Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

9. India

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/% of total land area


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change (%)


Population total 1997 (million)/Annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1997 (%)


GNP per person 1995 in US$


Source of data: FAO - State of the World's Forest 1999

General information

India is the seventh largest country in the world and has the second largest population. There is much diversity in the geographical features: the towering Himalayas and the extensive river plains in the north, the Thar desert in the west, the Deccan Plateau in the centre and the south, the coastal plains to the east and west and the numerous islands. The country has 26 states and 6 union territories. It has a Union Government having its centre in New Delhi.

The rising population has forced the rural poor to borrow against the future by depleting the natural resources. It was reported that the population reached one billion people in 2000, comprising about 16% of the world's population. The problem is further compounded by the high cattle population, estimated to be 450 million; most of these animals have a very low productivity but are allowed to graze freely in forest areas, causing the degradation of forests. It was estimated that the cattle population was 18% of the cattle population in the world. This has led to severe erosion, loss of soil, and floods in the lower plains, in addition to the destruction caused by shifting cultivation. As a result, the demographic and economic landscape of the country is plagued with poverty and underemployment. Agricultural productivity is only 1 ton per ha against the actual capability of 4 ton per ha. How to achieve the optimum land use, including soil and moisture conservation measures, are the main challenges confronting the policy and decision- makers. To reverse the process of degradation and for the sustainable development of forests, the Government has prepared the National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP).

Sixty percent of the forests are located in ecologically sensitive zones. These forests need to be managed in a way to ensure that they are ecologically protected and maintained, as well as sustained at the highest productivity level to meet the growing population's burgeoning demands for fuel, food, fodder, and timber.

India is one of the 12 mega diversity countries, commanding 7% of the world's biodiversity and supporting 16% of the major forest types, varying from alpine pastures in the Himalayas to temperate, sub-tropical, tropical forests, and mangroves in the coastal areas. But nearly half of the country's area is degraded, affected by the problems of soil degradation and erosion. The most common forms of degradation are wind and water erosion, and salinity. About 146 million ha are affected by wind and water erosion, and 7 million ha have become degraded due to excessive salts. About 8.5 million ha are under water logging and about 10 million ha are affected by shifting cultivation.

According to the Government statistics, nearly 22%, or 65 million ha, of the country's land have been recorded as forests, but only 19.5% have forest or tree cover, which is much less than the goal of 33% set by the National Forest Policy, 1988.

A large number of India's livestock population, dis-proportionate to the carrying capacity of the forests, have been grazing in forests causing serious damage to regeneration and productivity. Since the livestock population is not likely to be reduced due to social factors, a realistic grazing management alternative has to be evolved.

As a result of the National Forest Policy, 1988, the mechanism of Joint Forest Management (JFM) was legalised in 1990. Its principal aim is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of the ecological balance through the preservation and rehabilitation of forests, while providing for fuel wood, fodder, Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFPs), and small timber needs. The JFM has since been institutionalised by most of the States. The emphasis has been on the formation of Village Forest Committees and empowering them for participatory management of degraded forests on a benefit-sharing basis.

Forest resources

India has a large and diverse forest resource. Its forest types vary from tropical rainforest in the north-east, to desert and thorn forests in Gujarat and Rajasthan; mangrove forest in West Bengal, Orissa and other coastal areas; and dry alpine forests in the western Himalaya. The most common forest types are tropical moist deciduous forests, tropical dry deciduous forests, and wet tropical evergreen forests.

According to the Forest Survey of 1997, the country has 76.5 million ha of forest. The degraded area was 26.13 million ha and there was another 5.72 million ha of scrub; thus, in total 31.85 million ha of forests were degraded or open.

The land use outside for habitations (rural and urban), industries and infrastructure, such as roads, rivers, canals, railways lines, under permanent snow, rocks, desert, or not available for other reasons amounted to 264 million ha. It consists of cultivated land of 142 million ha, forestland of 67 million ha, fallows of 24 million ha, pastures of 12 million ha, tree groves of 3 million ha, and cultural waste of 16 million ha. Thus, in order to achieve the national goal of one third of the country under forest/tree cover, an area of 29.7 million ha has to be brought under plantations.

It was reported that the country's achievement in raising forest plantations, in terms of area, has been impressive. Up to 1998, the total area of tree plantations was 28.38 million ha, of which about 17 million ha were planted before 1990's. The current annual rate of plantation is 1.2 million. The quality of these plantations varies considerably. It should be noted that forest plantations are a means to meet the increasing demand for industrial raw material or for direct consumption, i.e. fuel wood, but not to justify deforestation or claim restoration of biodiversity and other environmental services.

There are other woodlands established in small blocks on non-forestry lands, which are not included in the forest survey because of limitations of interpretation of satellite data.

The performance of forest plantations, in terms of survival, growth and yield, has been poor caused by several factors, including inadequacies in site selection and site-species matching, poor planting stock, lack of proper maintenance and protection (from fire, grazing, pests and diseases), lack of timely tending/thinnings, delays in fund allocation, and inadequately trained staff. In this regard, some people are of the opinion that a master plan for tree plantations should be developed specifying categories, management regimes, utilisation and investment needs; and emphasis should be given to enhancing qualitative and quantitative productions.

Involvement of the private sector in plantation development has not been substantial and are not adequately supported by the government through relevant research, extension, technological packages, input delivery, market information or credit facilities. This sector is dominant in the area of harvesting and processing. It was noted that the needs and problems relating to this area are different from those producers of wood in rural areas.

According to the latest State of Forest Report, 1999, the total forest cover was 633.73 million ha or 19.39% of the geographical area, with dense forest accounting for 11%. The Report stated that the forest cover has increased by 4,000 km2 since the last survey in 1997. Thus, the overall decline in the forest cover has been halted. In this regard, the Minister of Environment and Forests stated that a major constraint facing the afforestation programmes is funding, which requires Rs 66.95 billion per year (1US$ approximately equal to Rs 43.5 in September 2000) in order to achieve one-third forest cover within the next 20 years. Rs 16 billion per year is available from both the central and state budget together to be allocated for afforestation. Involvement and investment from various NGOs, corporate, public and private sectors to fund this sector is being approached. In this connection, consultation with several donor agencies, including international and bilateral banks, for possible support have also been carried out. In this regard, WB and EU have provided substantial support to several forestry programmes in some states.

In regard to national parks, sanctuaries and other reserves, the country's achievement in terms of area is substantial. The Protected Areas (PA) cover about 14.8 million ha, or about 14% of the forest area, consisting of 80 national parks, 441 wildlife sanctuaries and 8 biosphere reserves. However, the condition of several PAs is poor because of fire, grazing and inadequate management. The Management plans of some PAs are not comprehensive. Some are below the minimum size required to be effective.

Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) have a great potential to support the socio-economic development of the country and also the principles of sustainable forest management. These products are essential to local communities. Some products have great potential for export. Some products have also provided employment and income earning.

Forest policy and planning

India has a long tradition of professional forestry and a nation wide concern for forest resources. Contemporary forestry legislation and policy date to at least 1864, at which time forests became almost exclusively State property under the then British rule. The first forest policy of 1894 was revised in 1952. The present guiding legislation dates back to the Indian Forestry Act of 1927. The National Commission of Agriculture (NCA) studied the forestry planning in the country in 1976 and made recommendations for future action. This led to the emergence of social forestry and the establishment of Forest Development Corporations (FDCs). The new policy accords highest priority to the environmental role of forests, and the derivation of direct economic benefit must be subordinated to this priority.

The forest policy has been updated, most recently through the National Forest Policy (1988). Other supplementary legislation has been enacted to explicitly provide for control and regulations covering non-forest resources, wildlife protection and environmental protection, together with other broad directives in substantive areas of national policy which have an impact on forestry, including land use. A Wildlife Action Plan was formulated in 1983, a National Conservation Strategy in 1992, followed by a National Environmental Action Plan in 1993.

Despite the enactment of the above legislation, clear symptoms of degradation and a declining capacity in meeting the various needs of the population (particularly the rural poor and tribals) are evident. Efforts to enlarge the forest estate as set forth in the National Forest Policy (from the present 19 percent to 33 percent of the total national land area) would require a substantial increase in fund allocation to the forestry sector.

The first national level planning exercise in the forestry sector took place two decades ago when the National Commission of Agriculture studied the situation in the country and made recommendations for future action. In forestry, this led to the emergence of the concept of social forestry and the establishment of Forest Development Corporations (FDC). The main aim of establishing FDCs was to enable the Forest Department to retain earnings from the sale of products for investment in plantations. However, this policy had two undesirable effects, namely:

· Given the realities of budgetary allocations, external aid for social forestry resulted in the earmarking of 70 to 80% of the funds for social forestry. As a result natural forests received little attention.

· The establishment of high value plantations at the expense of natural forests resulted in the loss of biodiversity and non-wood forest products. As a result, there was opposition to the practice from the people, and the Government had to revise the plantation programme strategy.

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 is being reviewed and a Committee has been established. The first meeting was held in January 1997 and the last in January 1999. Experts and NGOs had been involved in the process of reviewing the Forest Act, 1927. The final draft has been made available and has been submitted to the concerned authority for approval.

National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP)

In 1993, the Government decided to start a new strategic planning process following the National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP) concept. The preparation of an NFAP was decided with the goal of addressing the issues underlying the major problems of the forestry sector in line with the National Forest Policy, 1988. The NFAP is to evolve as a development process by integrating forestry development in the country within the framework of the national five-year plans. The exercise was supported by the UNDP project: IND/93/021. The project was finalised in February 1998.

The objective of the NFAP is to enhance the contribution of forestry and tree resources to ecological stability and people-centred development through qualitative and quantitative improvement in investment on sustainable conservation and development of forest resources.

The basic purpose of the NFAP is to establish a direct linkage between the national forest policy and the national five-year plans. In the past, there has not been a comprehensive and constant programme structure, so it was difficult to get linkages and establish trends.

In order to ensure that the exercise be country-driven, close co-ordination was maintained with State and Union Territories Governments by the Union Government. State Forest Departments were assigned the task of preparing State Forestry Action Plans (SFAP) and for this purpose detailed guidelines were issued. The NFAP document was prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests with the help of various reports prepared by national and international consultants.

In order to provide for inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral linkages, and to provide the NFAP with desired direction, Steering Committees were formed at the National and State levels, comprising related Government departments such as Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Industry, Finance, and representatives from NGOs and Industry. One meeting of the National Level Steering Committee was held in August 1994, and several meetings of the State Committees were held in 1994. A workshop for Nodal officers of SFAPs was conducted at Dehra Dun by FAO on the subject “Project Formulation and Appraisal”. A work-shop was also held for the North Eastern States at Shillong and two national level work-shops at New Delhi.

The NFAP has been formulated through the following process:

· State forestry sector reviews

26 State Sector Review Reports (for 25 States and Andaman & Nicobar Island) were completed.

· National studies prepared by international consultants

Four studies were completed and reviewed, namely: Forestry Planning, Forest Sector Review, Resource Economics, and Institutional Development.

· National studies prepared by national consultants

Sixteen specific studies were conducted by consultants. All the reports were prepared and reviewed. These reports, along with the SFAPs, formed the basis for the formulation of the NFAP documents.

· Sub-contracts studies

Four studies were undertaken: Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP), gender issues in forestry, common property resources management, and software development. All these reports were received and revised. One sub-contract was awarded in 1995 to critically analyse and identify gaps in draft NFAP documents. Three more sub-contracts were awarded for finalisation of NFAP documents.

· State Forestry Action Programme

All of the 26 SFAP documents were prepared.

The NFAP document was available in June 1999 comprising 3 documents as follows:

Executive Summary;

Volume 1: Status of Forestry in India; and

Volume 2: Issues and Programme.

It is clearly stated in the document that formulation of the NFAP is not a one-time process, but rather it is an evolving process. The state of forest resources and development in the country should be appraised periodically at regular intervals of 10 years, and the NFAP should be updated and extended for another 20 years.

The NFAP exercise decided that the NFAP consists of 5 programmes and 15 sub-programmes as follows:

· Protect existing resources with three sub-programmes:

* Forest protection;

* Soil and water conservation; and

* Protected areas and biodiversity conservation.

· Improve forest productivity with four sub-programmes:

* Rehabilitation of degraded forests;

* Research and technology development;

* Development of NWFPs;

* Assisting private initiatives with community participation.

· Reduce total demand with three sub-programmes:

* Fuel wood and fodder;

* Timber; and

* NWFPs.

· Strengthen policy & institutional framework:

* Central forestry administration;

* Central forestry institutions; and

* State forestry administration and institutions.

· Expanding forest area:

* Tree plantations on forest and non-forest lands; and

* People's participation in plantations and its protection.

A document concerning Concept Paper Projects containing a list of priority and essential projects for the smooth implementation of the NFAP exercise is being prepared. If the determination of holding a donor meeting, scheduled in Rome, March 2001, is positive, the Concept Paper document and the main NFAP documents will be discussed at this donor meeting.

Legislation and institutions

In view of the deteriorating forest resources and their importance to the national economy and environment, the Government has been emphasising the sustainable development of forest resources, as well as conservation of ecosystems. Since 1951 (commencement of the First Five-Year Plan), Rs 70 billion has been spent on forestry development in the country. Afforestation has been carried out over an area of 25.25 million ha during the period. Financial resources allocated to the forestry sector have increased from Rs. 76 million in the First Five-Year Plan (1951-55) to Rs. 40,818.7 million in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-96).

Amendments to the Indian Forest Act 1927, which provides for the management of forests and forest resources of the country, are examined to remove existing anomalies and to bring about a uniformity of law throughout the country. The Forest Conservation Act 1980, amended in 1988, stipulates concurrence of the Union Government for diversion of forestlands for non-forestry purposes with provisions of compensatory afforestation. Implementation of this Act has reduced the rate of diversion of forestland from 150,000 ha to 39,000 ha per year.

The National Forest Policy, 1988 accords highest priority to the environmental role of the forests. The policy states that the principal aim of the Forest Policy must be to ensure environmental stability and ecological balance, including atmospheric equilibrium, which are vital for the sustenance of all life forms, be they human, animal, or plant. The basic objectives of the National Forest Policy, 1988 are listed below:

· Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance that has been disturbed by serious depletion of the forests of the country;

· Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forest with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represents the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country;

· Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers, lakes, reservoirs in the interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts, and for the retardation of siltation of reservoirs;

· Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands;

· Meeting the requirements of fuel wood, fodder, and small timber;

· Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs;

· Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of the wood; and

· Creating a massive people's movement with the involvement of women, and minimising pressure on existing forests.

In one of the NFAP (main) documents it is spelled out that forest policy development is a process which follows a cycle of: evaluation and analysis; articulation; formation; formulation; instrumentation; further evaluation, etc. A forest policy should be dynamic; it should not, and cannot, stay the same over any long period of time. Accordingly, it is important that a forest policy is periodically evaluated to determine whether it should be maintained, modified or changed altogether.

In the context of sector policies, the NFAP exercise proposed that imperatives need to be identified which represent the absolute requirements to which all supporting objectives should contribute. For the forest policy in India, three imperatives are suggested: sustainability, efficiency, and people's participation. Sustainability should be the guiding factor for forest management. Neither conservation nor development can be achieved in isolation. Efficiency in production implies improving productivity, reducing wastes and indirect costs, and thus registering a higher economic rate of return compared to other alternatives. The philosophy of people-based development assumes that participation is not only a fundamental precondition for, and a tool of, any successful development strategy, but also is an end in itself.

Five-year plans

The basic purpose of the NFAP is to establish direct linkages between the National Forest Policy and the National Five-Year Plans (FYPs). In the past, there was no comprehensive and constant programme structure for forestry. Every FYP has had its own programme structure, so it was difficult to get linkages and establish trends. Although plans had specific objectives and programmes, the main activity under most of them was tree planting. The emphasis of different FYPs regarding forestry was as follows:

· First and Second FYPs: Rehabilitation of degraded forest, introduction of economic species, survey, and forest demarcation;

· Third and Fourth FYPs: Increasing productivity of forest through fast growing species plantations, scientific assessments, and modern logging;

· Fifth FYP: Social forestry and fuel wood reserves to save natural forests;

· Seventh FYP: Forest conservation, massive afforestation, and wasteland development; and

· Eight and Ninth FYP: Preservation of biological and genetic diversity (both flora and fauna), protection of forest against biotic interference, utilisation of wastelands, and promotion of people's participation through Joint Forest Management (JFM) schemes.

Joint Forest Management

The National Forest Policy, 1988 envisages people's involvement in the development and protection of forests to fulfil the objectives of providing fuel wood, fodder and small timber to local communities, as well as to develop the forests for improving the environment. As of September 1998, 21 States have issued their resolutions for JFM, of which 7 million ha of degraded forests are being managed and protected through approximately 35,000 villages Forest Protection Committees.

A JFM Monitoring Cell of the Ministry has been created to assess the impact of the JFM programme on the protection and development of forests. A JFM Standing Committee has been established to ensure the effective monitoring of the JFM activities. In regard to poverty alleviation and income generation, analysis of the impact of JFM toward these issues would be included.

Combating desertification

The Convention to Combat Desertifacation (UNCCD) was adopted on 17 June 1994 and entered into force on 26 December 1996. The Convention came into effect in India on 26 December 1996. At two international meetings to discuss the Thematic Programme Networking (TPN) in Asia, six areas have been identified namely (of which India is the focal point for TPN 2):

· TPN 1: Desertification monitoring and assessment;

· TPN 2: Agroforestry management & soil conservation in arid, semi-arid & dry zones;

· Range and pasture management in arid areas with particular emphasis in shifting sand dunes;

· Water resources management for agriculture in arid, semi arid and dry zones;

· Drought preparedness & mitigation in the context of climate change;

· Strengthening planning capacities for drought management & controlling.

Biodiversity conservation

To address the problems of environment and development holistically, the Ministry has enunciated several policies, including the National Conservation Strategy and the Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992. India is a signatory to the convention on wetlands of international importance especially as waterfowl habitat, generally referred to as the Ramsar Convention, 1971. India has designated 6 wetlands. India is also a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was came into force in December 1993. The ratification of the CBD by India was on 18 February 1994.

A draft National Policy and Action Strategy on Biological Diversity has been drawn up. The draft identifies the basic goals and thrust areas and outlines action points for various subjects.

According to the State of Forest Report, 1997, the total area covered by mangroves in India was 4,872 km2. It had increased by about 600 km2 during 1991-1997. A National Committee on Conservation and Management of Mangroves and Coral Reefs has been constituted to advise the Government on policy and research related to conservation of these fragile ecosystems.

Research and extension

Several research activities have been carried out by several research institutions in India, including: a) environmental research; b) research under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP), such as biodiversity and bio-monitoring the river Ganga; and c) forestry research, with emphasis given to increasing productivity through genetic and silvicultural improvement, treatment of wasteland, tribal development and social forestry, while the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) continues to co-ordinate, direct and oversee the research activities of the 11 research institutes/centres; and d) wildlife research, such as ecological, biological, socio-economic and managerial aspects of wildlife conservation, research on biological diversity and forest productivity - a new perspective, research on the wild dog (Cuon alpinus) and ornithology.

Forestry research in the country has been upgraded with the formation of the India Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) to boost and integrate forestry research in the country. There are eight research institutes/centres under ICFRE. The National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board is carrying out the rehabilitation ofdegraded forests and wastelands through State forest departments and voluntary agencies by adopting an integrated approach developed through micro plans with people's participation.

Focal point
C.P. Oberai
Inspector General of Forests & Spl
Secretary to the Government of India
Ministry of Environment and Forests
B. Block, CGO Complex
Lodhi Road. New Delhi 110003, India
Tel: (9111) 436 1509
Fax: (9111) 436 -3957


I believe the real difference between success and failure in an organisation can
very often be traced to the question of how well the organisation
brings out the great energies and talents of its people.
(Thomas J. Watson Jnr, former Chairman, IBM)

There are two kind of people in this world i.e. takers and givers.
If you associate with givers, you will become one.
If you associate with complainers, you will be one.
(Shiv Khera - You Can Win)

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page