Importance of Forests
Forests are a major natural resource.
- They provide raw materials like timber, cane, bamboo, medicinal plants and shrubs, which are used as industrial raw materials.
- They provide fodder to cattle.
- They provide moisture and lower the temperature. Forests regulate climate.
- They prevent soil erosion and preserve the soil fertility.
- They help to preserve the ecological balance.
- They are home to innumerable animals and birds. They contribute in preserving the biodiversity.
- It is a major problem faced by man due to developmental activities in the economy.
- Large scale felling of trees is done due to industrial development, extension of agricultural land, over-grazing by cattle, extension irrigation and power projects, construction of railways and roadways.
- Removal of forest cover results in extensive floods and soil erosion.
- Increase in the demand for forest products by the increased population also leads to deforestation.
Conservation of Forests: Suggested Remedies
- Increase the area under forest by introducing large-scale planting of trees.
- Plant a belt of trees close to industrial units to check pollution and for purifying the air
- Stop the indiscriminate felling of trees without necessary permissions.
- Use alternative sources of energy to check cutting down trees for fire-wood.
- There should be community participation to protect the local forests. In the Sariska Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan, the villagers had fought against mining activities to protect the wildlife. In Bhairodev Dakav Souchuri, the inhabitants of five villages in the Alwar district of Rajasthan had declared 1200 hectares of forests to protect the wildlife from hunting and encroachment of the forest land. The Chipko Movement, initiated by Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna, aimed at protesting against the felling of trees in the Uttarakhand. Women of the villages had embraced trees to stop them from being cut down.
The National Forest Policy was formed by the Central Government in 1952. The policy proposed to
- bring 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover.
- conserve the biodiversity of the country.
- check soil erosion, extension of area under desert and reduction of floods and droughts.
- protect the wildlife.
- protect the environment and ecological balance.
- encourage efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of wood.
Social forestry is the management and protection of forests and afforesting the barren lands to enhance environmental, social and rural development. Social forestry provides
- firewood, fodder and other forest products through afforestation of the community waste land.
- employment opportunities to the rural poor.
- raw materials for the local cottage-based industries.
- increased productivity of land by using organic manure.
As a measure of afforestation, planting seedlings during â€˜Vanamahotsavaâ€™ was started in 1950.
India is the home of many medicinal plants and herbs. A number of herbs and spices are in use in India since ancient times. There are about 352 medicinal plants found in India, out of which 52 are critically threatened and 49 are endangered species. Some of the major species found in India are sarpagandha, jamun, arjun, babool, tulsi and neem.