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Table 5.8 Distribution of Landholdings in the Four Taluks Studied

Land Size 2 3 4 5 6
Landless 9 28 14 4 55
.01-.99 3 6 2 2 13
1-1.99 14 16 34 27 91
2-2.99 14 28 38 43 124
3-3.99 18 19 17 27 81
4-4.99 6 16 18 27 67
5-6.99 14 16 25 35 90
7-9.99 3 5 13 14 35
10-15 4 10 7 10 31
15 5 3 9 10 27
Total 90 147 177 199 614

Table 5.9 Type of Land Used for Farm Forestry in Kolar and Bangdore Districts (area in hectares)

Type of Land Used
for Raising Farm
Raising Farm
Kolar District Bangalore District
Area % to Total
Area Under
Area % to Total
Area Under
Agricultural land .64.7 63.3 69.5
Barren land - - 10.1 7.3
Fallow land 7.4 7.3 4.5 3.2
Current fallow 0.6 0.6 5.7 4.0
Cultivable waste 28.4 27.9 32.9 22.8
Encroached land 1.0 0.9 18.4 13.1
Total 102.1 100.0 141.1 100.0

The evaluation of the highly skewed pattern of utilisation of the prime product of social forestry, Eucalyptus wood, was indicated in the Kolar study by Shiva et al. This was subsequently confinned by the study conducted by the Government of Karnataka which noted that 95 per cent of the Eucalyptus wood produced under the farm forestry programme is consumed by pulp industries and only 5 per cent is consumed locally as fuel. The marketing of Eucalyptus wood is streamlined and farmers have no problem in seeing their stock. A network of private agents functions in all parts of the state which acts as an instrument for the collection of pulpwood. These private agents pay advances to individual farmers, who, through the social forestry programme, are provided with Eucalyptus seedlings free of cost. When the plants are ready for harvest as per the requirements of pulp industries, the agents transport them to these industries through their own transport network.

The World Bank aided social forestry programme which began with the declared objectives of providing biomass for the survival of the common people, has conveniently been transformed into a pulpwood producing programme for industries, ignoring the requirements of both the survival economy and nature's economy.

The Driving Force for Eucalyptus

The reason for the successful propagation of eucalyptus, among others, is the market provided by the industrial and commercial sector. At times one wonders at the market force arguments of the World Bank and questions why, it is called a development project for rural people and the burden of massive international loans thrown on their head!

Eucalyptus cultivation has opened a way for farmers to make profits from land without a corresponding dependence on the community. That detachment from the community has, in tum, led to insurmountable problems in generating community participation for the raising of village woodlots. When richer farmers can make large profits by planting Eucalyptus on their own land and simultaneously reduce their dependence on poorer people and local resources, it is utopian to expect them to be involved in parallel community efforts to raise village woodlots on the commons. Eucalyptus cultivation has thus become a new source of conflicts over land use in rural India.

Eucalyptus has existed in India as an ornamental tree since the days of Tippu Sultan. The first plantation of the species was seen in the water rich Nilgiris in the 1850s to fill the gap in the fuelwood supply to European settlements.

As reported by Troupe in The Indian Forest Records:

The first European settlements in the Nilgiris date from about 1820. Their establishment, with the consequent demand for fuel was followed some years later by the destruction of most of the natural evergreen forests, one of the most beautiful features of the Nilgiri plateau... By the early fifties, after the destruction of many of the natural forests and the consequent restriction on fellings, fuel was so scarce and expensive that there was virtually a fuel famine in Otakamand and the other Nilgiri stations.

In response to this fuel famine large-scale plantations of Eucalyptus globulus or Blue-gum were encouraged in the Nilgiris in 1856.

The second wave of Eucalyptus plantation was seen a century later in the sixties when the rapid expansion of pulp based industries in India led to the destruction of conventional raw materials like bamboo stocks. The pulpwood famine created the need for a quick growing pulpwood species. To bridge the gap, rich tropical forests of the Western Ghats were clear felled to plant Eucalyptus. The destruction of highly productive natural forests was justified on the grounds of improving the 'productivity' of the site. The increase in productivity was, however, considered only from the perspective of pulpwood production. Kaikini, the Chief Conservator of Forests in the erstwhile State of Mysore, clearly accepted this bias towards pulpwood in his statement at the Eleventh Silvicultural Conference.

Pryor, the Australian expert on Eucalyptus, has also stated that 'the biggest single urge to plant Eucalyptus currently in large scale plantations is provided by the demand for wood fibre for the industry. The main species planted for pulpwood production in India is Eucalyptus tereticornis, also known as Eucalyptus hybrid. In spite of the fact that Eucalyptus is fast growing and productive only in the narrow context of wood fibre production, it was prescribed as a universal means for achieving increased productivity of biomass for the satisfaction of diverse needs. Afforestation programmes for diverse objectives of conservation of soil and water, satisfaction of basic biomass needs and production of industrial wood, thus, became uniformly dependent on the planting of Eucalyptus. Large scale plantations were established in ecologically vulnerable areas like the Western Ghats, the Himalayan foothills and farm lands in arid zones without prior tests of suitability and adaptability of the species in different ecozones and for different plantation objectives.

The fact that Eucalyptus did not exhibit wide adaptability under Indian conditions became apparent when nearly 40,000 hectares of Eucalyptus plantation established by clear felling tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats were destroyed by the pink disease caused by the fungus Cortecium salmonicolor. In the absence of prior adaptability trials, this large-scale destruction of highly productive natural tropical forests was the cost paid to realise that in high rainfall and low altitude zones Eucalyptus is vulnerable to disease and pest attack. The large-scale failure of Eucalyptus in high rainfall ecozones which were preferred during the first phase of its expansion, led to the second pulpwood famine. The second wave of Eucalyptus expansion avoided high rainfall regions and identified the 'preferred zone'-arid regions with an annual rainfall between 700 and 1,259 mm.

The second pulpwood famine caused by the failure of Eucalyptus plantations in the Western Ghatscoincided with the growing awareness that deforestation had led to severe instabilities in agricultural ecosystems and massive reforestation was an imperative for ecological and economic stability. Eucalyptus plantations rapidly spread in arid zone farm lands under the wave of enthusiasm for social forestry and providing the much needed 'green cover'. However, there was no theoretical or experimental justification to support Eucalyptus based afforestation as a strategy for ecological and economic rehabilitation. On the contrary, scientific evidence indicates that Eucalyptus planting is not the best way to solve India's biomass problems because it generates ecological costs which will have to be borne by the community at large or future generations, and will thus be a source of intense and deepening conflicts.

Ecological Audit of Eucalyptus Cultivation: Is Eucalyptus Quick Growing?

It is for this reason together with the large-scale use of eucalyptus in social forestry, that the ecological audit of Eucalyptus culti vation becomes important. The most powerful argument in favour of the expansion of Eucalyptus is that it is fast growing and there is no suitable alternative to it. Growth and productivity of trees, however, are not absolute and are influenced by factors like rainfall and soil conditions. The claim of high productivity is not clearly established for ecozones where Eucalyptus has recorded no pro ductivity due to pest damage. High productivity is also not true for zones with poor soils and poor water endowment, as is clear from reports on yields. Even where biotic and climatic factors are conducive to good growth, biomass productivity of Eucalyptus is observed to be less than that of a number of indigenous fast growing species. When tall scientific claims about the growth rate of Eucalyptus were being made to convert rich natural forests to Eucalyptus monoculture plantations, on the grounds of the im provement of the productivity of the site, the Central Silviculturist and Director of Forestry Research of the FRI had categorically stated that 'some indigenous species are as fast growing as, and in some cases even more than the much coveted Eucalyptus'.- To justify his claims, he provided a long list of indigenous fast growing species which had growth rates exceeding that of Eucalyptus which under the best conditions, is about 10 CuM per ha per year, and on an average is about 5 CuM per ha per year (Table 5.10). These indigenous trees, as cited are those trees which are native to the Indian soil or are exotics that have been naturalised over thousands of years.

Table 5.10 Some Indigenous Species which are Compartively Fast Growing

Name of Species Age
Duabanga sonneratioides 47 1 9
Alnus hepalensis 22 1 6
Terminalia myriocarpa 8 1 5
Evodia meliafolia I I I 0
Michelin champaka 8 1 8
Lophopetalum fibriatum 17 1 5
Casurina equisetifolia 5 1 5
Shorea robusta 30 1 1
Tooan ciliate 5 19    
Trevia nudiflora 13 1 3
Artocarpus chaplasha 10 1 6
Dalbergia sissoo 11 3 4
Gmelina arborea 3 2 2
Tectona grandis 12 1 2
Michelia oblongs 14 1 8
Bischofia javanica 7 1 3
Broussonatia papyrifera 10 2 5
Booklandia populnia 15 9  
Terminalia tomentosa 4 1 0
Kydia calycina 10 11  

This data based on forest plantations does not include fast growing farm tree species, such as pongamia pinnate and grewia optiva, which have been cultivated for agricultural inputs of farms but have not been of interest in commercial forestry. In spite of the fact that the list of fast growing indigenous trees is incomplete, forest plantation data on yields adequately reveals that Eucalyptus is among the slower growing species even for woody biomass production. Eucalyptus hybrid, the most dominantly planted

Table 5.1 Yields for Eucalyptus Hybrid

Current Al
Good 3 R. I -
4 11.3 10.6
5 13.5 22.3
6 14.4 18.7
7 13.9 1 1.3
8 13.5 10.6
9 12.9 8.0
10 12.3 6.7
11 11.6 5.2
12 11.0 3.5
13 10.4 3.6
14 9.9 3.7
15 9.4 1.9
Poor 3 0.1  
4 0.4 1.4
5 0.7 1.7
6 0.8 1.7
7 0.9 1.2
8 1.0 1.4
9 1.0 1.0
10 1.0 1.3
11 1.0 1.1
12 1.2 7.7
13 1.0 0.8
14 0.9 0.8

Eucalyptus species, has different growth rates at different ages and on different sites as shown in Table 5.11.

The points that emerge from the table are:

  1. In terms of yield measured as mean annual increment (MAI) Eucalyptus is a slow producer of woody biomass even under excellent soil conditions and water availability.
  2. When the site is of poor quality such as eroded soils or barren land, Eucalyptus yields are insignificant.
  3. The growth rate of Eucalyptus under the best conditions is not uniform for different age groups. It falls very drastically after five or six years.

The scientific evidence on biomass productivity does not support the claim that Eucalyptus is faster growing than other available alternative species or that it grows well.even on degraded lands. It must, however, be mentioned here that Eucalyptus demands less attention for the first few years and greatly reduces labour costs.

Conflicting Perceptions of Biomass Productivity

Human needs for biomass are, however, not restricted to the consumption and use of woody biomass. The maintenance of life support systems is a function performed mainly by the crown biomass of trees. It is this component of trees that can contribute positively towards the maintenance of the hydrological and nutrient cycles. It is also the most important source for the production of biomass for consumption as fuel, fodder, manure, fruits, etc. Social forestry as distinct from commercial forestry, in that it is supposed to be a corrective, is in principle aimed at the maximisation of the production of all types of useful,biomass which improve ecological stability and satisfy the diverse and basic biomass needs of the people. The appropriate unit of assessment of growth and yields of different tree species for social forestry programmes cannot be restricted to woody biomass production for commercial use. It must, instead, be specific to the end use of biomass. Evidently, the crisis in biomass for mulching or animal feed cannot be resolved by planting trees that are fast growing from the perspective of the pulp industry, but are absolutely unproductive as far as fodder requirements are concerned. The assessment of yields in social forestry must include diverse types of biomass which provide inputs to agro ecosystems. When the objective of tree planting is the production of fodder or green fertiliser, it is relevant to measure crown biomass productivity. India, with its rich generic diversity in plants and animals, is endowed with venous types of trees which have annual yields of crown biomass that are much higher than the total biomass produced by Eucalyptus as indicated in Table 5.12

An important biomass output of trees that is not assessed by foresters, who look only for timber and wood, is the yield of seeds and fruits. Fruit trees, such as jack, jamun, mango and tamarind, have been important components of indigenous forms of social forestry as practiced over centuries in India. After a brief gestation period fruit trees yield annual harvests of edible biomass on a sustainable and renewable basis. Tamarind trees yield fruits for more than two centuries. Other trees such as, neem, pongamia and sal, provide an annual harvest of seeds which yield valuable non-edible oils. These diverse yields of biomass provide an important source of livelihood for millions of tribal or rural people. Coconut, for example, besides providing fruit and oil, provides leaves for thatching huts and supports the large coir industry in the country. Since social forestry programmer in their present form have been based only on the knowledge of foresters who have been trained to look for woody biomass in the tree, these important high yielding species of other forms of biomass have been totally overlooked in these programmer. Two species which have been emphasized in ancient farm forestry systems in arid zones are pongamia and tamarind. Both these trees are multi-functional producers of firewood, fertilizer, fodder, fruit and oil-seed. More significantly, components of the crown biomass that are harvested from fruit and fodder trees allow the living tree to perform its essential ecological functions in soil and water conservation. In contrast;, the biomass of Eucalyptus is useful only after the tree has been felled. Afforestation strategies based predominantly on Eucalyptus are not, therefore, the most effective mechanism for tiding over the serious biomass crisis facing the country. The benefits of Eucalyptus have often been unduly exaggerated on the basis of the myth of its fast growth and high yields. The myth has become widespread because of the unscientific and unjustified advertisement of the species. It has been further strengthened by the linear growth of Eucalyptus in one dimension while most indigenous trees have broad crowns that grow in three dimensions. Since the morphology of tropical trees is very different from that of trees like Eucalyptus, it is important that the methods and formulae used to calculate yields for social forestry programmes should not be dependent on the partial yield assessments of the conventional forestry paradigm. Even without these rigorous measurements of yield for diverse species which play a role in social forestry, it is adequately clear that the growth and yield of Eucalyptus does not give it a privileged position in biomass production.


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