Forest Resources in India – UPSC

In this article You will read Major and Minor Forest Resources in India – for UPSC IAS.

Forest Resources

  • Forests provide an array of benefits to human societies above and beyond their pivotal roles as habitat and environmental regulators in natural ecosystems.
  • These benefits are often described as resources that people can draw upon for fuel, lumber, and recreational or commercial purposes. The perception that forests provide resources for people has been a prominent factor in spurring efforts to preserve forests. 
  • Growing awareness on the part of governments and the general public, in India and around the world, of the benefits of forests to humans, has given rise to government agencies and a thriving industry devoted to forest resource management.
  • The mission of forest resource management is to develop, protect, and manage the multiple resources of forests through professional stewardship, enhancing the quality of life for the public while ensuring the conservation and sustainability of these resources.
  • Forest is important renewable resources. Forest vary in composition and diversity and can contribute substantially to the economic development of any country .Plants along with trees cover large areas, produce variety of products and provide food for living organisms, and also important to save the environment.
  • It is estimated that about 30% of world area is covered by forest whereas 26% by pastures. Among all continents, Africa has largest forested area (33%) followed by Latin America (25%), whereas in North America forest cover is only 11%. Asia and former USSR has 14% area under forest. European countries have only 3% area under forest cover. India’s Forest Cover accounts for 21.67% of the total geographical area of the country as of 2019.
Terminologies
  • CLEAR-CUT: A parcel of forest that has been denuded of trees.
    • Clear-cutting can be destructive of forests, particularly when the cycle of reforestation is slow and the processes of wind and water erosion of deforested land make it inhospitable to reforestation.
    • However, it can also be a tool for increasing the biodiversity of forests that have been protected from forest fires for many years.
  • DEFORESTATION: A reduction in the area of a forest resulting from human activity.
  • ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: The benefits to human communities that stem from healthy forest ecosystems, such as clean water, stable soil, and clean air.
  • FOREST MONOCULTURE: The development of a forest that is dominated by a single species of tree and which lacks the ecological diversity to withstand disease and parasites over the long term.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Practices that preserve the balance between human needs and the environment, as well as between current and future human requirements.

Major forest products

  • Major forest products consist of timber, softwood, and fuelwood including charcoal. Indian forests produce numerous species of wood, 90% of which are commercially valuable.
  • Hard woods include teak, mahogany, logwood, iron-wood, ebony, sal, greenheart, kikar, semal, etc, which used for furniture, wagons, tools, and other commercial products.
  • Softwood includes deodar, poplar, pine, fir, cedar, balsam, etc. They are light, strong, durable, and easy to work on and are useful for construction work and the production of paper pulp.
  • 70% of hardwood is burnt as fuel and only 30% used in industries, while 30% of softwood is used as fuel while 70% is used in industries.
  • J&K is the largest producer of timber, closely followed by Punjab and MP whereas Karnataka is the largest producer of fuelwood, followed by WB, Maharashtra.

Minor forests products

Grasses, Bamboos and Canes:

  • Grasses like sabai, bhabar, and elephant grass are used for papermaking. Sabai grass is the most important raw material for the paper industry
  • It is a perennial grass that grows on the bare slopes of the sub-Himalayan tract and in Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and the western part of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The roots of khus grass are used for making cooling screens. Munj, tall grass is used for making chicks, stools, chairs, etc. and the leaves are twisted into strings.
  • Bamboo belongs to grass family but grows like a tree. It is woody, perennial, and tall There are more than 100 species
    • The bulk of production comes from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Punjab, Nagaland, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Bamboo is called the poor man’s timber as it provides cheap material for roofing, walling, flooring, matting, basketry, cordage, carthoods, and a host of other things.
  • Cane grows abundantly in moist forests of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram. These are major producers of cane in India. Some parts of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha are also suitable for the growth of cane. It is mainly used for making strings, ropes, mats, bags, baskets, furniture, walking sticks, umbrella handles, sports goods, etc.

Tans & dyes:

  • Tannins are secretion products of plant tissues. Tanning materials are used in the leather industry.
  • The most commonly used tanning materials are mangrove, amla, oak, hemlock, anwal, wattle, myrobalans, ratanjot, flowers of dhawri, babul, avaram, etc.
  • Some of the important dyes are obtained from red sander (bright red), Khair (chocolate), flowers of Palas, fruits of Mallotus phillipensis, bark of wattle, and roots of Morinda tinctoria. About two lakh tones of tans and dyes are produced every year in India.

Oils:

  • Oils are obtained from sandalwood, lemongrass, khus and eucalyptus globules, etc. They are used for soaps, cosmetics, confectionery, pharma, etc.

Gums and resins:

  • Gum is exuded from the stems or other parts of different trees partly as a natural phenomenon and partly by injury to the bark or wood of blazing the tree.
  • They are used in textiles, cosmetics, confectionery, medicines, inks, etc. the largest producer are MP followed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is exported to the USA, UK, and France.
  • Resins are obtained mainly from Chir Pine which grows from the Himalayan region in Arunachal, Uttarakhand, HP, J&K.
  • The crude resin consists of two principal constituents; a liquid known as oil of turpentine (25%) and a solid called resin (75%).
  • Turpentine is mainly used as a solvent for paints and varnish, synthecic camphor, pine oil, disinfectants, pharmaceutical preparations, wax, boot polish, and industrial perfumes.
  • Resin is an important raw material for several industries of which paper, paint, varnish, soap, rubber, waterproofing, linoleum, oils, greases, adhesive tape, phenyl, plastic, etc. are important.

Fiber and flosses:

  • Fibers are obtained from the tissues of some trees. Most of such fibers are coarse and are used for rope making. However, the fibers of Ak (Calotropis spp.) is fine, strong, and silky which is used for making fishing nets.
  • Flosses are obtained from certain fruits and are used for stuffing pillows, mattresses, etc.

Leaves:

  • Different types of leaves are obtained from the trees and are used for different purposes, the most important being the tendu leaves used as wrappers for bidis.
  • The tendu tree grows in large numbers in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. About 6 lakh tonnes of tendu leaves are produced every year in India.
  • With 246 thousand tonnes, Madhya Pradesh is the largest producer in India. Bihar with 53.5 thousand tonnes is the second-largest producer, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (51,2 thousand tonnes), Maharashtra (33 thousand tonnes) and Gujarat (12.9 thousand tonnes) are also important producers.
  • Some quantity of leaves is also produced in Rajasthan, Karnataka, and West Bengal. Tendu leaves and bidis are exported to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and some other Asian and African countries.

Drugs, spices and poisons:

  • Drugs are obtained from different parts of trees. Quinine is the most important drug.
  • Spices include cinnamon or dalchini, cardamom or elaichi, etc.
  • Some poisonous substances which taken in small, regular doses have medicinal value e.g. strychnine, aconite, datura, ganja, etc.

Edible products:

  • Fruits, flowers, leaves or roots of various species provide edible products.

Animal products:

  • Lac is the most important animal product obtained from Indian forests. It is secreted by a minute insect that feeds on the saps of a large variety of trees like Palash, peepal, Kusum, etc
  • They are used for medicines, plastic, electrical insulation material, dyeing silk, bangles, etc.
  • India accounts for 85% of the total world production of lac.
  • The main producing states are Jharkhand (40%), Chhattisgarh (30%), W. Bengal (15%), Maharashtra (5%), Gujarat, UP., Odisha, and Assam.
  • About 95% of total production is exported to countries like the USA, Russia, Germany, and the UK.
  • Other animal products are honey, wax, silk moths, horns and hides of dead animals, ivory, antlers of deer, etc.

About 3.5 million persons are engaged in different forest activities and about 2% of total government revenue comes from forests. Foreign exchange is also earned.

Forest Resources UPSC

Indirect uses of forests

  • Prevention and control of soil erosion
    • The reckless destruction of forests in Shivalik Hills, Western Ghats, Chota Nagpur plateau has resulted in the serious problem of soil erosion.
    • Forests play a significant role in the prevention and control of soil erosion by water and wind.
  • Flood control
    • Roots of trees absorb much of the rainwater and thus regulate the flow of water and help in controlling the floods, acting as rain holder and a rain banker.
    • Trees also act like millions of tiny dams and check the flow of water like a barrage.
  • Checks on spreads of deserts
    • Sand particles are blown away by strong winds in the deserts and are carried over long distances resulting in the spread of deserts roots bind the sand particles.
    • The roots of trees and plants bind the sand particles and do not permit their easy transportation by the wind.
  • Increase of soil fertility:
    • The fallen leaves of trees add humus to the soil after their ‘decomposition. Thus forests help in increasing the fertility of the soil. Fallen leaves of plants add humus to the soil.
  • Effect of climate:
    • Forests ameliorate the extremes of climate by reducing the heat in summer and cold in winter. They also influence the amount of rainfall by lowering the temperature of moisture-laden winds and increase the RH by transpiration.
    • They reduce the surface velocity of the winds and retard the process of evaporation.

Problems of Indian forestry

  • Inadequate and dwindling forest cover:
    • The biggest problem of the Indian forests is the inadequate and fast dwindling forest cover. It has already been mentioned that forest cover is only 20.6 percent of the area against the required coverage of 33 percent.
    • A large part of our achievements made by virtue of afforestation are neutralized by diversion of forest land for non-forest use.
  • Low productivity: The productivity of Indian forests is very low as compared to some other countries, For example, the annual productivity of Indian forests is only 0.5 cubic meters per hectare while it is 1.25 cubic meters per hectare in the USA.
  • Nature of forests and their uneconomical utilization
    • The forests are thick, inaccessible, slow-growing, and lack in gregarious stands in many parts of the country. Some of them are very thin and comprise only of thorny bushes.
    • These factors make their utilization uneconomical because there is a good deal of wastage and this makes it very expensive in spite of the cheap labor available in India.
  • Lack of Transport Facilities:
    • One of the biggest problems faced by the Indian forests is the lack of proper transport facilities, About 16 percent of the forest land in India is inaccessible and does not have proper transport facilities.
    • It must be remembered that the major product of the forests is timber which is a cheap and bulky commodity. As such it cannot afford high freights charged by the railways and roadways, Therefore, Indian forests cannot be economically exploited without the availability of cheap and efficient transport facilities.
    • Unfortunately, in India, the railways serve thickly populated areas only and are not of much use to forests. All-weather roads in the forest areas are badly lacking, Water transport has only limited scope. Considering these facts, we can easily say that transport with reference to forests is inadequate in India.
  • Plant Diseases, Insects, and Pests:
    • Large tracts of forest cover suffer from plant diseases, insects, and pests which lead to considerable loss of forest wealth. For example, thousands of hectares of sal forests in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are being threatened by sal borer for which no remedial measures have been adopted so far.
    • Forest officials are only using the primitive methods of hiring the tribal to catch and kill the insects.
  • Obsolete Methods of Lumbering and Sawing.
    • In most of the Indian forests, obsolete methods of lumbering, sawing, etc. are practiced. This system leads to a lot of wastage and low forest productivity.
    • Large quantities of inferior wood which could be put to better use through seasoning and preservation treatment remain unutilized or go waste. Sawmills use old obsolete machinery and do not get proper power supply,
  • Lack of Commercial Forests
    • In India, most of the forests are meant for protective Purposes and commercial forests are badly lacking.
    • Growing awareness about environmental degradation has forced us to look at forest wealth as a protective agent for the environment rather than treating it as a commercial commodity,
  • Lack of Scientific Techniques
    • Scientific techniques of growing forests are also lacking in India. The only natural growth of forests takes place in India whereas in many developed countries new scientific techniques are being used through which tree growth is quickened.
    • A large number of trees are malformed or consist of species which are slow-growing and poor yielders.
  • Undue Concessions to Tribal and Local People
    • In vast forest tracts, tribal and local people have been granted customary rights and concessions for free grazing as well as removing timber fuel and minor forest products.
    • They are also allowed to continue with age-old shifting cultivation. These practices have led to the reduction in forest yield, In addition, there has been encroachment on these forests by the village people inhabiting the peripheral areas,
  • Effects of dams on forests and tribal people
    • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru referred to dam and valley projects as “Temples of modern India”. These big dams and rivers valley projects have multi-purpose uses. However, these dams are also responsible for the destruction of forests. They are responsible for the degradation of catchment areas, loss of flora and fauna, an increase of water-borne diseases, disturbance in forest ecosystems, rehabilitation, and resettlement of tribal peoples.
  • Mining
    • Mining from shallow deposits is done by surface mining while that from deep deposits is done by sub-surface mining. It leads to the degradation of lands and loss of topsoil. It is estimated that about eighty thousands hectare land is under the stress of mining activities in India
    • Mining leads to drying up perennial sources of water sources like springs and streams in the mountainous area.
    • Mining and other associated activities remove vegetation along with the underlying soil mantle, which results in the destruction of topography and landscape in the area. Large-scale deforestation has been reported in Mussorie and Dehradun valley due to indiscriminating mining.
    • The forested area has declined at an average rate of 33% and the increase in the non-forest area due to mining activities has resulted in relatively unstable zones leading to landslides.
    • Indiscriminate mining in forests of Goa since 1961 has destroyed more than 50000 ha of forest land. Coal mining in Jharia, Raniganj, and Singrauli areas has caused extensive deforestation in Jharkhand.
    • Mining of magnetite and soapstone have destroyed 14 ha of forest in hilly slopes of Khirakot, Kosi valley, and Almora.
    • Mining of radioactive minerals in Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka are posing similar threats of deforestation.
    • The rich forests of Western Ghats are also facing the same threat due to mining projects for excavation of copper, chromites, bauxite, and magnetite.

Forest conservation

  • Forests are aptly termed as an index of the prosperity of a nation. Increasing deforestation is causing heavy erosion of the topsoil, erratic rainfall, and frequent devastating floods which is causing a chain reaction.
  • The saying that “man finds forests but leaves deserts”, is true for India. Reports of the national remote sensing agency indicate that India is losing about 1.3 million ha of forest cover each year.
  • Forest conservation does not mean the denial of use, but rather the proper use without causing any adverse effect on our economy or environment.
Various measures of forest conservation
  • Afforestation: Intensive programs need to be launched with an emphasis on fuelwood, timber, grasses, etc. There should be the plantation of trees along the roads, railway lines, rivers and banks, and lakes and ponds.
  • Development of green-belts in the urban areas and plantation of trees on community lands, plantation of community forests on gram-sabha lands.
  • Encroachment of agriculture in forests should be made punishable. On the same lines, shifting cultivation should be gradually replaced by terraced farming, orchards development, and silviculture.
  • Rural population should be provided alternate sources of fuel. The customary rights and concessions were given to tribals and local people should not be allowed to exceed the carrying capacity of the land.
  • Developmental projects should be planned to have minimal damage to forests and the environment. Mining constructs should have a mandatory clause of reforestation when the process of mining is over. Industries should adopt anti-pollution devices and must develop and compensate for the forest loss by new plantations.
  • Tribal and local people should be directly involved in the protection, regeneration, and management of forests. People should be encouraged to participate in the van Mahotsava and should be made aware of the Chipko movement. People’s participation can be further encouraged by giving loan assistance to villagers who want to revive degraded lands.
  • Scientific methods should be adopted to check and contain forest fire diseases and pests. Research on forestry should be encouraged in universities and appropriate funding should be provided for this purpose.
  • Mental outlook of people should be changed and awareness about conservation should be spread. There should be special programs, demonstrations, seminars, and workshops to develop awareness among the people about the social relevance of the forests.

Case studies

  • Jhum cultivation
    • Jhum Agriculture or shifting agriculture has destroyed the large number of hectares of forest tracts in North-Eastern states and Orissa. Jhum agriculture is subsidence agriculture in which a tract of forest land is cleared by cutting trees and it is used for cultivation. After few years, when the productivity of the land decreases, cultivators abandon the land and clear the next tract. As a result of this practice, combined with the increasing population there is rapid deforestation as more and more cultivators clear forest to cultivate the land. Also, with the increase in population, there is cultivators are forced to return to previous tracts of land in relatively shorter durations, not allowing the land to regain its productivity.
  • Chipko movement
    • The Chipko movement or Chipko Andolan is a social-ecological movement that practiced the Gandhian methods of satyagraha and non-violent resistance, through the act of hugging trees to protect them from being felled. The modern Chipko movement started in the early 1970s in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand, with growing awareness towards rapid deforestation. The landmark event in this struggle took place on March 26, 1974, when a group of peasant women in Reni village, Hemwalghati, in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India, acted to prevent the cutting of trees and reclaim their traditional forest rights that were threatened by the contractor system of the state Forest Department. Their actions inspired hundreds of such actions at the grassroots level throughout the region. By the 1980s the movement had spread throughout India and led to the formulation of people-sensitive forest policies, which put a stop to the open felling of trees in regions as far-reaching as Vindhyas and the Western Ghats.
  • Western Himalayan region.
    • Over the last decade, there has been widespread destruction and degradation of forest resources in the Himalayas, especially the western Himalayas. This has resulted in various problems such as erosion of topsoil, irregular rainfall, changing weather patterns, and floods. Construction of roads on hilly slopes has not only undermined their stability but also damaged protective vegetation and forest cover. Tribes in these areas are increasingly facing a shortage of firewood and timber, due to large-scale tree cutting. Increased traffic volumes on these roads lead to increased pollution in the area.
forest resources in india upsc
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