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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

Resources and needs for forest products and services

India has a total population of 550 million persons, of whom approximately 80 per cent live in rural areas. Of the total area of 327 million hectares some 75 million hectares (23 per cent) support forest. Gujarat has a population of 32 million (1978), increasing by 2.6 per cent per year, of which 72 per cent live in rural areas in 18,300 villages with an average population size of 1,050 persons. These villages are organized into 19 districts and 186 talukas (subdistricts), with administrative councils (panchayats) having been elected in 1,200 villages.

The area of the state is 19.6 million hectares, only 10 per cent of which is forested. The most important blocks of forest are confined to hill areas along the eastern border and in south-west Saurashtra.

Virtually all forest areas within Gujarat are owned by the state and managed by the Forest Department. Of the 2 million hectares of forest, 62 per cent are reserved, 6 per cent protected, and 32 per cent unclassified. (Reserved forests typically include protected and commercial forests in which existing rights are either settled, transferred, or commuted; other forests are declared "protected," and the rights over them, which are often extensive, are recorded and regulated.) The Government of Guiarat also purchased large areas of degraded private land and is conducting research into its rehabilitation. There are also nearly 300,000 hectares of ravine lands for rehabilitation.

For ail India the total volumes of wood recorded as produced during the period 1974-1977 averaged 9.8 million m3 per year of industrial roundwood and 16.7 million m3 per year of fuelwood. For Gujarat, in the same period, the state forests produced an average of 150,000 m3 of timber, 300,000 metric tons of fuelwood (225,000 m3 assuming a density of 750 kg/m3, IBRD 1979b, 1979c), 73,000 metric tons of bamboo, and 22,000 metric tons of fodder grass.

Of the total national energy consumption in 1975 (235 million metric tons coal equivalent), 125 million metric tons were obtained from wood, dung, and agricultural waste, with 70 million metric tons derived from wood.

Fuelwood accounted for 90 per cent of all wood used in 1975. According to Singh (1978) 16.25 million ha of fuelwood plantations would be required to replace all dung burnt (see fig. 3.), and farm forestry could be a significant contributor particularly if charcoal manufacture and use can be encouraged (fig. 4). The development of improved charcoal kilns and efficient cooking stoves would of course contribute to ameliorating the problems of fuel supply.

For fuelwood the NCA (1976b) assumed that the current annual per capita requirement of 0.22 m3 would drop to 0.18 m3 by the year 2000 because of the use of alternative fuels. The projected increases in population (to 1,059 million) would require an increase of fuelwood from 184 million m3 in 1980 (recorded and unrecorded) to 225 million m3 in 2000. Correspondingly in Gujarat the fuelwood equivalent (which includes 0.02 m3 per person per year each for cow dung and charcoal) required by the projected 54 million persons will be 11.9 million m3, slightly more than double the 1972 demand (IBRD 1979a). To meet this demand for recorded fuelwood alone it will be necessary to establish some 1.5 million hectares of plantations in the period 1980-2000 (75,000 hectares annually, assuming a mean annual increment of 8 m3 /ha).

Many national and state figures include a large but probably not precisely estimated proportion of forest products obtained free or at nominal rates through rights and privileges (nistar). In 1972/73 these composed 3.4 per cent of the total forest revenue in Gujarat but 27 per cent in Rajasthan. In addition illegal removals ("external sources") are considerable and increasing, adding to the problem of deforestation with its consequent soil erosion and spreading desertification. In addition to major and minor forest products that support a large number of industries in Gularat, the forests provide benefits to scheduled castes, marginal farmers, and landless labourers (fruit, flowers, grazing, honey, Poles, bamboo, etc., as well as paid employment). In 1976/77, primary forest production generated 7 million work-days of employment (IBRD 1979b).

If the increasing demands for fuelwood and other products are not met by plantations, the forest resource will decline, and the use of animal and agricultural wastes will increase with concomitant decline of soil fertility and structure. The present limited and unequally distributed natural resources cannot continue to support population needs, and rehabilitation and improved management of the forest will be inadequate unless coupled with plantations on currently unused land. However, the establishment of plantations is not the sole solution for meeting fuelwood needs. Fuelwood supplies may be increased by better management of the natural vegetation, and the quantities required may be reduced by using more efficient stoves and crematoria. It should also be noted that the use of crop residues and animal dung for fuel cannot always be avoided; the decline in soil fertility commonly ascribed to burning such residues relates only to the proportion of them that would actually be otherwise used as a soil conditioner.