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The Indian forest service: Its origin and progress


On 15 August 1947, India and Pakistan became independent dominions within the British Commonwealth of nations. Among the established services which concluded their duties and handed over their tasks and their experience to the new regimes, was the Indian Forest Service. Over a period of 90 years, this service had developed an effective program and a body of skilled professional men and leaders. Both were oriented to the tasks of making the forests of India serve the needs of the people, in preserving water supplies, providing saleable products and income, and preserving the fauna. This venture was always difficult and complex, having to contend with established habits of forest exploitation and commercial interests alike. Many aspects of the total problem were successively met, analyzed and measurably solved.

Forestry in India and Burma was a pioneer effort and served as an indispensable experiment from which subsequent projects in other tropical areas drew experience in approach, method, and doctrine, often put into effect by men who had been seasoned in the heat and difficulties of India's forests. The experience was certainly very useful to other countries as well, as they in turn faced the task of establishing forestry under pioneering or primitive conditions, and in the face of apathy or antagonism. India and Pakistan are better lands, and forestry in many other lands has gained, because of the solid work done by the Indian Forest Service.

*This article, which subsequently has been revised by the author, first appeared in The Empire Forestry Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1947.

The work of the Indian Forest Service, as embodied in the Indian Forest Department, may be regarded as the second phase in the recorded history of the forests of the subcontinent. A few words about the first phase. Very early in the nineteenth century the British Government became nervous about the supply of teak for the King's Navy. The belt of teak, Tectona grandis, near the Malabar coast of western India covers part of the Bombay and Madras Presidencies. The Government there claimed teak as a royal tree, and as early as 1806 introduced some measures for the more conservative exploitation of this and other shipbuilding timbers; but the first real attempt at regeneration of teak was not made until 1842, when the Nilambur plantation was started by Conolly, the Collector of Malabar. Two officers of the long-established Indian Medical Service were the first Conservators of Forests - Dr. Gibson in Bombay in 1847, and Dr. Cleghorn in Madras in 1856. Both were aware of, and had reported on, the increasing devastation of the local forests by over-felling, shifting cultivation and fires, leading, at least in Madras, to the silting-up of creeks and rivers. No adequate action was taken at the time, although good ideas were not lacking.

Meanwhile the other and much larger source of teak, a royal tree in Burma, was opened when Tenasserim was ceded to the British in 1826. There had been trading in this timber before in Moulmein by the British. Dr. Wallich, who was deputed to report on the forests in 1827, found a rich but not inexhaustible supply, but his proposals for their exploitation were not very practical, and timber speculators or licensees were soon reaping a harvest. Natural regeneration of teak is difficult thereabouts and ten years later a great absence of young growth was noted and planting was recommended, but nothing was done for another decade. The province of Pegu was annexed in 1852.

In northern India, the accessible sal, Shorea robusta, forests were being very heavily cut for home consumption. For the Dehra Dun district, figures of the annual forest revenue are available from 1815 onwards. The fellings were uncontrolled, the timber being paid for as it left the forest. The peak of the revenue was about the middle of the century. Ribbentrop has recorded that these forests were in a terrible condition when he saw them in 1869-70. In the early 1850's deodar, Cedrus deodara, forests were already being exploited for public works in the Punjab, and the fuel shortage at Simla had become acute; on the other hand in Sind enclosures against grazing by camels and goats were enabling valuable species, notably babul, Acacia arabica, to regenerate themselves.

Pegu in Burma had rich forests, but they were spared the fate of Tenasserim, for after Dr. McClelland had reported in 1854 in support of the control of exploitation, Lord Dalhouse, the Governor-General, laid down the first outline of a permanent forest policy and Brandis was appointed Superintendent of Forests in Pegu in 1856 and afterwards in Tenasserim. The new Superintendent was responsible for carrying out over a wide area a series of linear enumerations on which he based his scheme of management for a sustained yield. He also introduced some measures of protection and improvement, and for control of timber in transit. Some small regular teak plantations were also commenced at this time. A great struggle with the timber lessees followed over the control of the fellings but, although partial compromise was necessary, the selection of trees to be felled and their girdling were placed in the hands of the Forest Department and have remained there ever since. Meanwhile in Madras too in the years 1856-61, there was much activity, with stress laid on silviculture and the organization of staff for protection in all districts and fuel supplies for important centers. Shifting cultivation was stopped in 1860.

The second phase opened in 1864 when Brandis, who had left Burma two years before, was appointed to be the first inspector-general of forests to the Government of India in order to initiate regular forest administration and management. Forestry had been inaugurated in the western part of what is now the United Provinces under the Commissioners in 1860, and conservatorships followed in the Central Provinces and Oudh in 1861; in the first of these two, shifting cultivation is said to have covered 13,000 km² (5,000 square miles). Fire was another very destructive factor, especially in the zones with moderate rainfall.

The Government was the owner of all land, both cultivated and waste, except insofar as it had parted with ownership in whole or part according to the various systems of land tenure. It owned and still owns enormous areas of waste land.

Again, the civil (bureaucratic) administration was based upon the district. The post of each district official, whatever his department and whether superior or subordinate, carried a territorial responsibility. The areas, generally speaking, were large, but no one could absent himself from his area without permission; i.e. without specific leave of absence of one kind or another. Thus no evasion of responsibility was possible. The forest officer was essentially a district officer or became one; at that time there were no specialists.

The head of the district (collector of deputy commissioner) was responsible for the collection of land revenue and the maintenance of law and order. The former centered on the ancient system of land revenue settlements which were revised every thirty years or so and affected all agricultural interests. These settlements were sacrosanct, and it is easy to realize that when forest administration was started and the forests were carved out and demarcated, and fellings etc., gradually controlled there was much perturbation and opposition, both high and low, even though (as Baden Powell wrote fifty years ago) the forests were only taken out of the "surplus" waste lands. This opposition died hard and tended not only to retard progress in organization as understood by keen foresters, but also to create a bias against impartial settlements of rights and privileges at the time when the permanent forest settlements came to be made, before individual areas could be notified as "reserved." There were notable exceptions among the higher authorities, men of vision and foresight, but to too many people of all classes the supply of forest produce of all kinds appeared to be unending and any question of economy a fad.

A forest depot on the bank of a hill stream. Here the cedar railway sleepers are collected, launched into the river and floated down to the depots hundreds of miles away.

Moreover, in the early 1860's the country had nearly settled down after the tragic events of 1857, cultivation was being rapidly extended, with a concomitant increase of flocks and herds, and there was great activity in the construction of railways and public buildings in northern and central India. Inspection of the Punjab river basins in 1862-3 showed that all good deodar in the lower reaches of the Sutlej within three miles of the river had already been cut. The price of a deodar in some of the petty States was only Rs.2 (4s.) a tree.

If the years between 1864 and 1947 can be divided into periods we may now consider the events of the first twenty to twenty-five years of the Department against the background depicted above. What was the forest staff, how were they recruited and trained what work did they do?

Apart from Schlich and Ribbentrop, who entered the service in 1866, ninety-five I.F.S. officers were recruited in England, trained in France (Nancy), or Germany, and Joined up in the eighteen years between 1869 and 1886. While the first of these were settling down, the hard foundation of organization (selection of State forests, demarcation, surveys, preliminary inquiries about right of user) was being laid by officers recruited locally and partly trained, not least a number of officers of the Indian Staff Corps (Army). Interesting accounts of their experiences by such men as Colonel Pearson, Bagshawe, and McDonnell have been published in the Indian Forester and elsewhere. Effective work in primary organization and administration, including protection, was done. Fire protection was begun in the Central Provinces in 1864.

Conservatorships (or Circles) had been created in all the provinces by 1868, but the staffs under them remained very small and the subordinate staff was very badly paid and housed. The area of some of these charges was enormous and, with the firm control from the center and all officers on one list, transfers of the most able officers from one province to another were frequent. Brandis toured India and left many a note of inspection and assessment of timber resources, at the same time collecting material for his great work, Indian Trees. Overcut and ruined forests had to be rested and other sources of supply, hitherto inaccessible or less heavily cut, opened up and worked less wastefully. Great numbers of railway sleepers were cut in the decade 1865-75: deodar from the Punjab and Garhwal areas, sal from Oudh and Kumaon, and even chir, Pinus longifolia, from the latter. Arising out of the demand for fuel for locomotives and river steamers in the Punjab, the Changa-Manga irrigated plantation was started in the plains near Lahore in 1866-88, but this did not come into full bearing till 1881.

The first Indian Forest Act was passed in 1865. It was soon found to be deficient, especially as regards the regulation of rights. Its successor was Act VII of 1878. In the words of Baden Powell, written fourteen years after about forest settlements, "it was extremely difficult to get the authorities to agree to a complete measure," and, he adds, "all experience shows that, as time goes on, forest property becomes more valuable... Such property should become more sharply defined. All rational forest management looks to the future." Himself a member of the Indian Civil Service, Baden Powell spent the middle years of his service seconded to the Forest Department - fortunately for the latter, for he was a great authority on forest law and land revenue systems. Under Act VII what is in effect an elaborate procedure is necessary before a forest can be "reserved," but once completed no more rights can accrue. Where there is doubt about permanency, forests are "protected" and control generally is lighter; damage of many different kinds (fires, etc.) is permissible in protected forests unless specifically prohibited by rules. Among other important chapters are those regarding timber in transit and penalties including the compounding of forest offenses. This Act was brought into force in all the major provinces in India except Madras, for which important modifications were necessary. The separate Act XIX of 1881 was evolved for Burma. Act VII of 1878 has since been superseded by Act XVI of 1927.

Accurate surveys and sufficiently good maps of forests are a sine qua non for successful administration and management. In India in the early days of the Department, the Land Revenue staff mapped every field with meticulous care, but only seldom sketched in boundaries of any adjoining forest lands. The Survey of India was busy with more important work than jungles, generally remote. "For several years this want was supplied by provincial and local agency, but it soon became evident that these efforts were not sufficiently controlled... the maps varied far too much in character" (Ribbentrop). In 1873, therefore, the Forest Survey Branch was created for topographical surveys, to work with the Survey of India but directly under the inspector-general of forests. Later the Survey of India employed parties in several provinces, with the result that in the twenty-five years up to 1898 more than 120,000 km² (46,000 sq. ml.) of government forest had been surveyed and mapped, mostly on the scale of 1 to 16,000 (4 in. to the mi.). By 1907, 177,770 km² (68,637 sq. ml.) had been surveyed and mapped.

The name of Col. Bailey of the Royal Engineers is connected with the beginning of the Forest Survey Branch, as it is also with the first years of the Forest School at Dehra Dun. This was opened in 1878 in supersession of the earlier training at the Rurki Engineering College, where little forestry could be taught. From the start the aim at Dehra was to turn out practical foresters. On the whole this has been done very successfully and the school has furnished those Provincial Governments by whom it was supported with a succession of valuable members of the upper subordinate service, some of whom gained promotion to the I.F.S. Moreover, the classes have acted as a melting pot for the students of diverse races. The provinces have given generously of their officers to staff the school. The number of rangers who graduated in the first seventeen classes was 344 and of foresters (lower standard) 101. The director of the school was also the Conservator of the School Circle of three forest divisions which formed a fine training ground between November and June each year. Perhaps the best known among the directors was Gamble, botanist and author of the Manual of Indian Timbers.

Closely connected with the school was the departmental but unofficial monthly magazine the Indian Forester, which first saw the light in 1875 with Schlich as its first editor. Produced under the pressure of other work, this publication has both brought out articles of scientific and historical value and also maintained a freshness of outlook and expressed contemporary opinion in a way which might not otherwise have been possible under a bureaucratic regime.

The assessment of timber resources by valuation surveys was not confined to Burma. In the early 1860's they were carried into northern India also, as a counter to overselling. As the organization of the better forests began to take shape, and in spite of, or perhaps because of the paucity of the staff, it be came clear that the work to be done each year should be planned in advance (this is easily done in India, where the monsoon rains retard or stop outdoor work from July to September or October). When Schlich was transferred to Sind in 1870 it was partly that he might draw up a regular plan of operations. The situation there was easy; the forests were well demarcated and with no possibility of rights being claimed, but the demand for timber and fuel was keen. These plans of operations, generally annual and subject to a check on each item at the close of the year, became the order of the day. They led on to the much more elaborate working plans, as more professionally trained officers became available and the collection of data more systematic, chiefly at first in the United Provinces (then the North West Provinces), Burma and the Punjab. But even in 1884, although a lot of other preliminary work had been done, only 280 km² (109 sq. mi.) of reserves were listed as being under such plans in the Bengal Presidency; i.e., the whole of British India other than Madras and Bombay. Oliver's carefully thought-out plan (1885) for 259 km² (100 sq. ml.) of Prome was the first plan in Burma.

Working plans were helped by the fact that owing to a measure of decentralization in 1882 the local governments obtained a direct interest in surplus revenues from the forests, and officers who made such surpluses were commended; in fact forests were expected to pay their way. It is said that in the valuable forests of Oudh the possible annual yield was forestalled for many years. Therefore, Schlich, who had just become inspector-general, proposed to centralize the control of the preparation of regular working plans and of future management under them, in the Governor of India; i.e., the inspector-general, with a special branch under a superintendent of working plans. This important proposal was sanctioned in 1884.

Every slope that is not too steep is terraced and cultivated. The rest is heavily grazed and landslips occur owing to denudation.

Thus, during this first period up to, say, 1886, and in spite of difficulties and a very small staff, the foundation of the forest organization was truly laid. The next twenty years, during many of which Ribbentrop was the head of the Department, were years of progressive consolidation and coincided with the arrival of the I.F.S. men trained at Cooper's Hill in the United Kingdom by Schlich and Fisher and other able teachers. The Cooper's Hill motto was mens sana in corpore sano; this fitted quite well the 162 foresters who went to India between 1887 and 1906, as well as their fellow engineers who were joining the Public Works Department. The Cooper's Hill foresters who received part of their training in German and French forests were to serve under their elders trained wholly in France or Germany, or, quite often, under the diminishing band of officers (Indian Staff Corps, etc.) who were only partially trained in forestry, but generally knew the country, language, and customs well and were the less likely to fall victim to the wiles of contractors and others.

Here a few words may be said about the Provincial Forest Service (P.F.S.), which was inaugurated in 1891 and occupied a position between the I.F.S. and the upper subordinate staff. The first P.F.S. men were trained in the Rangers' School at Dehra Dun and took the place of the old sub-assistant conservators. They were second-class gazetted officers and were often in charge of minor forest divisions. A special class was opened for their training in 1912 and then higher qualifications for entrance were demanded.

Very little of a spectacular nature happened during these years, but a steadily increasing area of reserves was being created, administered and restored and forest settlements rounded off. By the year 1906-07, 241,200 km² (93,138 sq. mi.) had been "reserved," of which 56,000 km² (21,575 sq. ml.) were in Burma, and 24,500 km² (9,468 sq. ml.) "protected" under the Forest Acts. Of the boundaries of these forests one-ninth were natural and the remainder 230,500 km² (143,256 miles) artificial, all to be kept in order in a variety of climates and types of forest.

Fire protection was in full swing, 115,100 km² (44,443 sq. ml.) being under protection in 1907. Despite the obvious benefits to the growing stock arising from it in the coniferous and deciduous forests of moderate rainfall, doubts were already (about 1905) being thrown upon its advisability in the wetter forests of Bengal and Burma with the insidious ousting of the more valuable deciduous by evergreen species.

The rehabilitation of the ruined forest took a long time and could not be hastened. Improvement fellings with cleanings were the rule, or coppice with standards where the villagers' demands for small timber required them. Selection fellings or selection with improvement were possible in some areas of big timber and the shelter-wood compartment method was introduced successfully in one or two forests of Pinus longifolia. All trees were hammer marked before sale or felling. Periodical creeper-cutting was also necessary. The renewal of crops was almost entirely by unaided regeneration, the principal exception being the teak taungya plantations in Burma, of which there were some 28,594 ha. (70,655 acres) in 1907. Plantations for the supply of fuel were formed with eucalypt and Casuarina in Madras and with Dalbergia sissu in the Punjab plains. The preparation of working plans was steadily pressed on and by 1907 a total area of 110,000 km² (42,468 sq. ml.) of the best forests had been put under them.

With increasing continuity of treatment and the general development of the country the forest revenues rose, though a disproportionate amount came from Burma. The expenditure was kept in ratio. Communications (forest roads) and buildings were backward on the whole. At the end of the period all ranks were receiving better rates of pay and allowances.

In most of the provinces the relations between the revenue and forest officials improved considerably, but in more than one of those in the Indian Peninsula, especially where the forests are an important source of grazing and small produce for the villages, the reserves were divided into two classes, first and second. As the condition of the village waste lands deteriorated, the pressure on the improving Government forests tended to increase in spite of closures to grazing. This has gone on ever since and has indeed become one of the most difficult problems of the Indian forest administration.

Already in 1883 on account of the periodic occurrence of famines, fuel and fodder reserves had been mooted in connection with the protection of cattle in seasons of drought, and under the prevailing circumstances there was little cause for surprise when the Government of India issued a circular in 1894 ordering the reclassification of all its forests into four principal groups, of which the lowest was pasture forests. From the forest point of view it seemed a retrograde step, considering what a small proportion of the waste lands (roughly one quarter) had been constituted Government forests. There was a lot of truth in the words of Baden Powell: "Above all do not let the mischievous notion gain ground that only high-class timber forests need restrictions, regeneration and care, and that the humbler classes need none." He also wrote very strongly against any policy of drift.

Progress in Burma is implied in the opening of the Burma Forest School in 1898. The conception of the Forest Research Institute at Dehra Dun belongs to this period and the credit for it goes to Eardley-Wilmot, who had succeeded H. C. Hill and Wroughton as inspector-general in 1903. The Institute came into being in 1906 and is dealt with more fully in the next period. Similarly with the chief conservatorships, which were created in provinces having more than two conservators so as to coordinate the administration and to take the control of working plans, now become very numerous, out of the hands of the inspector-general. The first chief conservator was appointed for Burma in 1905.

When the Cooper's Hill College was closed in 1905, the home training of men for the I.F.S. was transferred to Oxford University under Schlich. The Secretary of State subsequently accepted trainees from other universities, so that, apart from the eleven men who moved with Schlich to Oxford and came out to India in 1907, the following numbers joined the service in the twenty-five years 1908 to 1932: 203 from Oxford, 54 from Cambridge, 39 from Edinburgh, together with 14 from Dehra Dun - in all 310. As there was no significant European recruitment between 1933 and 1947, these numbers cover the whole 40-year period 1908 to 1947; this will now be dealt with. It may be added that the European tours continued to be an important feature of the training.

The period was one of general advance, and, particularly during the last half of it, there was an enlargement in the scope of the Department and even an overflow beyond its former limits to soil conservation and utilization. At the close there had come a better appreciation by responsible people of the value of forests and forestry in the economic life of India as an aid to agriculture and the rural administration, where it touched the latter, as well as for the timber industry. There could no longer be any doubt that the forests could be restored and conserved and, at the same time furnish a continuous supply of produce of many kinds and revenue; also there had been two world wars, to the winning of which the forests made a big contribution, albeit at the expense of the crops built up over many years. The Forest Research Institute had been developed greatly and proved its worth not only on the silvicultural (productive) side, but, more obviously to the outside public, in the sphere of utilization (consumption). The tremendous growth in the population and the rise in the cost of living increased the value of the rights and concessions for free or cheap produce from the forests to the villages entitled to them.

Foresters in India were naturally interested in the betterment of land, as a whole, because they had so much poor land in their charge, the productivity of which they were constantly trying to improve. They tended to view land from the worst upwards, others from the best downwards. To a forester a landslip is not just an act of God, but due to someone's carelessness, maybe to excessive grazing; anyhow it is something to be remedied. For a variety of reasons attention has recently been focussed on the misuse of land on the outer slopes of the Himalayas in the Punjab, but good work has also been done in the way of land development, outside the boundaries of Government forests, in the United Provinces and Bombay. Lessons have been learnt from the United States of America. It is worth remembering that a hundred years ago Dr. Gibson was inquiring in Bombay about the effect of denudation of the forests on the climate of different localities and upon water supplies.

Making charcoal in remote forests. The natural forest is felled and made into charcoal and the site is then planted with more valuable species.

A few statistics of 1939-1940 may be given to illustrate the size of the Department's activities, remembering that Burma was separated from India in 1937:

AREAS: India 188,500 km² (72,793 sq mi) reserved forests, 17,350 km² (6,699 sq mi) protected, 49,800 km² (19,229 sq mi) unclassed.

Burma 81,940 km² (31,637 sq mi) reserved forests, nil protected, 245,200 km² (94,655 sq mi) unclassed.

FINANCE: India Revenue, Rs.302 lakhs (£2,270,000); expenditure, Rs.227 lakhs (£1,700,000).

Burma Revenue, Rs.144 lakhs (£1,080,000); expenditure, Rs.84 lakhs (£630,000).

WORKING PLANS: India 172,000 km² (66,403 sq mi) under sanctioned plans.

Burma 75,200 km² (29,034 sq mi) under sanctioned plans.

PROTECTION FROM FIRE: India area attempted, 125,900 km² (48,615 sq ml).

The inspectors-general of this period who followed Eardley-Wilmot were Beadon-Bryant, Hart, Clutter-buck, Rodger, Blascheck, Trevor, Howard and Hamilton.

The interest of those local governments which had large or valuable forest estates was stimulated when, in 1911, the revenues and expenditures of the forests were made wholly provincial. Be this as it may, the number of conservators was increased largely about this time - even working plan circles making their bow as well as utilization officers - and so for the six bigger provinces, Burma, Central Provinces, Bombay, United Provinces, Madras and the Punjab, in the order given, chief conservators' posts were created between 1905 and 1921.

As regards administration, grazing had given the territorial officers in the provinces of moderate rainfall much to think about and had been the subject of many articles in the Indian Forester. The areas had been too large and the staff too small to enable a system of control to be introduced which would be fair alike to the forests and the graziers, but grazing settlements for forests under severe pressure (in the Central Provinces), as an essential part of individual working plans, have stood the test of time. At high levels in the north-west Himalayas, both in Government and States' forests, the grazing, with lopping, of nomadic flocks of sheep and goats, and in a lesser degree buffaloes, has been extremely destructive to the important protective belt of oaks and high-level birch in the last forty years. Oaks of the upper zones have also suffered much from indiscriminate lopping by villagers. The conservation of soil and water is very greatly endangered by these practices, when carried to such excess.

Complete fire protection went out of fashion. In inflammable and grassy forests where the valuable species are at all resistant to fire and when regeneration can be concentrated, "early burning" seems the best way out of trouble at present. It is useful in forests of chir, Pinus longofolia, if carefully applied. Again, fire protection in climates and under conditions favoring the development of evergreen at the expense of more valuable species has been proved wrong.

These matters are obviously tied up with the silviculture of the different species - the gregarious sal and chir and the more sporadic deodar and teak, the principal timber species - and help to make it such a fascinating subject in India. With it goes that part of management which deals with the methods of treatment and the working plans built upon them. A great deal of excellent work has been done during this period for many of the provinces, with the silviculturist at the Forest Research Institute controlling from the centre and the provincial silviculturists aiding and abetting. Owing to the improvement of the crops it has been possible to introduce more up-to-date or profitable methods without departing from sound principles. The uniform or shelter-wood compartment method has been extended to the better sal forests and to some deodar. Where clear-fellings could be made in some areas to afforested, the taungya method of regeneration has been employed successfully in several provinces; an earlier generation might have fought shy of anything connected with shifting cultivation. Under other, methods more use has been made of planting to aid natural regeneration, particularly since stump-planting was developed. As to regular plantations, during the period 1894-1924 the Punjab Forest Department lost 2600 km² (1000 sq mi) of plains forest to the Canal Department and replaced them more or less with seven irrigated plantations (apart from Changa Manga) of 18,600 ha (46,000 acres). The famous old teak plantation of Nilambur, started in 1842, began its second rotation in 1917. Much remains to be done in regard to mixtures in plantations, especially in humid climates; pure plantations of species not found pure in the natural forest appear very subject to insect attacks.

Working plans which need revision after short periods are not easy to keep up to date; a ten-year period is too short for practical administration. In the larger provinces a special working-plan staff has been found essential and a working plan circle very useful. Within five or six years of the constitution of a working plan circle in Burma, a big deficit of working plan preparation was quickly cleared.

The disposal of produce, both major and minor, has been done mainly through contractors by auction or tender. Departmental working has been necessary at times, generally through contractors working under the divisional forest officer. In Burma, where private teak firms were very powerful, an important area of teak in the Pegu Yoma has been operated by departmental agency from very early days.

The Forest Department in India owed its origin partly to the needs of the railways for timber and firewood, and it can be said that it was they, acting with or through the utilization branch of the Forest Research Institute, who bent the surplus energies of the administrators into taking a more direct part in the utilization side of timber. The silviculturists, too, for the benefit of the mixed forests, were anxious to see other timbers marketed on a fuller scale than the half-dozen or even dozen which the traders were ready to extract. There were other reasons, too, e.g., there seemed a lot of money to be made! And so for various reasons utilization officers, and even a few utilization circles, came into being in several provinces and did most useful work, especially in war-time, but more grandiose schemes about 1920 mostly failed where they involved large expenditures and touched on what may be called the intricacies of private enterprise.

Reclaiming the desert. The scrub is cleared and the land roughly levelled. It is then flooded with irrigation water to wash out the slats and it is sown with babul, Acacia arabica, which in twelve years sweetens the land and produces a fine crop of fuel and small timber. Cotton is grown for a few years in between the babul lines as a catch crop.

The recruitment of a new branch, the Indian Forest Engineers, eighteen of whom joined up in 1921 and 1922, was in a rather different category. They were brought from Britain to give expert engineering help on the territorial side, anything to do with improving and cheapening the harvesting and conversion, including roads and buildings, as well as portable sawmills. There were able men among them and they certainly filled a gap.

Reclaiming the desert. Three years ago this was the same as the scene above. Now it has a fine crop of babul, Acacia arabica, and cotton. The cotton crop pays for this reclamation of a salty sandy waste.

The activities of the Forest Research Institute at Dehra Dun have been briefly referred to already. Since its inception the Institute has been greatly enlarged under two of its presidents, Mercer and Perree, and each of its branches, silviculture, botany, entomology, chemistry and utilization, has added much to the knowledge and development of Indian forestry and forests. A fine set of buildings and workshops inspires to effort and makes Dehra a worthy center for conferences on professional matters. It is quite impossible here even to summarize the work of the Institute. Personal visits by the heads of branches and their assistants to all parts of the country and the issue of records or papers of a permanent or temporary nature are its principal features. It may be said, without disparagement to the work of other branches, that the utilization section did very valuable work during the two wars, in particular the second, when the use of secondary timbers and economy in the employment of wood and other forest produce became a vital necessity. Many years of systematic research had made this possible.

The pioneer workers at the Institute included Troup (silviculture), Hole (botany), Stebbing (entomology) and R. S. Pearson (utilization). Later workers of note include H. G. Champion (silviculture), Beeson (entomology), and Krishna (chemistry). Forest education also had its headquarters at Dehra Dun. The rangers' school in the fifty-nine years up to 1939 (later figures are wanting) graduated 1322 rangers and 286 foresters to the provinces and Indian States, a great majority to the former. There was a; P. F. S. class there from 1912 to 1928 and an I. F. S. class was started in 1938, but shut down during the war. In 1912 Madras opened its own rangers' school for students from Southern India at Coimbatore; this ran for many years. In Burma the rangers' school at Pyinmana has already been noticed; a P. F. S. class was also opened at Rangoon University in 1923. Several provinces also ran their own well-managed classes for foresters for many years. In short, it has been a fixed policy to train the upper subordinates proportionately as highly as the superior officers.

A word about forestry in the Indian States. Before the advent of the Indian Forest Department several States in southern India were important sources of forest products: sandalwood in Mysore, teak in Travancore and Cochin. The first British conservator in Mysore was appointed in 1864 while the State was under British management. Before 1867 Cleghorn had drawn up a set of simple rules of conservation for the guidance of state councils. In the north the Jammu and Kashmir State has very valuable deodar forests and for many years an officer was seconded from the I. F. S., as conservator, to supervise the management. Other States rich in deodar are or were Tehri-Garhwal, Bashahr and Chamba. In recent years forty-two Orissa States have been banded together for forest management under an Adviser; sal is the principal species. At one time or another fifty-five States have sent their men to be trained at the Dehra Dun school or college.

The transfer of the administration from British to Indian hands has been made gradually over a period of years - from the time of the Reform Act of 1919 and of the Lee Commission in 1923.

Finally, honorable mention should be made of some of those who left the Indian Service to organize forest departments in other parts of the British Commonwealth. Such were Hutchins and Storr Listen in South Africa, "Timber" Thompson in Nigeria, Burn-Murdoch and Cubitt in Malaya.

In order to illustrate the more recent position and wider scope for forestry, mention should be made of the recommendations for postwar forestry policy sent in 1944 by the Inspector-General to the Reconstruction Committee appointed by the Government of India. They cover the whole Indian canvas with a broad brush, including private forests and those of the Indian States, and carry forward the principles laid down by the Central Government in the circular of 1894 already referred to, which, however, only dealt with government forest and Crown waste land. Taking India as a whole, and the large areas of the plains (covered with villages) which are watered by the Ganges and Indus and their tributaries and are for the most part far distant from any constituted forests, it is pointed out that the most important problems are, firstly, proper land management to control floods and erosion, and the afforestation of the dry belt in the west (Rajputana, etc.) and, secondly, the provision of small timber and firewood sufficiently close to their homes for the ordinary agricultural village consumers, both to provide for their direct wants and to release cowdung for manure.

In the main the recommendations were accepted by the Committee, as indeed all well-wishers for the prosperity of the country would desire, but their adequate fulfilment will require a great deal of money, staff, and time. That need not be a deterrent.


Indian Forester, Vols. XVIII (1892), XXI (1895), XXIII (1897).

RIBBENTROP, B., Forestry in British India, 1900.

STEBBING, E. P., The Forests of India, 3 vols., 1922-26.

PERREE, W. F., Indian Forest Administration, in Empire Forestry Journal, 1927.

HOWARD, SIR S. H., Post-War Forest Policy for India, 1944.

All photographs by courtesy of the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun, India.

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