Forests and the forestry sector
India's forest cover is estimated to be about 64 million hectares, or 19.5 percent of the country's area, however, the per caput availability of forest land in India is one of the lowest in the world, 0.08 ha, against an average of 0.5 ha for developing countries and 0.64 ha for the world. In qualitative terms, however, the dense forest in almost all the major states has been reduced. Forest degradation is a matter of serious concern.
About 35 million hectares of forests, some 55 percent of the forest area, are affected by fires annually. Other factors leading to forest degradation are transfer of forest lands for other land uses, encroachment on forest lands for agriculture and other purposes, grazing, and pests and diseases.
Forests formally contribute 1.7 percent to India¿s GDP. India produces a range of processed forest (wood and non-wood) products ranging from sawnwood, panel products and wood pulp to bamboo, rattan ware and pine resin. The paper industry produces over 3 million tonnes annually from more than 400 mills (however, the raw material to produce that volume comes substantially from non-wood fibre).
Total industrial wood consumption by wood-based processing industries is about 30 million cubic metres. This, however, accounts only for about 10 percent of total wood consumption; 90 percent is consumed in the form of small timber and fuelwood. An important cause for suboptimal wood use is its relatively low price because of subsidies on wood raw materials and free fuelwood supply.
India is the world¿s largest consumer of fuelwood. The country¿s consumption of fuelwood is about five times higher than what can be sustainably removed from forests, however a large percentage of this fuelwood is grown and managed outside forests. Fuelwood meets about 40 percent of the energy needs of the country. About 70 percent of the fuelwood is used by households and the rest by commercial and industrial units. Around 80 percent of rural people and 48 percent of urban people use fuelwood.
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs), such as latex, gums, resins, essential oils, flavours, fragrances and aroma chemicals, thatching materials and medicinal plants, have great potential to support economic development. It is estimated that 60 percent of NWFP production is consumed locally. Sale of NWFPs accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total revenue from the forestry sector in India. Collection and utilization of NWFPs account for about 2 million person-years, and nearly 400 million people living in and around forests depend on NWFPs for their sustenance and supplemental income. NWFPs provide as much as 50 percent of income to about 30 percent of rural people.
Last updated: April 2002