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The Rapid Improvement of Cultivation Under the Colonial Rule

The idea that uncultivated land has to be taken over and improved. was popular with colonizers everywhere in the world. Forest were cleared and brought under cultivation. It was an argument that justified conquest.


The British encouraged the cultivation of the crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton


Demands for Crops

Jute, sugar, wheat and cotton were cultivated because there was a great demand for these crops in Europe.

Europe in the nineteenth century was becoming more industrialized and urbanized, so there was a great demand for these crops.

The population in Europe was also growing steadily. The demanded for more food increased. The British thought that the forests were unproductive.
Only when land is brought under cultivation there will be revenue for them.
So between 1880 and 1920, cultivated land rose by 6.7 million hectares.

The oak forests in England were disappearing

Oak Forests

The British Royal Navy needed strong and durable timber to build and maintain their ships.



                                                 Ship Building

The disappearance of the oak forests created problem in timber supply for the Royal Navy.
The Royal Navy could not survive without the regular supply of timber.
So, they started their search in all of the colonial countries for the regular supply of timber.
The search resulted in the cutting down of forest in India for timber.
Within a decade, a large amount of timber was exported from India.

The spread of railways was the next reason for deforestation

Steam Locomotive

To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel, and to lay railway lines, sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together.


Railway Sleepers being laid


From 1860 the railway network expanded rapidly.
In 1890, 25,000 Km of track had been laid.
As the railway was fast expanding, there was a need for more and more trees to be cut.
Each mile of railway track required 2,000 sleepers.
In Madras Presidency alone, 35000 trees were cut annually for sleepers.
Government gave contract to private parties to cut the trees, and they began cutting discriminately.


Apart form all the above reasons, another important reason for deforestation is to make way for plantations of tea, coffee and rubber.


Coffee Plantations

Tea Plantations

Rubber Plantations

There was a great demand for these products in Europe.
The colonial government took over the forests, and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap rates.

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