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2. India

Forestry policy, strategy, and organization
Selection of the study area
Resources and needs for forest products and services
Overcoming the major obstacles to tree planting
The 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.


Selection of the study area

There can be no precise delimitation of the arid zone because of the paucity of meteorological data, the annual variablility of climatic factors, and the range of methods for calculating climatic indices; many of these were referred to in ICRISAT (1978), in chapters by Gupta and Prakash, Ramaswamy, and Meher-Homji in Gupta and Prakash (1975), and in chapters by Krishnan and Meher-Homji in ICAR (1977). For practical purposes India is zoned into eight agro-ecological regions (Murty and Pandey 1978; Krishna Murty 1979) of which the arid western plains (region 6) include Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Haryana. These lie to the east of the core-in Pakistan-of the arid zone in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. An outline of the geology, soils, hydrology, climate, and vegetation of this south-west Asian arid zone was given by Kaui and Thalen (1979). Detailed studies of some 20 different environmental and biological features of the most arid portion in India, the Thar Desert, were described by 17 contributors and compiled by Gupta and Prakash (1975). See also CAZRI (1964, 1974, 1977), FRI (1963), and Indian Ministry of Education (1964).

TABLE 1. India: Physical Achievements in Establishing Forests (thousands of hectares)

period (i)
for industrial
and com-
mercial uses (ii)
forest (iii)
plantations (iv)
of fast-
species (v)
Total (vi) iv as
of vi (vii)
First to
post annual
594.5 477.6 72.8 255.6 1,400.5 5.2
291.2 127.3 63.0 232.8 714.3 8.8
760.0 200.0 180.0 350.0 1,490.0b 12.1
Totala 1,645.7 804.9 315.8 838.4 3,604.8b 8.8

Source: Ministry of Agriculture and IBRD 11978).

a. Estimates only: actual establishment will not be known until the end of the Fifth Plan period.

b. Some 186,200 ha of plantations established by the State Forestry Corporations must be added to these figures to arrive at total estimated physical achievements by the end of the Fifth Plan (i.e.., some 3,791,000 ha).

TABLE 2. India: Estimated Financial Commitment to Social Forestry in the Fifth Plan (in millions of rupees)


Suggested allocation
in NCA Report on Social Forestry

Actual allocation total

Percentage of suggested
  Centre State Total    
1. Farrn forestry 20 - 20 155.8 780
2. Extension forestry
(a) Mixed forestry 100 - 100 66.6 67
(b) Shelterbelts 75 75 1501    
(c) Road/rail sides and canal banks - 100 100 100.0 40
3. Reforestation of degraded forest 150 150 300 50.6 17
4. Recreation forestry - 100 100      
Grand total 345 425 700a 373.0 48

Source: Ministry of Agriculture and IBRO (1978)

a. Includes expenditure for setting up the extension organization but not the funds required for research or the preliminary survey needed for selecting suitable districts and areas within districts. If research and survey were included total could amount to Rs 800 million.

For the purpose of this study attention was concentrated on the semi-desert of Gujarat rather than the drier areas of Rajasthan, not because the slightly better conditions of Guiarat are more conducive to tree growth but because an active, successful programme of tree planting is in progress and has demonstrated methods of overcoming constraints. However, contrasts with Rajasthan are drawn where possible and, later in this report, with Kenya where no comparable social forestry activities exist.


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.


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