Cover Image
close this bookObstacles to Tree Planting in Arid and Semi-Arid lands: Comparative Case Studies from India and Kenya (UNU, 1982, 63 p.)
close this folder2. India
View the documentForestry policy, strategy, and organization
View the documentSelection of the study area
View the documentResources and needs for forest products and services
View the documentOvercoming the major obstacles to tree planting
View the documentThe Gujarat community forestry project

Forestry policy, strategy, and organization

The first Indian Forestry Act was passed in 1865 to control indisciminate felling and initiate the preparation of working plans that would regulate yield. The first statement of National Forest Policy in 1894 emphasized the need to demarcate, reserve, and conserve forests. While this was excellent from the point of view of genetic resource conservation and wildlife, soil, and water protection, it did not rationalize or maximize yields of forest products nor did it endear forestry officials to local populations, because forest officers carried out a policing function. Even today it is not uncommon to hear foresters talk of forests "burdened with rights" implying that, in their opinion, non-foresters should be excluded from the forests. Yet, even under the 1894 policy, which later served as a model for other countries of the British Commonwealth, if a demand for agricultural land arises that can be met only from a forest, it should be conceded without hesitation (subject to certain reasonable conditions); further, forests that yield only inferior timber, fuelwood, or fodder, or that are used for grazing, should be managed mainly in the interest of the local population.

The policy was revised in 1952 and re-emphasized the protective function of forests; it suggested that one-third of the national surface area should be retained under forest cover (without showing the basis for this suggestion). However, the full importance of improving the productivity of the forests was not recognized until 1972 when the National Commission on Agriculture published its interim report on "Production Forestry-Manmade Forests" (NCA, 1976a). Prior to that time India had been slow to adopt new methods of forest planning, management, extraction, and research that were being rapidly developed and widely used elsewhere. However, acceptance of the need for change was accelerated by the creation of State Forestry Corporations, operating commercially and separately from the State Forest Department, beginning in 1974 (IBRD 1978a). A revision of the forest policy has been prepared, but recent political problems and changes of government have prevented its discussion by Government so that it has not been published yet.

Whereas the main plantations in India comprise indigenous species, especially teak (Tectona grandis) and other broad leaved species, approximately 10 per cent are of fast-growing exotic species, such as pines and eucalypts, intended for industrial and commercial uses. However, a significant contributor to total plantation area, and the most rapidly increasing in proportion, is farm forestry/fuelwood plantations. Until 1979 approximately 316,000 ha of the latter were established out of a total of 3.6 million hectares of manmade forests. (See table 1 and Sagreiya 1967.)

Social or community forestry (including village, school, and farm activities in the broad categories of farm forestry and extension forestry) began in 1973 as a result of the NCA's Interim Report on Social Forestry (NCA 1976b) with its suggestion that Rs 770 million (approximately US$100 million) should be allocated for these activities during the period of the Fifth Plan (1974-1979). Until 1978 less than half had actually been allocated. (See table 2 and IBRD 1978b and 1979a-e.) In addition to social forestry activities, increasing attention is being paid to environmental forestry, which includes afforestation of catchment areas, reclamation of ravines and other erodible areas and degraded forest, preservation of protection forests, and creation of wilderness areas and nature reserves.

The overall national strategy for forest development reflects two priorities: first to develop production forestry programmes to supply the growing needs of the domestic wood products industry (particularly for pulp and paper) and second, through community forestry programmes to supply fuelwood, fodder, small timber, and minor forest products to rural populations. The National Commission on Agriculture recommended that each state reorganize its Forest Department into two separate wings, one to remain responsible for traditional forest production and wildlife, while a new wing would deal with community forestry. Gujarat, which, with Rajasthan, lies almost entirely in the arid zone, was one of the first (with Uttar Pradesh) to create a Community Forestry Wing.