Forests of India

Forests Of India

The jungles of India are ancient in nature and composition. They are rich in variety and shelter a wide range of avifauna and mammals and insects. The fact that they have existed for very long time is proved from the ancient texts all of which have some mention of the forests. The people revered forests and a large number of religious ceremonies centered on trees and plants. Even today in parts of India the sacred groves exist and are worshipped. During the early part of the British rule, trees were used for timber and forests were cut for paper. Large numbers of trees such as sal, teak and sandalwood were cut. For export also. The history of modern Indian forestry was a process by which the British gradually appropriated forest resources for revenue generation. Trees could not be felled without prior permission and knowledge of the authority. This step was taken to ensure that they were the sale users of the forest trees. But after some time, the British began to regulate and conserve. In 1800. a commissioner was appointed to look into the availability of teak in the Malabar forests. In 1806, the Madras government appointed Capt. Watson as the commissioner of forests for organizing the production of teak and other timber suitable for the building of ships.

In 1855, Lord Dalhousie framed regulations for conservation of forest in the entire country. Teak plantations were raised in the Malabar hills and acacia and eucalyptus in the Niligiri Hills. In Bombay the conservator of forest, Gibson, tried to introduce rules prohibiting shifting cultivation and plantation of teak forests. From 1865 to 1894. Forest reserves were established to secure material for imperial needs. From the 18th century, scientific forest management systems were employed to regenerate and harvest the forest to make it sustainable. Between 1926 and 1947 afforestation was carried out on a large scale in the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In the early 1930s, people began showing interest in the conservation of wild life. Around the same time the Indian rulers of the States also started conservation of habitats to help conserve the birds and mammals.

Though all of them were hunters and between them and the British they cleaned at least 5000 tigers if not more. But still these areas of conservation helped save the species from extinction and formed most of the modern National Parks. The new Forest Policy of 1952 recognized the protective functions of the forest and aimed at maintaining one third of Indias land area under forest. Certain activities were banned and grazing restricted. Much of the original British policy was kept in place, such as the classification of forest land into two broad types. The next 50 years saw development and change in peoples thinking regarding the forest. A constructive attitude was brought about through a number of five year plans. Until 1976, the forest resource was seen as a source of earning money for the state and therefore little was spent in protecting it or looking after it. Today Indias forests are protected in National Parks like Corbett and Nagarhole or in Sanctuaries like Pakhui and Little Rann of Katch.

The modern way of thinking has resulted in Biosphere Reserves and Biodiversity Hotspots and extensive research on them have resulted in rediscovery of new species of mammals like the Leaf Deer in Arunachal Pradesh or the Hook Nosed Frog in Western Ghats. Supporting more than 14 percent of the wild fauna and a higher percentage of the wild flora of the world the forests of India is an intricate web of life with many surprises to explore. As we proceed to an era of advanced wildlife management and as the pressure on the forests all over the world increase the need of the hour is to realize the potential resource that the forests have both economically and from the natural point of view.