- Aims of the Forest Policy
- Organization of the Forest Sector in India
- Failure of the 1952 Forest Policy
- National Forest Policy of 1988
1. Historical Background of Forest Policies:
Policies are guidelines for the government and the people and help in making various decisions. Forests are a vital part of any nation, not only for the commercial value, but also for the quality of life that it guarantees. Hence it was considered imperative, even during the British Rule, that India must have a Forest Policy.
The British were the first to officially recognize the natural wealth of India and it was they who initiated the process of forming a forest policy during the second half of the 19th century.
Their scheme was to plunder the natural wealth of the nation as much as possible, since timber trade was a highly lucrative trade during those times. Hence, their policies were aimed at putting themselves in an advantageous position and to exploit the resources to the extent possible.
The sequence of their efforts in this direction (by means of Acts and Policies) are given below:
(i) The first Conservator of Forests was appointed in the year 1850 by the British, in Bombay, and the first Forest Department was set-up in the year 1864.
(ii) In order to generate income, the Forest Act of 1865 was brought out, which classified the forests into reserved forests and unclassified forests. The former were out of bounds of the local people and the latter un-surveyed forests were progressively reclassified as reserved forests before the end of the century and the process was speeded up to contain the provision in the revised Forest Act of 1878.
(iii) The Forest Act, 1865 was first enacted to counteract various local population.
(iv) By the Forest Act of 1878, even the village forests were closed, and what was the right of the people was translated into privileges, and that to for a fee.
(v) The first Forest Policy was in the year 1894, which gave priority to agriculture over forests.
(vi) The next Forest Act was enacted in the year 1927, which made the rules more stringent and the people’s privileges were curtailed further.
The Post-Independence Era:
After independence, the area of forestry was given importance, but only after the priority areas of agriculture and industry. Yet this area gained much importance due to the dams and reservoir projects that were coming up then. But, the plan allocation seems to be biased towards agriculture and industries.
The Central Forestry Board was set-up in the year 1950 and this was followed by a National Policy on Forests in the year 1952. It was in this 1952 National Forest Policy that the target of 33% of the total land to be covered by forests, was established.
The 1952 National Forest Policy was replaced by the National Forest Policy of 1988. This policy was considered to be better than the earlier one, as it laid emphasis on the conservation of our existing forests through the reforestation and soil conservation.
2. Aims of the Forest Policy:
The basic issue is to protect the forests, wherever they are situated within the boundaries of the nation. The Forest Policies in India aim at three main areas in the context of protection and preservation of the forests.
The principal aim of forest policy must be to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium, which are vital for sustenance of all life forms, human, animals and plants. The derivation of direct economic benefit must be subordinated to this principal aim.
They can be generalized as:
(i) Protecting the forests from illicit felling, encroachment, forest fires, grazing, etc.
(ii) Reducing the damage to the forests from insects/fungus/diseases, etc.
(iii) Reforesting areas that may need trees for the ecological balance of the region.
3. Organization of the Forest Sector in India:
The forests in India are almost owned by the government and any afflictions to the forests must be reported to the Forest Departments, which are agencies of the Government of India. In each state, the forestry sector is headed by a Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the key administrative agency for planning and co-ordination of environmental and forestry programmes. The Ministry of Environment and Forests can be contacted at: Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110003, India, Under the Ministry of Environment and Forests come the various agencies that cater to a variety of needs of the forest sector, like.
iv. Education, and
v. Direct involvement in the reforestation process.
4. Failure of the 1952 Forest Policy:
The National Forest Policy of 1952 was inadequate to reduce forest depletion. Forests being a state subject, there was no serious effort made for the preservation and conservation of the forests. Commercial outlook always dominates and the industrial demands were met without ensuring natural regeneration or compensator reforestation.
The political environs indiscriminately used the forests land for furthering their political interests. Maximization of the short- term benefits of economic development was the priority and the concepts of sustainability, protection and conservation of the forests was almost forgotten.
It was, therefore, imperative to review and revise the National Forest Policy of 1952, with a view to evolve a new strategy for forest protection in the future. Hence, the government came up with the 1988 National Forest Policy.
5. National Forest Policy of 1988:
The revised national policy was called “National Forest Policy 1988” and was placed in the Parliament on 7th December, 1988 and was approved in the House.
In resolution No. 13/52/F, dated 12th May 1952, the Government of India in the erstwhile ministry of food and agriculture enunciated a forest policy to be followed in the management of state forests in the country. However, over the years, forests in the country have suffered serious depletion.
This is attributable to relentless pressures arising from ever-increasing demand for fuel wood, fodder and timber; inadequacy of protection measures; diversion of forest lands to non-forest uses without ensuring compensatory afforestation and essential environmental safeguards; and the tendency to look upon forests as revenue earning resource.
The need to review the situation and to evolve, for the future, a new strategy of forest conservation has become imperative. Conservation includes preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration and enhancement of the natural environment. It has thus become necessary to review and revise the national forest policy.
(II) Basic Objectives:
The basic objectives that govern the national forest policy are the following:
(i) Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance that has been adversely disturbed by serious depletion of the forests of the country.
(ii) Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represent the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.
(iii) Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts and for the retardation of siltation of reservoirs.
(iv) Checking the extension of sand dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan and along the coastal tracts.
(v) Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands.
(vi) Meeting the requirements of fuel-wood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations.
(vii) Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs.
(viii) Encouraging efficient utilization of forest produce and maximizing substitution of wood.
(ix) Creating a massive people’s movement with the involvement of women, for achieving these objectives and to minimize pressure on existing forests.
(III) Strategies for Achieving the Objectives:
The Government had provided the following strategies for the achievement of the objectives:
(i) Increased implementation of afforestation, social forestry and farm forestry programmes.
(ii) Efficient and effective management of the State Forests.
(iii) Rights and privileges for the tribals living in that area.
(iv) Corporate participation in the compensatory afforestation and regeneration processes.
(v) Special care to be given to wildlife protection.
(vi) Reducing forest encroachments by stricter monitoring of the forests and also against forest fires and overgrazing.
(vii) To emphasize the forest based industries to look for the raw material as far as possible outside the forests.
(viii) Forest extension programmes like urban forestry is to be encouraged.
(ix) Forestry education and awareness to be given more importance.
(x) The use of modern technology to improve the quality of periodical collection and publication of reliable data on forests.
(xi) The enactment of appropriate legislation that will help in speeding up the process of forest conservation.
(IV) Appraisal of the National Forest Policy 1988:
It is beyond doubt that this policy is comprehensive. Yet the policy does negate some of the important areas. The appraisal is intended to give the positive and the negative areas in the policy.
(a) The Positive Areas:
(i) This policy considers the importance of conservation of the forests, which is a national wealth.
(ii) The policy emphasizes that 1/3rd of the plains and 2/3rd of the hilly regions must be covered with forests.
(iii) This policy reiterates the need to carry out afforestation, social and farm forestry on a large-scale to see the results.
(iv) This policy recognizes the customary privileges that belong to the people living in the forests and has enacted clauses to protect the rights and concessions of these people.
(v) The policy also tries to prevent the problem of encroachment of the forest lands by better monitoring.
(vi) There are efforts taken in the policy to counteract any form of political intervention.
(vii) This policy does not take up a “pro-industrial” stand, but focuses more on the conservation of the forests.
(b) The Negative Areas:
(i) There is no scope for peoples participation in the policy and no effort has been made to ensure the co-operation of the people, neither urban nor rural.
(ii) The policy has ambitious programmes, but there is a lack of strong machinery to co-ordinate the activities of the department.
(iii) The forest policy has not been region specific.
(iv) There is dearth of programmes for spreading awareness about the programmes.
(v) The forest policy does not in any way fix any targets, nor does it prescribe any sure-fire methods for the success of the programmes.
The forest policies of India are evolving with the times. Of course, there are differences among the policy profiles during the different times, starting with the British Rule in India and coming to the latest stage of liberalization of the Indian economy. To consider any policy to be useless and obsolete, would be to jump to wrong conclusions.
The policies have been highly time and circumstance – specific. Hence, the forest policies in India have served their purpose, but were a little rigid in their content to change to the demands of the changing times. It would be proper to take note of the legislative significance of the forest policies—the forest officials are nor endowed with enough powers to punish the offenders.
Though the Forest Policy of 1952 was considered to be incompatible with the changing circumstances, we must look at the policy as being in its infancy. But with regard to the next policy of 1988, the policy has no doubt been very comprehensive, but it lacks clear-cut ideas and is not futuristic in its approach.