They may be protected, but the twin pressures of population and development are taking a toll on forests
A snow-capped Kanchenjunga and other neighbouring peaks seen
in an old photograph; (Photo: Getty Images)
Forests—teeming with wildlife and precious, diverse flora—are the lungs of the nation and vital for ecological balance. But this wisdom has been a long time coming. From being regarded as a revenue earner and a resource to be exploited in colonial times and in the years immediately after Independence, the last several decades have at last witnessed a paradigm shift in the way forests are managed.
The biggest pressure on India’s forests has been its burgeoning population. Forests have borne the brunt of the need for firewood, food, highways and dams. The priorities of environment and development continue to be fought over as opposing ideals. The past few decades have seen the community management and preservation of forests being introduced through the 1988 National Forest Policy. At the time of Independence, around 25 per cent of India’s area was under forest cover. As per the latest India State of the Forest Report 2021, that has shrunk to 21 per cent. All is not lost though, with an increase in coverage in the past decade, though it is still short of the forest policy goal of 33 per cent forest cover by 2030. Forests on private land, with an incentive to harvest them for economic gain, and zero tolerance towards deforestation in national parks and sanctuaries are the new headlines in the battle for India’s woodlands.
Photo: Getty Images