1.1 Highlights of Social and Economic Situation
1.2 Highlights of Long-term Objectives and Goals
1.3 Role of Country in Regional Context
1.4 Summary of Major Issues
Forest is a biological entity in the fascinating web of nature and always in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Forestry sector is an important ingredient in the economic and social fabrics of a country. The importance of this sector is more pronounced in developing countries of tropics. Forest in tropics play very significant role in regulating water cycle and in conserving soils. The demand for forest products and services in tropical countries increased rapidly in the recent past with the growth of population and rural economy. This increasing demand of forest produce and land hunger by the growing population and poverty in tropics are the main causes of deterioration in forest cover. The deterioration is the result of disproportionate withdrawals of forest produce as compared to its carrying capacity and regenerative capacity.
The requirements of timber, pastures, fuelwood and diversion of forest lands for agriculture and various development projects in India have put enormous pressure on forests. The apparent alternative of afforestation on non-forest lands under social forestry and agroforestry activities has not picked up well in many parts of the country to the desirable extent.
India, the seventh largest country, covers about 2% of total global land about 1% forest area and about 0.5% pasture land of the world, but supports about 16% of human and about 15% of cattle population of the world and this population is always in the process of increase. India is one of the 12 mega diversity countries commanding 7% of world biodiversity and supports 16 major forest types varying from alpine pastures in Himalayas to temperate, sub-tropical, tropical forests and mangroves in coastal areas. But nearly half of the country's area are degraded, affected with the problems of soil degradation and erosion.
The population of the country has increased from 360 million in 1947 to about 950 million at present. Cattle population also increased from 250 million to about 450 million during the same period. The per capita forests in India is only 0.08 hectare against the global average of about 1.0 hectare. The average density of population increased from 208 per sq. km. in 1981 to 250 in 1991 and 290 at present. The population density is not uniform. It varies from 653 per sq. km. in Kerala State to 58 in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in north eastern regions. Rate of growth of population in last decade (1981-1991) was 2.3%. But the growth rate of scheduled castes (16.3% of population) and scheduled tribes (8.0% of population) has been 3.0% and 2.6% respectively. Livelihood of more than 90% of these communities directly depend upon forests and obviously put enormous pressure on forests. Rapid increase in population led to unsustainable withdrawals of forest produce resulting in degradation. Tribals have a symbiotic relationship with forests and they are conscious of the contribution of the forests for their sustenance and survival. But in many instances their immediate needs have overtaken the future requirements and broader aspects of conservation of their own posterity.
India has agriculture dominant economy. About 43% of land is under agriculture but the productivity is far below in comparison with developed countries because only one third of cultivated areas in the country is under irrigation. About 23% of land area is forest lands having productivity less than one cubic metre per hectare per year against the potential of eight to ten cubic metres per hectare per year. The present low productivity is due to growing biotic pressure and inadequate resources for scientific forest management. Nearly 4.6% area are culturable waste and 7.1% fallow land available for tree planting and pasture development.
As per one estimation, more than half (about 53%) of country's lands are under various types of land degradation. The most common form of degradation is from wind and water erosion and salinity. About 146 million ha. area is affected with wind and water erosion and 7 million ha. has become degraded due to excessive salts. 8.5 million ha. is under water logging and about 10 million ha is affected with shifting cultivation.
Nearly 23% (76 million ha.) of country's land has been recorded as forests but only 19.5% (64 million ha.) of total area has forest or tree cover which is much less to the goal of 33% set by the National Forest Policy, 1988. About 65% of forest cover has dense forest with crown density more than 40% and rest 35% are badly degraded. The crown density of dense forests is continuously depleting due to overuse of forest resources by the people and their cattle living in and around the forests those have been depending on forest from the past. Another 6 million hectares recorded forest areas is virtually blank, even bereft of any root stock due to excess biotic pressure.
Forests are not uniformly distributed in India. Some regions have quite considerable forest cover, while others have nothing as forests. Fuelwood is the most important form of household energy in both rural and urban areas (mostly poor people) and represents about 90% of the total demand of wood. Many poor people living in and around the forests depend heavily on fuelwood and fodder for subsistence needs and income from gathered forest produce. In rural areas fuelwood provides 70% of fuel for cooking, 5% comes from commercial fuel, and rest from cow dung and agricultural residues. Only 15% of fuelwood are purchased, 62% are collected from forest and public lands, and the remaining 23% are collected from private lands.
The initiation of rapid development after independence in 1947, led to the establishment of large number of paper and pulp mills, saw mills and plywood industries as well as growing rural and urban housing needs gave a quantum jump to the demand for forest products. India's forests have a growing stock of 4.75 billion cu.m. with an annual increment of around 57.6 million cu.m. Only 12 million cu.m. of timber and 40 million tonnes of fuelwood are being officially extracted from the forest areas leaving, 10 million ha. of good forests, falling under National Parks and Sanctuaries, since no commercial extraction is permitted there. The unrecorded extraction for meeting local needs under the existing rights and concessions is many times more. The current requirements of timber and fuelwood. are 30 million cu.m. and 280 million tonnes respectively. The fuelwood deficit is large but according to estimation about 200 million tonnes of fuelwood are withdrawn from the forests every year. Besides, 280 million tonnes of fodder and countless non-timber forest products are also withdrawn every year.
Out of the current demand of 30 million cu.m. timber, 8.3 million cu.m. is needed for paper, pulp and panel products and 15.4 million cu.m. for saw milling i.e. housing, packaging, furniture etc. Though some of the shortages in timber is being supplemented by liberalising the export policy, the forest industries are still facing raw material shortages and are operating well below their rated capacity.
A large number of India's livestock population, unproportionate to the carrying capacity of forests have been grazing in forests causing serious damage to regeneration and productivity. Since the number of livestock population is not likely to be reduced due to social compulsions, a realistic grazing management alternative has to be evolved. Forests are also the only remaining source for agriculture land, encroachments and shifting cultivation. The over exploitation of forest products to meet the various demands, including unrecorded removals, overgrazing and encroachments have led to the poor productivity and degradation of forests.
While the literacy rate in the country increased from 16.7% in 1951 to 52.1% in 1991, the per capita income increased from Rs. 1,127 to RS. 4974 (at 1990-91 price index) during the same period. It shows that India has taken rapid stride in economic development after independence, which consequently increased consumerism and the requirements of forest products for local as well as industrial use. The total value of forest products have never been reflected in calculation of the Gross National Product (GNP). Only recorded commercial sale value (Rs. 76.650 million in 1990-91) has been taken into consideration which contributes only 1.8% to GNP whereas the agricultural sector contributes 31.6% to the GNP taking entire products into account for calculation. Now with the India's new policy provision for conservation of forests and meeting the requirements of tribals and local people as welfare measure and also with increasing unaccounted withdrawals of large quantity of forest products, the contribution of forest products in GNP is not likely to increase in future. According to FAO assessment (1996) India uses fuelwood worth US$ 9,080 million. Given the deteriorating environmental situation, it is essential that current economic theory and practice in India must here-in-after stress the need to increase the contribution of forest to Gross Natural Product rather than the traditional economic Gross National Product.
A holistic view of investment for forest development do not give even a ray of hope of any marked improvement in rehabilitation of forests. More so, the withdrawals from forests are likely to increase at exponential rate with increasing population. It was estimated some time back that different types of monetized and non-monetized forest products worth Rs 300,000 million are withdrawn annually from India's forests. However, the corresponding investment in forestry development at present is only Rs. 8,000 million annually which is about 2.67% of total estimated withdrawal and less than 1 % of total plan outlay of the country.
The National Forest Policy, 1988 marks a watershed in Indian forestry by recognising the role of community in land use of degraded forests mainly in development and protection. Accordingly, a mechanism of Joint Forest Management (JFM) on the benefit sharing basis has been legalised in 1990. Its principal aim is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance through preservation and rehabilitation of forests, while providing for fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber needs of the rural and tribal population. The JFM has since been institutionalised by most of the States. The emphasis has been on the formation of Village Forest Committees (VFCs) and empowering them for participatory management of degraded forests on benefit sharing basis sans ownership of forest lands.
With policy preferring conservation on derivation of economic benefit, thrust has been given on massive need-based and timebound plantation activities on waste lands alongside of roads, railway lines, river, streams and canals, and on all other unutilized lands, under social forestry and agroforestry programmes to meet the demands of people and industries as well.
The practice of supply of forest produce to industries at concessional prices have been ceased. Industries are required to raise the raw material needed, preferably by establishing of a direct relationship between them and the individuals/institutions/communities who can grow the raw material and by supporting the individuals with inputs including credit facility, regular technical advice and finally harvesting and transport services.
Forests are not only important for providing fuel, fodder, timber and some food to rural people, but also in maintaining the agricultural stability by protecting watersheds and rendering environmental services. The contribution of forests to GNP is meagre as non-monetized withdrawals are not taken into account in GNP. Forest is the foster mother to agriculture and is crucial for maintaining and improving the productivity of agricultural land. Further expansion in agriculture land to feed growing population also destroys some forest. This expansion includes also shifting cultivation areas. Unless the forest ecosystem is maintained, the future of agriculture itself would be at stake. Agriculture, the main source of India's rural economy, contributes more than 30% to GNP, 60% of employment and is primary source of 75% of country's population living in rural areas.
Forests have a significant role in ameliorating climate particularly drought conditions. Substantial area of India, particularly in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa and Rajasthan regularly face drought. Drought prone regions represent 19% of the entire geographical area of the country and affect nearly 12% of the population. Two third of the cropped lands in the country are rainfed. These areas depend entirely on monsoon and the natural hydrological systems. Both climatic condition and sub-soil moisture status are regulated by forest cover in the region. Forests, in rainfed agricultural areas, play important role for the livelihood of local communities.
Large demand of fuelwood, pasture, land for agriculture are the main constraints in the improvement of forests in India. According to India's UNCED submission 70% of rural people and 50% of urban people use fuelwood for cooking purposes. While, commercial fuels make up the difference in urban areas, agricultural waste and cow dung are used in rural areas where fuelwood is scarce. Many industries and kilns in smaller cities still use fuelwood as their primary source of energy. In medium size and smaller cities about 25% of household collect fuelwood free as compared to 76% in rural areas. Most of the rural population are likely to continue to depend on gathered fuelwood. Local people collect fuelwood to meet their domestic needs and for sale to rural elites and to middlemen who transport it to smaller and larger cities nearby.
Gathering fuelwood (headloading) from forest for sale provides one of the biggest employment to the rural people. It is an important source of income to many poor living in and around forests, specially women. According to estimation by the Centre for Science and Environment in 1982, about 3 million people work as headloaders. At present it has exceeded about 5 million. The contribution of Forest does not find place in the employment data at National level.
Role of forests is significant in maintaining ecological balance. An ecosystem consists essentially of living organisms - both flora and fauna - their environment and their interrelationship. Forests, with their phyto- and zoo-mass components and the land supporting them, constitute the most important parts of any ecosystem. The linear retrogression of ecosystems caused by human activities, from historical times, are being mitigated by forests. The major ecological function of forests are to restore and secure the hydrological regime of land, water availability, control run-off, soil fertility and provide much needed oxygen. Forests also patronise the biodiversity and the habitat of wild flora and fauna in the form of National Parks, Sanctuaries and other protected natural areas. In India 4.5% of total land area of country are reserved as protected areas for maintaining biodiversity. Biodiversity includes integration of plants and animals to increase symbiosis with agriculture. Biodiversity is an important source of rebuilding ecological balance and sustainability in agriculture. The protected area network is very essential for a country like India and has an intrinsic link with human welfare. Lush green hills throbbing with wildlife and genetic diversity and myriad's of colours are very much needed for modern man. Destruction of forest with its wilderness rocks the very foundation of human survival.
Forests are the main source of raw material for wood based industries. According to an estimation, about 15% wood harvested from forests are consumed by industries. As per figures of 1991 there are 276 medium and large scale wood based industries. These are paper mills, newsprint, rayon pulp, plywood, and match industries. Besides, there are about 23,000 saw mills including small units. With emphasis on conservation policy and stopping the practice of selling forest raw material at concessional prices to industries, the Government has liberalised the import policy for wood and wood products. The industries are to establish direct relationship with farmers for meeting their requirement of raw material from farm forestry and private plantations. This policy has clear cut intention to develop farm forestry through institutions and industries which has not been favourably taken by the industries as they have to expand their marketing infrastructures for buying raw material from thousands of small producers which is more complex than buying from the government. But then the extension services of industries and institutions have to be strengthened by a suitable mechanism of infrastructure and pricing of forest produce from farm lands and waste lands to reduce the increasing pressure on forests.
The protective and productive role of forests in the national economy entitles them to lay claim to an adequate share of the land. National Forest Policy, 1952, for the first time set the goal to bring 1/3rd of total land area of the country under forest and tree cover and the same was adopted in the Forest Policy, 1988. To achieve this goal, it is imperative to plan for annual plantations of about 3 million ha. degraded forests and scrub areas, all available wastelands and marginal lands and plantation in farm lands under social forestry and suitable agroforestry systems. The National Forest Policy, 1988 lays emphasis on massive need based and time bound programme of afforestation on degraded forests, waste lands, community lands and the lands of individuals including agricultural lands, with particular emphasis on the production of fuelwood and fodder. Policy also provides that the land laws should be so modified wherever necessary so as to facilitate and motivate to undertake tree farming and grow fodder plants, grasses and legumes on their own land. It is essential to develop large scale woodlots for fuelwood, and industrial wood and timber to meet local and national needs with full involvement of all stake holders. Though it is difficult to increase forest cover in the present scenario of land hunger, it is possible to bring all possible categories of available waste lands under tree cover.
With the realisation that the demand for fuelwood, fodder and non-timber forest produce for local use by communities and tribals was rising rapidly with growing population, it was decided that the old custodial and timber oriented system of forest management needed to be changed. As a result, the new National Policy of 1988 redefined the priorities. The main thrust areas in the Policy are:
· Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance and protecting the vast genetic resource. Derivation of economic benefit must be subordinated to this principal aim.
· Meeting basic needs of the rural and tribal people, especially of fuelwood, fodder, non-timer forest products and small timber in keeping with the carrying capacity of forests.
· Raising the productivity of forests and achieving the policy goal of having 33% of country's area under tree cover (66% in hill areas).
· Industry to be encouraged to develop its raw material by interacting with the local people and communities for use of the manpower and land through financial and technical inputs as well as buy back arrangements. Monoculture should not be allowed in natural forest areas with rich bio-diversity.
· Ensure people's close involvement in programme of protection, conservation and management of forests.
In pursuance of the policy prescription for creating a massive people's movement with the active involvement of women, the Government of India have issued a detailed guideline to all States and Union Territories in June, 1990 for the people's involvement in development and protection of degraded forests through Joint Forest Management (JFM) by constituting village level institution like Village Forest Committees (VFCs) on benefit sharing basis. Though the concept of Joint Forest Management mechanism was evolved and successfully implemented in early seventies in Arabari (West Bengal) and Sukhomajri (Haryana), it was enshrined in the National Forest Policy for the first time in 1988. Much before this in India traditionally people used to worship trees and forests in shape of religious trees and sacred groves. The benefit from forest was given religious sanction and people guarded those like their own kin. The instances of protecting trees in Rajasthan centuries back and Chipko Andolan in UP of recent past are some examples of peoples (including women) involvement in caring forest. The examples of such silent social revolution has been observed at several places in the country by virtue of the latent knowledge of the people to follow the ecological footprints of their own elders, religious leaders and sages. Climatically forests of India are very resilient and bounce back with vigour by proper by proper protection and management. Traditionally the character of Indian inheritance is ecological sensitivity and symbiotic living with the environment. Equitable sharing of benefits from a resource and avoiding waste are prerequisite for maintaining biotic wealth and biotic diversity.
The policy guidelines provide that the bonafide domestic requirements of forest dependent people for fuelwood, fodder, non-timber forest products and constructional timber should be the first charge on forest produce. The policy document also enjoins that the communities should be strongly motivated to identify themselves with the development and protection of forests from which they derive benefits. However, the problem lies in developing ways and means to identify, and use, the community capacity to bring improvements in the condition of forests. Also the situation and socio-economic condition in various parts of the country are so diverse that it is impossible to have one uniform policy for community participation. Therefore, the Government of India in their guidelines of 1990, left it to the initiative of the State Governments to device appropriate strategies and modalities for implementation of community participation, depending upon site-specific situations prevailing therein. So far 17 States have passed Government resolutions and implemented Joint Forest Management on 2.0 million hectare degraded forests through 15,000 Village Forest Committees. In fact the coverage is much more than the above figure in the country due to awareness and interest of the rural people in many areas. More areas of degraded forests are likely to be brought under Joint Forest Management by the end of the century. Most of the JFM activities are being funded by Externally Aided Projects.
To achieve the goal set out by the National Forest Policy, 1988, an additional area of about 33 million hectares need to be afforested and 31 million hectares of degraded and open forests would need restocking, presuming there is no further deforestation. To take afforestation at this level, forestry infrastructures including manpower and resources need to be strengthened, expanded and enhanced. As against the need of afforestation illustrated above, present afforestation efforts are not only very low but also shows a declining trend, mainly because of lesser funds earmarked for afforestation. During 1996-97, only 1.30 million hectare afforestation could be undertaken by all sources against the average of 1.50 million hectare in last three years.
The growth of human population and consequent human activities have pushed forests to the mountains and hills. Mountains form the catchment of most of the rivers and are important source of water, energy and biological diversity. They are the repository of minerals, ores and countless forest products. They are also essential to survival of the local, regional and global ecosystem. In some cases mountains and hills contain very fragile ecosystem transcending national boundaries and having regional and global scope.
Ecological degradation in any country impinges, directly or indirectly on the quality of life in other countries. Conflicts over water rights are common. Many problems of forest depletion arise from disparities in economic and political power both between and within nations. The forest practices of one country may affect the basis for life in a neighbouring community. Forests in a region may be destroyed by the excessive felling because the people living there may not have any alternatives or because timber contractors have more influence than forest dwellers and others who depend on the sustained management of forests. But this degradation affects all without any discretion.
With the fear of fallouts of an ecological disaster which would devastate the rich and the poor alike, environmentalism has now become a major issue in international relations. It is now a major consideration in international policy making agenda. This new sense of urgency and awareness, for the common cause of environmental protection, is leading to unprecedented cooperation in this area. The most formidable obstacles to this mutual cooperation are the vested economic and political interests of most of the countries.
India is one of the countries rich in biodiversity and largest in the region supporting large variety of flora and fauna from high altitude of Himalayas to coastal areas. Whereas the large catchments in India control the conditions of water course in the neighbouring countries and the highlands of Nepal affects the productivity of alluvial plains in India.
The import policy for wood and wood products has also been liberalised with a view to support forest conservation. As such, during 1994-95, nearly US$600 million worth of wood and wood products were imported. There is total ban on export of timber from India. These trade controls affect the price of raw materials and finished goods. The tariffs for forest products have been reduced considerably over the past few years to regulate the price within the reach of consumers. Due to its rich and valued genetic diversity at present India has vast potential for export of value added Non Wood Forest Products (NWFP). But meeting the requirements of rural poor and tribals have been given priority over exports. Government regulates trade for many of the more important NWFPs to protect the interests of tribals and other rural poor.
Population and poverty are the common phenomenon in all the countries of the region affecting the sustainability of natural resources, forests in particular. There is immediate need of taking up conservation measures for water and soil and the easiest way for conserving these is the protection and development of forests. India has taken a lead in the region by conserving and maintaining the extent of its forest cover around 64 million hectares since long by implementing the provisions of policy prescriptions. The most significant is people's involvement including women in the protection and sustainable management of forests.
It has been realised in India that in the present social scenario, the sustainable management of forests can only be possible by taking communities, living in and around forests, along in the joint management of forests type on benefit sharing basis. Though the concept of joint forest management in India is age old, it was given a legal mantle in the National Forest Policy in 1988. India has taken a lead in this concept since then. Many of the States in India have adopted it as a convincing and effective tool in protection of forests as well as in development of permanent resource base for the livelihood of forest dependent communities.
There is immediate need of co-operation among all the countries in the region for the conservation of biodiversity and India has to take initiative and lead. India's National Forest policy marks a watershed in forestry by giving principal thrust on conservation and recognising the role of community in sustainable management of forests. To affect conservation, there is immediate need of increasing productivity of forests by exchanging scientific and technical know-how, for developing improved clones of forest species, and the better management techniques. India's role may be significant in balancing export and import of wood and wood products to encourage the industrial development within the region.
There is a need of exchange of extension technology for raising forest species on private and institutional lands for meeting the requirement of local people and industries. In most of the developed countries like USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Germany etc., the major part of the forest estate belongs to the forest based industries. These forests are being managed strictly on scientific lines with high technical inputs for increasing productivity and sustainable use. India being the developing country in the region has the potential of increasing productivity of forests. Keeping in view the success of other developed countries, it is felt that in future India would take a lead in developing strategies of involving local community and other stake holders fully for rehabilitation of degraded forests and plantation of waste lands with quality clones/planting material of required species. This would not only meet the requirements of local people and industries but also divert the growing pressure from the natural forests and help in conservation of biodiversity of the region.
Population and poverty are the two main causes of destructive pressure on forests. The depleting forest cover calls for the urgent possible care in planning a strategy to rehabilitate the forests and meet the genuine human needs. This need has to be distinctly differentiated from greed. The trend in population growth of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, majority of whom depend on forests for livelihood, reveal that demands of forest produce even for subsistence alone is going to increase in geometric progression. In this scenario of population growth, unless drastic measures are taken to conserve and increase forest cover, the country would be confronted with a disastrous situation.
About 50 % of recorded forest areas of the country have already become degraded or open due to disproportionate withdrawals of forest produce. Efforts are being made to improve the situation by intensive afforestation, protection by involving communities, and control through various legislation but the general condition of forest cover is continuously deteriorating. The obvious reason is that the need of forest produce by growing population is beyond the carrying capacity of forests thereby reversing the sustainability. To mitigate the situation alternative wood substitutes have to be depended upon to spare forest for better natural functioning and services.
The government funded afforestation activities have only reached a level of about 1.0 million hectare per year in degraded forest areas and around 0.50 million hectare per year in village commons and private lands under various afforestation schemes. In all the total annual afforestation efforts from all sources fluctuate between 1.0 to 1.3 Mha. It is much below as compared with the need based assessment of 3 and earlier announcement of 5 million hectares annually. The present requirements and growing demand cannot be met with the current level of afforestation and increments. This will not meet even the fuelwood need of the country on sustained basis while growing demand of industrial wood and others will continue to degrade the remaining natural forests.
The results of afforestation efforts on non-forest public lands and village commons under social forestry programmes have also not been up to expectations. The reasons are that the planting sites have some times been encroached or selected for some other use in the name of village development. Generally communities some times also worry about losing control of the areas to the government if planted with trees. Large scale grazing is the other cause of poor success of community land plantations. It has been seen in many instances that good social forestry plantations have been diverted for other developmental works negating the very purpose of plantation. Government efforts to promote tree planting on private and farm lands under agroforestry also do not have the desired impact as the incentives under such programmes could not cater to the expectations of the people.
The other reason for not raising quality and adequate plantation is lack of technical know-how and financial resources. Improving the quality of planting material is one of the most important factors to increasing productivity of forest plantations on both private and public lands. It is easy to do by using quality seed and nursery management in accordance with technologies which require only minor adaptation to local conditions. The production of quality planting material is costlier than the current planting stock, but the extra investment is worth and economical in the long run. Other management techniques like giving more attention to planting practices and proper site preparation on degraded sites also improve the productivity of plantations.
Better models to rehabilitate degraded forests through protection with intensive plantations with quality material in joint management may be developed at lesser cost. Since the Government does not have the sufficient resources to rehabilitate the vast areas of degraded forests at one time, such models can be useful to protect the areas in the meantime. Forest research needs to be strengthened to support the desired development and provide solutions to field problems. Sociological research needs to be carried out in parallel with identification of technical and economic options for the desired programmes. An effective extension mechanism should be developed and seedlings of fast growing species fetching good return in shortest possible time should be provided to all individuals and institutions interested in raising of trees. In pursuit of higher production the aspect of soil fertility is not to be ignored.
Farm forestry is well established in India but the supply of subsidised seedlings to the people are poor in quality and affect the production adversely. Farm forestry will only be successful in the long run if the farmers use quality seedlings and adopt good technology. There is considerable scope for improving yields and quality of production from farm forestry. At present the yield is not anywhere near what it could be with the improved technology and with quality planting material. In some areas, Wimco and ITC Bhadrachalam have provided better input and their services to the farmers in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Kitply has also taken some plantations in self acquired private lands mainly for quick economic returns with higher inputs in N.E. states and M.P. In some cases the improved planting material has enhanced the eucalyptus yield from 7 to 20 cu.m. per ha per year. Superior clones of poplar has shown even a better productivity. Poplar being a plywood raw material has fetched good economic returns to the farmers. Trees can also be extracted at a young age to produce reconstituted wood or fibreboard. The necessary technologies are readily available in India. High production forestry and ago-forestry models for rainfed and marginal areas have yet to be developed and extended. Several companies have come up in private sectors and taking up plantations in private lands with a promise of very high yield per plant. While their efforts are commendable in greening the country, their assurances to the public are misleading.
Some of the government regulations create hindrances in farm forestry practices ultimately making it less popular and profitable. In most of the States in India, farmers and individuals can harvest and transport their wood produce only after going through a long cumbersome process to obtain government permits. Once farmers plant trees in their farms, they should be permitted to harvest and transport their produce freely. Ago-forestry in Haryana and Punjab could become a success because in these States, there is no such regulation. Though some other States have also exempted the species of agroforestry from transit permits, more relaxation in forest legislation is still required to promote the ago-forestry. But the effect of such relaxation is not without a backlash.
Though forests provide many valuable services to society, there is no sufficient financial support to reforestation programmes. Government have limitations in earmarking funds to the need based plantation necessities. While loans at higher interest rates from financial institutions are not viable in forestry activities, external agencies have provided soft loans and aids to some of the States on the basis of area oriented projects. The projections of future requirement indicate that the objectives of the new Forest Policy will not be achieved through the current investment strategies. The alternative seems to be to encourage private individuals and institutions to come forward for plantations on their available lands under suitable agroforestry models and joint forest management on degraded forests. More emphasis is needed on methods of transferring knowledge of successful techniques to private individuals, NGOs and institutions. Planning process should be to promote participatory project planning in consultation with communities to increase local involvement. Farmers and tree growers could also be trained to use better harvesting technologies for small-timber and fuelwood along with planting processes.
Earlier a sizeable portion of funds from poverty alleviation programmes was being allocated for social forestry in rural areas but these have now been ceased. In such circumstances, the community users have themselves to develop a paradigm of sustainable development through creating stakes for people who are presently alienated and have become indifferent to the future of forests. A system needs to be evolved whereby sizeable portion of proceeds from the harvest of forest produce, even if assumed notionally, get ploughed back in kind (labour) or cash for rehabilitation and improvement of forests. In order to mobilize funds for development of forestry sector, as well as to address forestry issues of the country, National Forestry Action Plan (NFAP) is being prepared with assistance from UNDP and FAO. It is expected to be completed shortly.
Raw material to forest based industries were traditionally supplied from government forests under long term leases at prices much below the market value of the raw materials. Government also protected domestic industries from foreign competition by setting some regulations. The result of these past policies are mixed. While industrial development has been stimulated, large transfer of forest produce to private industries at below market price have resulted in degradation in vast forest areas as the proportionate investment could not be made available for forest rehabilitation. Further the value earned from forest in financial terms has been less in proportion to the produce harvested. The pressure to supply industry has often led to the replacement of natural forests by monoculture which in turn has deprived local population from the multiple products of the natural mixed forests. The low material prices have also kept private producers away from the plantation activities for industrial use. Even industries did not create infrastructure to produce raw material as they were getting raw material from government forests at much cheaper rates.
Now the policy of supplying raw material to industries at concessional prices has been changed. The National Forest Policy, 1988 envisages to stop this practice. Industries are required to use alternative raw material and to produce raw material for their requirement with direct nexus with the farmers. At present only those contract of supply at concessional rates are valid which were agreed before the pronouncement of new policy.
Changes were also adopted in 1991-92 in industrial policy to liberalise industrial development by permitting the import of forest raw material without any permit. New regulations give preference to small scale industries and industries using alternate raw material like bagasse, rice straw, grasses or any other non-woody vegetation and waste paper.
After the new forest policy has come up, industries, institutions and farmers have shown interest in wood production for pulp and other industrial uses. Still industries are hesitant to establish direct nexus with the farmers and individuals perhaps due to cumbersome process of collecting raw material from thousand places. Farmers are growing their own and selling their produce freely. There is no support price for their produce. In the past, prices of farm forestry produce have generally fallen with the increased supply. Some States have fixed the minimum price of wood through the State Forest Corporations, still much more have to be done to promote ago-forestry. An estimate of how much of the industrial wood demand that could realistically be provided from farm forestry over time has not been made. It is time, wood based industries should create infrastructure to promote agroforestry with assured buying back provisions.
The policy of putting ban on fellings from natural forests needs to be reviewed again. This restriction has inflated the import bill and put pressure on wood based industries. Non-working of natural forests will affect the hygiene and health of forests adversely. These forests should be worked silviculturally on the basis of sustainable production with the realistic approach of supply of wood to all with sufficient investment for regeneration and protection. While the reserved forests should be intensively protected with controlled working conducive to natural regeneration, the degraded forests should be immediately taken up for massive plantation and revegetation with quality input and enhanced investment in close collaboration with concerned stake holders so as to provide forest produce to local people and industries maintaining sustainability of forest areas. The degraded forest areas if protected well over a period of time can come to its natural shape and in this regard Indian climate is very supportive.
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is a wide ranging comprehensive expression which embraces all aspects of forest management conservation and development. Natural resources have to be conserved and augmented but essential development needs of the society cannot be overlooked. Forest management on sustained basis is a Herculean task which can well be achieved by joint efforts of the State and people. Joint Forest Management (JFM) is a bold step in this direction. Several wood based industries have shown interest to become partners in overall efforts for afforestation. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) are also actively helping in the tough task of forest rehabilitation and development of a resource base for millions of rural population. Coordinated efforts of all well meaning agencies with adequate input of research and investment would definitely bring out good results.
Research in forestry has a long tradition in India but for various reasons it has not been given priority in forest management and it has fallen far behind the World development. Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) in Dehradun and its branches at different regions is the premier institute of research but it undertakes mostly centralised academic research. Some of the States have their own research institutes to focus largely on regional applied problems, while this task in other States is done by silviculturists of forest departments. There is hardly any co-ordination among ICFRE, State institutes and departments and other research organisations including universities. Also, there is no link between users and research organisations and most of the research works are of limited use to field problems. The whole research activities need to be reorganised and strengthened so that research institutes and organisations take up applied research and the useful findings may easily be transferred to field level.