Read essays on : 1. Essay on the Introduction to Forests  2. Essay on the Definition of Forests 3. Essay on the Types of Indian Forests 4. Essay on the Forests in the Historical Past 5. Essay on the Legal Classification of Forests 6. Essay on the Products Yielded by Forests 7. Essay on Improving Forest Cover 8. Essay on Forest Resources in India 9. Essay on the Uses of Forest Resources in India 10. Essay on the Destruction of Forest Lands 11. Essay on Forest-Cover and Regional Distribution of Forests 12. Essay on the Extent of Forest Cover 13. Essay on the Importance of Forests. Compilation of essays on Forests for class 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Forests’ especially written for school and college students. Also Learn about: 1.Essay On Forest For Class 8 2. Importance Of Forest Long Essay 3. Essay On Forest For Class 7 4. Essay On Forest For Class 9 5. Essay On Forest For Class 1 6. Save Forest Essay In English 7. Conservation Of Forest Essay For Students 8.Speech On Forest.

Essay on Forests

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Introduction to Forests
  2. Essay on the Definition of Forests
  3. Essay on the Types of Indian Forests
  4. Essay on the Forests in the Historical Past
  5. Essay on the Legal Classification of Forests
  6. Essay on the Products Yielded by Forests
  7. Essay on Improving Forest Cover
  8. Essay on Forest Resources in India
  9. Essay on the Uses of Forest Resources in India
  10. Essay on the Destruction of Forest Lands
  11. Essay on Forest-Cover and Regional Distribution of Forests
  12. Essay on the Extent of Forest Cover
  13. Essay on the Importance of Forests

1. Essay on the Introduction to Forests:

For any country forests are major environmental resource. India is no exception to this. India’s varied climate supports a wide variety of flora and fauna in the Indian forests. Dense forests once covered major parts of India in all regions. Over the years, as Indian economy progressed the forest areas started shrinking. The growing population and man’s need for habitats were mainly responsible for this.

In the past, forests were revered by the Indians and a large number of festivities and religious events depended on trees and plants. There are a lot of references to forests, forest wealth and medicinal plants that grow in wooded areas in Vedas. Ancient Indian Kings like Chandra Gupta Maurya (300 BC) realized the importance of the forests and appointed a high officer to look after the forests. Emperor Ashoka too nurtured and nurtured forests that supported wild animals. He launched programmes to plant trees on a large scale.

Though the early British period saw a lot of forests were razed for commercial considerations using the trees, after a few decades, the British began to regulate and conserve forests. In 1855, Lord Dalhousie framed regulations for conservation of forest in the entire British India. Under this forest conservation programme, millions, of teak, sal and a wide variety of useful tree plantations were raised in the forests in many parts of India.

Since then, and post-Independence, the forest regulations witnessed a lot of forest protection rules and today, India is one of the ten most forest-rich countries of the world along with Russia, Brazil, Canada, USA, China, Congo, Australia. Indonesia and Sudan. Together, India and these countries account for 67 percent of total forest area of the world. However, for a short while, there was significant forest degradation of the country’s forest wealth.

Thanks to ‘The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980’, ‘The Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981’ and ‘The National Forest Policy, 1988’, India’s forest cover grew at 0.22% annually over 1990- 2000, and has grown at the rate of 0.46% per year over 2000- 2010. The National Forest Policy of 1988 stipulates that one-third of India’s land area should be under forest or tree cover. In 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization had estimated India’s forest cover to be about 68-million hectares, accounting for about 22% of the country’s area. Forest is the second largest landuse in India after the agriculture landuse.

The forests are home to about 50,000 floral (plant) species, 90,000 faunal (animal) species and 1300 bird species. India has about 600 Protected Forest areas comprising 95 National Parks, 500 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 2 conservation reserves. As per one set of statistics, forests cover 1.56-million hectare area or 4.75 percent geographical area of the country. The rising demand for forest based products and resultant deforestation and encroachment has led to a severe loss of forest resources and destruction of habitat for the wildlife, flora and fauna.

In 2013, the Forest Survey of India had stated that on the basis of remote-sensing, i.e., through the study of the satellite imagery that the country’s forest cover had increased to 69.8-million hectares by 2012. Thus, in two years from 2010-2012, increases of about 5,871 square-kilometer forest cover was estimated in the country.

Yet, it was found out that the northeastern states of India had witnessed a net loss in forest cover over 2010 to 2012, though the increase was in the northern, central and southern Indian states. As far as the forest-linked Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is concerned, the forestry contributed 1.7% to India’s GDP in 2002, but in 2010, the contribution had dropped to 0.9% GDP.

With the depleting areas in forest and decrease in the GDP, it is feared that India is likely to face shortage of supply of timber and other forest products to meet requirements. It is estimated that the demand for timber is likely to grow to about 150-million cubic meters in 2020. Consequently, India has to depend on imports to meet its growing demand of the timber.

The forest authorities and scientists have marked a few areas of landscapes for conservation of forests and developing biodiversity in Western Arunachal Landscape in Eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats Landscape in southern India. There are programmes to provide support to forest conservation in other priority landscapes of WWF-India, including Terai Arc Landscape, Kanchanjunga Landscape and Sundarbans landscape.

2. Essay on the Definition of Forest:

A ‘forest’ is an area owned by Government and notified as forest under any act or recorded as a forest in any Government record functioning as ecological, biological, livelihood-support and/or social resource. Such forests will include areas having trees, scrub, grasslands, wetlands, water bodies, deserts, glaciers, geomorphic features or any other area fulfilling the functions of a forest.

For India, the core defining values of forest under the Kyoto Protocol are – “minimum crown cover value of 20%, minimum size of 1 ha and minimum tree height value of 3 meters”.

Forestland in the Indian context – is a tract of land that is legally proclaimed as a forest under the forest laws (mainly Indian Forest Acts, 1865 and 1927). The Supreme Court of India clarified that this included forest as understood in the dictionary sense also besides any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of its ownership.

India has a notified forest area of 77.47 million hectares (m ha), comprising 39.99 m ha of Reserved, 23.84 m ha of Protected and 13.64 m ha of unclassified Forests. The Reserved Forest is an area notified under the Indian Forest Act or a State Forest Act enjoying a higher degree of protection (human activities are prohibited unless expressly permitted), Protected Forests are also notified under the Forest Acts but the restrictions are less stringent (human activities are permitted unless expressly prohibited). Unclassified Forests are the category of forests which have not been included in reserved or protected forest categories. The tenurial status of such forests varies widely.

The total growing stock of the country as assessed by the FSI (Forest Survey of India) is 4018.2 million cubic metres and the growing stock per hectare is 74.4 cubic metres.

Forest and Wildlife are inseparable. We have set apart around 4.90 per cent of the total geographical area of the country for the exclusive conservation of biodiversity in the form of Protected Areas. Currently, the 668 Protected Areas of the country include 102 National Parks, 515 Sanctuaries, 47 Conservation Reserves and 4 Community Reserves.

3. Essay on the Types of Indian Forests:

In terms of the forest types, the Indian forests can be classified into:

(a) Taiga type (consisting of conifers, pines, and spruce),

(b) Mixed temperate type (with coniferous and deciduous trees),

(c) The temperate type,

(d) The sub-tropical type forests,

(e) The tropical type forests, and

(f) The equatorial type rainforests.

There are six groups of forest in India such as- (i) Moist tropical group, (ii) Dry tropical group, (iii) Montane sub-tropical group, (iv) Montane-temperate group, (v) Sub-alpine group, and (vi) Alpine group.

Since the forests are linked to the geography, climate and ecology in which they are located, the range of Indian forests is broad and diverse. One can find rain-forests in Kerala in the south-western India, close to the western coast. There are alpine pastures in Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

There is desert in Rajasthan, and on the contrary, there are the evergreen rain-forests in the states of North-East India in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. The top state of India having the largest area under forests is Madhya Pradesh followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Besides the wooded forests (covered with or abounding in woods or trees), India has large amount of non-wooded forests also, with somewhat shrubby vegetation and sparse big trees. These non-wood forests are the source of Latex, gum, aroma chemicals, medicines. At many locations, these non-wooded forests are social forests and cultivated with the human aid, as in the Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka where rubber, spice and coffee plantations abound. Now, let us study some of the traits of Indian forests.

4. Essay on the Forests in the Historical Past:

There was a time—a millennium or so back—when the broad picture of India was that of a sea of forest with scattered islands of cultivation. The economic and cultural life of the country centred largely around forest and rivers and both were held to be sacred. Rigveda (the oldest religious book of Hindus) has a striking hymn to the Goddess of Forests.

Manusamhita (the ancient Hindu Law Code), regards the destruction of trees as a serious offence and prescribes a heavy penalty for it. Agani Puran (another Hindu scripture) goes so far as to say that a man who plants trees for the welfare of the public obtains absolute bliss. Many famous events in the history of Indian civilisation are associated with forests. Mahabharata, the great epic, was written in the sacred groves of Naimisharanya.

“The culture of India gathered strength in the Tapovanas all over the country where the sages lived and men of affairs spent their retired life. The race memory of the Hindus is intertwined with the beauties of Nandanvana, with dramatic events in Dandakaranaya, with the tragic atmosphere of Ashokavana. And the story of Krishna is inseparable from that of Brindavana. But all these places and many others which are still called aranya or vana (forest) are no longer forests in reality.”

A great number of forests survived in all parts of India, including the plants throughout ancient times, and for that matter, into the period (A.D. 399-414) when the Chinese traveller Fa-hsien recorded great empty tracts desolate and barren in Kapilvastu, the kingdom in which Buddha had been born.

More land has shown that in the comparatively recent period of Akbar (1556- 1605), there was much more forest than survived at the time in 1920- for instance, the Tarai forests came as far south as the line joining Bareilly, Gorakhpur and Muzaffarpur. There was also forest cover in the Allahabad and Jaunpur area. Though the Upper Ganga Plain seems to have been heavily cultivated, it still contained jungles and hunting grounds.

In the anarchy of A. D. 650-950, Magadh had declined and the jungle extended from the Himalaya to the neighbourhood of Thanesar. Again when Assam was taken by the British from the Burmese in 1826, it was largely in forest. According to Lees, “Just before the early 1860’s, it was covered by ‘impenetrable jungle and rank vegetation subject to deadly and noxious miasma and malaria generated thereby.”

Irfan Habib has said, “The cultivated expanse of the Great Plains, the valleys and hill-slopes of India has been created in course of a stubborn struggle against which the Indian peasant has carried on for thousands of years. Forests and wastes have retreated, recovered and again retreated, in endless cycles, before his hoe and plough. Every period in Indian history has had, therefore, its ‘forest line’ and desert frontier’ besides its political and military boundaries.”

Most of the forest lands were laid bare, where colonization was attempted and where towns and villages grew. In some cases, deforestation had gone to such an extent that hardly it could be recognised that, once it was deeply forested.

5. Essay on the Legal Classification of Forests:

Three types of forests – reserve forests (RF), village forests (VF) and protected forests (PF) – are recognized in the Indian Forest Act, 1927 under Chapters II, III and IV respectively.

i. Reserved Forests:

In reserved forests, rights to activities like hunting and grazing are sometimes given to communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products.

ii. Protected Forests:

Rights to all activities like hunting, grazing, etc., in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise. Land rights to forests declared to be Reserved forests or Protected forests are typically acquired (if not already owned) and owned by the Government of India.

Protected forests are of two kinds – demarcated protected forests and non-demarcated protected forests, based on whether the limits of the forest have been specified by a formal notification.

iii. Communal Forests:

A specific term in the Indian context, which refers to forests governed by local communities in a way compatible with sustainable development and can be of various types. Such forests are typically called village forests or panchayat forests, reflecting the fact that the administration and resource utilization of the forest occurs at the village and panchayat (an elected rural body) levels.

6. Essay on the Products Yielded by Forests:

1. Rubber and Other Gums:

Rubber, though now essentially a plantation crop, was originally a for­est product, collected from the Amazon forests of Brazil. Rubber and similar gums, such as balata and gutta percha are still collected, but pro­duction of this kind is now of little importance.

Many other natural gums are still essentially forest products however, especially chicle, from the Central American forests, and jelutong from South-East Asian forests, which are used in the manufacture of chewing gum. Chicle is also grown on plantations to some extent.

2. Naval Stores:

These are a group of products named from their former importance to the ship­building industry and include resin, pitch, tar and turpentine. These products are derived from the resinous material exuded from coniferous trees, which is collected or systematically tapped, and processed in a variety of ways.

These products, once used to make the seams of wooden vessels water-tight, are no longer important in the shipbuilding industry. Today they are used in the chemicals industry. Turpentine, the distilled form of resin, is used in paint. Naval stores are produced in the southern U.S.A. and the Landes of France, as well as in many minor areas.

3. Cork:

Cork is the thick bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), which is found in southern Europe and North Africa. Cork oaks are usually found wild, but many are now grown in plantations, e.g. in Cali­fornia. The bark can be stripped from the tree in such a way as not to harm the main trunk, and if this is done carefully, a new bark 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) thick will form in about ten years.

The cork can be regularly harvested at this interval, but more fre­quent stripping or rough usage, may kill the trees. Most of the world’s cork comes from Spain, Portugal and North Africa.

4. Tannin:

Tannin is a substance, found in the bark of certain trees, which is used in the conversion of raw hides into leather. It is found in a number of trees including the hemlock of North America and Europe, the oak and chestnut of the temperate hard­wood forests, the quebracho of South America and the wattle of Africa.

The quebracho, or ‘axe-breaker’ tree, is found chiefly in the semi-arid Chaco region of Paraguay, southern Brazil and northern Argentina. It may be cut in the forest or grown on plantations. The wattle is now mainly a plantation crop of Kenya, Natal (South Africa), Brazil and Sri Lanka. Mangrove species from the tropical coastlands also provide tan­nin.

5. Palm and Creeper Products:

Oil palm is sometimes a forest product, though it is now mainly produced on plantations and smallholdings. The leaves and fruits of a number of other palms are also har­vested for various purposes, e.g. the pandanus palm, the raffia palm, which are used for weaving mats and baskets. Bamboo and vines or creepers such as rattan are much used for furniture, basketry and weaving.

6. Medicinal Plants:

A wide variety of medici­nal plants is found in the forests and forest dwellers extract both beneficial drugs and harmful narcotics from the plants and trees around them. Some of the more important medicinal plants are chinchona, from the bark and wood of which the drug quinine is extracted, and the coca shrub, from the leaves of which the drug cocaine is extracted.

Both were originally native to the Andes, and coca is in daily use among the Andean Indians, but both are now mostly grown for world markets in plantations in Indonesia. Camphor, an oil distilled from the camphor tree, originally had mainly medicinal uses. Nowadays it is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, soaps, ex­plosives and plastics, as well as ointments.

Many other drugs such as morphine and heroin, most famous because of their illegal use as narcotics, are also produced or collected legally from forest plants or opium poppies for medicinal purposes.

7. Fruits, Nuts and Spices:

A wide variety of fruits is collected either for use by forest dwellers or for international trade. Brazil nuts, ivory nuts and betel nuts are among the most important. Spices may also be produced from cultivated trees, or bushes.

7. Essay on Improving Forest Cover:

It includes both canopy cover improvement (intensification) and extension of afforesta­tion of degraded forest land (extension). To meet the country’s demand for timber and non-timber forest produces, there is a need to pursue a comprehensive approach encompassing horizontal as well as vertical use of space and adequate financial support.

This is particularly true in the Himalayan region and in the parts of Central India and Western Ghats that have significant forest areas and also difficult terrain. Many of these areas, especially the Himalayan region, are sparsely populated and have heavy forest cover and fragile soil quality.

The relevant State Governments, in most cases, have limi­ted fiscal resources to conserve these forests and treat the watersheds in order to man­age soil erosion. The benefits from the preservation of these forests accrue to the nation at large. There are, however, costs for undertaking such activities, including forest pro­tection, and these costs are largely borne by the concerned State Governments.

There is validity in the argument that a special scheme needs to be devised for Central assistance to the States for this purpose on a clear-cut and well defined basis. Forestry extension can be achieved through afforestation of non-conventional forest areas adopting farm and agro-forestry approaches. While doing so fruit bearing spaces may be given impor­tance for strengthening the nutritional security of the rural population.

Development of mining in number of areas would lead to reduction in forest cover. The current policy for regeneration of forests needs to be reviewed. The forest cover needs to be monitored for a period of 10 years after mining is over and full technical support provided to the State Forest Corporations and other organizations to undertake responsibility for nurturing the forests. Our policies must aim at regeneration of the lost cover after the natural mineral resources have been extracted.

8. Essay on the Forest Resources in India:

Forest Resources in India relate to the distinctive topography, terrain, wildlife, climate and vegetation of the country. Forest resources in India have always been one of the richest resources. Forests provide renewable natural resources and contribute signifi­cantly to the economic development of the nation. Forest plantations comprise a vital part of the forest resources. Most of the wood produced in India is obtained from the forest reserves. The forest resources of the country are ancient in nature and composi­tion, since the nation was once covered with dense forests.

During the early 1990s about 17% of forest resources in Indian land were dense forest- land. However, as around 50% of this land was infertile, total region under productive forests was nearly 35 million hectares that is around 10% of the total land area of the country. With the increasing demand of the growing population of the country the requirement of forest resources also increased.

All these resulted in the continuing demo­lition of forests around the 1980s, taking a serious toll on the soil. Moreover, around 1990’s several forest resources experienced heavy rainfall, and many forests were in regions with a high altitude and some of them were inaccessible.

Around 20% of the total area under forests is in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Forest vegetation is diverse and really large in the country. Like for instance, there are nearly 600 species of hardwoods, sal and teak. These are the principal species.

National Forest Policy of 1988, concentrated on the importance of forest resources as a significant part of the economy and ecology of the nation. This policy particularly focused on ensuring stability of the environment, maintaining ecological balance and preserving the forests. Further, the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was also amended in the year 1988 for facilitating stricter protection measures in the country.

9. Essay on the Uses of Forest Resources in India:

The chief products that forests supply is wood which is used as fuel; raw materials for various industries as pulp, paper, newsprint, board, plywood; timber for furniture items, toys, sports goods, musical instruments, wooden crates, boxes (for packing articles for fruit, tea, etc.), boats, truck bodies, carts, ploughs, railway sleepers, bridges, buildings; fodder for catties, sheep, goats and camels and bamboos.

Bamboos, called poor man’s timber, are used in rafters, scaffolding, roofing, walling, flooring, basketry, cart-wood and cordage. Industrially bamboos are used as a raw material in paper and rayon industry. Indian forests also supply minor forest products such as canes (rattans), gums, resins, rubber, dyes, tannins, fibres, floes, medicines, katha, insecticides, camphor, essential oils (e.g., rosha grasses, khas and sandal woods), cooking oils and spices.

Tendu (kendu) leaves are used as wrappers for bidis, soap-substitutes such as ritha and shikakai, sola pith and ornamental seeds rudraksha are important commercial products of the forests. Lac, honey, wax, tusser or moga silk are obtained from forest insects. Feathers, horns, hides and ivory are also other significant forest product (obtained from forest wild life). For tribal people forests also provide food (tuber, roots, leaves, fruits, meat from birds and other animals).

Besides forests are also a major factor of environmental concern, providing protection to wild life, help in gaseous (i.e., CO2, O2) cycles of atmosphere, tend to enhance local rainfall and water holding capacity of soil, maintain the soil fertility, regulate the earth’s temperature regimes and water cycle, check soil erosion, landslides, shifting of sand and silting and reduce the flood havoc. Forests play an important role in reducing atmos­pheric pollution by collecting the suspended particulate matter and by absorbing carbon dioxide. Lastly, forests have aesthetic and touristic values and serve as gene reserve of important species.

10. Essay on the Destruction of Forest Lands:

Various forces brought about a decrease in forest area of the world. It has been estimated that rate of deforestation of the world forest resources was 0.3 percent per annum during 1981-85. It is very high in the countries of Asia and Africa continents. The annual rate of deforestation was 0.4 percent in Asia and 0.5 percent in Africa during 1981-85. Rate of deforestation was 4.0 percent per annum in Pakistan, 2.4 percent in Thailand and 3.5 percent in Srilanka.

Rate of deforestation was 0.3 percent per annum in India during 1981-85. In case of India, no firm data are available in respect of the loss of forest cover or its annual rate of deforestation It has been estimated that India lost its forest cover quite heavily during the 1970s. But the trend was reversed from 1980s onwards. In 1984 National Remote Sensing Association, published data for the years 1972-75 and 1980-82 showing that the country lost 1.3 million hectare dense forest of the crown cover of more than 40 percent every year and its area fell from 46.42 million hectare to 36.02 million hectare during the period.

However, the area under dense forest cover has remained almost stable since 1981-83. According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) deforestation continued at the rate of 0.6 per cent during 1980-90. But FAO defines deforestation as loss of natural forests, not counting plantations.

According to FAO, change in area of natural forests and plantations during the period 1980-90 were as follows:

Following are important forces which brought about a decrease in the forest area of the country:

(a) Encroachment on Land for Agriculture:

As the pressure of population increased, it was natural that agriculture should encroach more and more on the forests. The life which entered around forests soon became centred on agriculture.

It was however, after the Muslim invasion of the country that the clearance of forests began to assume serious proportions. While the old Hindu tradition held forests to be sacred and discouraged cutting down of trees, the new invaders did not have the same, religious or sentimental scruples against destroying them, although they were fond of gardens and orchards and planted many noble avenues around their seats of government.

They pursued a deliberate policy of encouragement agriculture at the expense of forests because the former yielded more revenue. And once the restraining influence of the State was removed, the increasing pressure of population accelerated the progress of deforestation in the country. Occasionally of course, village relapsed into jungles when they were depopulated by war, famine or disease. But large forests fought a losing battle throughout the centuries against encroaching agriculture.

(b) Need for Railway Sleepers and Others Purposes:

With the advent of the British, an unprecedented attack on forests began in search of railway sleepers, timber for naval stores and military requirements, and wood and timber for domestic and industrial purposes (needed by the rising population). The felling became excessive and a fierce onslaught on forest areas was made by the middle of the 19th century so that a large part of the forest area was depleted. Irresponsible cutting generally took the form of wanton destruction of forest by simply stripping it or by failing to adjust cutting practices of the life cycles of the trees.

(c) Heavy Grazing by Cattle:

Forests have also been heavily grazed, ruthlessly lopped and made use of in other ways resulting in the disappearance of the forests and the devastation of the pasture. The incidence of heavy grazing has led to severe encroachment on forest area. This incidence varies from 1.25 acre to about 2.50 acres. The grazing animals damage young shoots of trees, destroy the water absorbing litter of the forest by hoofs and disturb the soil.

(d) Damage due to Insect-Pests:

Forests have also been attacked by a number of insects (weevil, bark moths, borers, etc.) which feed on seedlings, the roots and trunks of the trees. The larvae of numerous moths attack the leaves and buds of many trees. Scale insects sap up twigs and branches, borers injure trunk and branches. Many a time forest fires, spread widely for man’s folly destroy forest growth but also make surviving trees vulnerable to disease.

The total area under forests formed 22.48 per cent of the total geographical area in 1950-51 and this percentage further fell to 21.10 per cent in 1960-61 and to 20.4 per cent in 1966-67, but it increased to 22.7 per cent in 1971-72 as a result of afforestation plans.

In 1972-73, the proportion again declined to 20.4 per cent. This decline may be attributed to a number of factors, such as, the submergence of large areas of forests in river projects; settlement of landless agriculturists, unauthorised clearance and occupation of woodlands; exercise of ruinous rights by tribals and others livings in areas adjacent to forest- practice of shifting cultivation and excessive grazing of cattle; settlement of refugees on the forest cleared lands as in Dandakaranya.

Tarai area, greater, Malnad, Assam, agriculture in Tarai areas; expansion of area under plantation crops (like tea and coffee) and to more limited extent crops like rubber and cardamom, which has resulted in a process of deforestation.

Types of Natural Vegetation:

The wide variations that obtain in the physical features, soil and climate of India give rise to a large variety of natural vegetation, tropical, sub-tropical, temperate as well as alpine type—in crop lands as well as in forests. Areas at a height of 3,750 metres and over above seas level contain alpine vegetation. Below that, at heights of from 2,000 to 3,500 metres temperate vegetation with deciduous and coniferous trees is most common.

In the lower parts of the hills and in the plains, tropical vegetation is found, which is by far the most common in the country though it differs widely from place to place according to relief and humidity. West of the great band of the Ganga at Rajmahal, the indigenous vegetation is that of a dry country. In the extreme west, such trees exist which are leafless during the dry seasons.

Towards the east, where the rainfall is heavy, the vegetation is on the contrary luxuriant with evergreen plants and trees. That is also true to coastal belts of the south. On the loftier parts of the Deccan plateau, where rainfall is low, only small trees and grasses grow, in the centre of the country, monsoon forests generally exist except in the drier parts where grasses constitute the main vegetation.

Thus two important facts about natural vegetation in India may be noted. One, due to a greater variety of physiographic and climatic conditions, an equally varied vegetation is found, contrasting as they do on the one hand the tropical forests with the alpine meadows of the Himalaya, and on the other, the xerophytic desert vegetation and the marshy Sunderbans. Second, it is strange that not one of the families of the flowering plants is peculiar to India and we have the remarkable result that its flora is no more than a mere aggregation of several floral types.

Likewise, although Tibetan and Siberian types (alpine herbs and shrubs) reach India in the Alpine regions of the Himalaya yet is the Chinese and Japanese varieties of oak and rhododendrons) that are typical of the temperate regions and although lime, the beech and the chestnut extend from Europe to the Far East, yet they seem to avoid even the temperate belt of the Himalayas, for reasons unknown. Malaysia element is the dominant type in India. African element comes next.

There are only four types that characterise the landscape over wide areas, the rhododendrons belt in the Himalaya; the pines of west- the bamboos of South India and the xerophytic types in the Rajasthan desert. But in much smaller isolated lands are found the palms, coconuts and arecanuts in the South, the acacias fairly wide spread, the strobilanthes in the Nilgiris, the Dipterocarps in Eastern Assam, and sal at the base, of the Eastern Himalaya. These are best conspicuous features of the landscape, but they cannot by any means be considered dominant.

India has a very diverse forest vegetarian. India’s forest wealth includes from the most evergreen forests in the North-East, along West Coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the temperate and alpine vegetation in the Himalayas. Thus there are various types of forests in India from the slopes of the Himalayas to Cope Comorin and from the dry tracts of Rajasthan to the eastern limits of Assam belts.

A brief description of the main types of the forests are given below:

(i) Evergreen Forests:

Evergreen forests occur where rainfall is adequate (over 200cms.) and its distribution satisfactory. They consist of lofty, dense and evergreen trees with numerous epiphytic ferns, mosses, orchards and aroids. These forests are found throughout the Western Ghats from Bombay southwards to north and south Kanara, covering parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In the northeast India they occur in sub-montane of North Bengal, the coastal strips of Orissa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, and Meghalaya. The trees of economic importance are ivory, palm, bamboo, rosewood, ironwood, mahogany, sandalwood, ebony, ferns, Vatria Indica Hopoea parxiflora, and xylia xylocarpa, etc.

(ii) Deciduous Forests:

Deciduous forests occur in area less copious rainfall (100 to 200cms.) mahua hurra. They contain teak, sal, rosewood, pine, bamboo, redwood, anjan, garjan, paduk, mulberry, sisu, myrabolans and a large number of valuable trees. This type is generally found along the eastern side of Western Ghats, in portions of M. P. Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and in drier parts of Kerala and the western portions of Karnataka. In north, this type is distributed practically throughout Northern India especially in U. P., Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam.

(iii) Dry Forests:

Dry Forests are found in areas where rainfall is still less (50 to 100cms.). Here the vegetation becomes sparse and consists of shorea, robusta, acacia, catechu, kikar, acacias, Arabica prosopis, tamarix, albizzias, date palm, Ber, Pipal and other bushes. This type occurs in Central India throughout the dry region of the Indian Peninsula, to lee of the Western Ghats, from the extreme south up to Indore and Bhopal, being prominent in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Gujarat and in the South West Punjab and Haryana, Rajasthan and portions of West U. P.

(iv) The Montane Forests:

The Himalayas have a zoning of their own, running from roughly west to east in a semi-circle, the zoning depending mainly on altitude, though rainfall plays an important part as one proceeds east. At the foot of the hills up to 500 metres we find tropical forests known as Tarai forests containing bamboos, tree-ferns, palms and bananas. From 500 to 1340 metres there is a belt of the sub-tropical forests of which the sal is the typical tree.

From 1340 to 2600 metres we pass through the temperate forests of chir, low-level oaks, rhododendrons, magnolias and laurels, etc. From 2,600 to 3,000 metres we pass through the sub-alpine zone of which deodar, spruce and Himalayan or blue pine are typical. From 3,000 metres higher there is the Alpine zone containing the Kharsu oak, silver fir and birches.

(v) The Beach Forests:

The Beach Forests extend all along the coast where a sandy beach occurs. Strong salt-laden winds render the habitat xerophytic. At other places small evergreen and deciduous trees and numerous shrubs occur. Where open, the maritime grass and other surface creepers which bind the sand are conspicuous.

(vi) Tidal or Littoral Forests:

Tidal or Littoral Forests are found on the ground the sea coast which is flooded with slightly brackish water at high tide. Such forests occur at the mouths of Mahanadi, Krishna, Godawari and in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Deltas. The forest is closed ever green having species like, palm, nipa, hertigra, Rhizoph, ora cerlops, cane serow pines, palms gorden, bogla, sundari, etc.

(vii) Fresh Water Swamp Forests:

Fresh water swamp forests occur above the salt water limit on wet alluvium at the head of big deltas of rivers in parts of Assam. West Bengal, U. P. and Tamil Nadu. The forest is rather an open crop of evergreen trees containing Kadam, Pandanus, etc.

(viii) Riverine Forests:

Riverine Forests are confined to the banks of larger rivers consisting of new or fresh alluvium. The most characteristic trees are khair, sissoo, tamarix, pipal, neem, mango mulberry, mahua, growing throughout the northern belt from Punjab to Assam.

11. Essay on the Forest-Cover and Regional Distribution of Forests:

The total geographical area of India is 328.7 million hectares. Presently the recorded forest area is 76.52 million hectares. It is about 23.3 per cent of the total geographical area. It has also been estimated that actual forest cover is 63.3 million hectares which works out to 19.3 per cent of the total land area of the country.

Forest Survey of India (FSI) using remote sensing technology assesses the forest cover of the country biannually. The results of past assessment since 1987 show that forest cover in the country has established, though a large area still remains degraded.

The Table given below shows the area under forest cover in the country:

India’s forest cover that is about 23.2 per cent of the total geographical area is very low in comparison to the world average as 29.5 per cent of the geographical area of the world is under forest cover.

According to Forest Survey of India (FSI-1999), about 11.48 per cent of the total geographical area is dense forest having over 40 per cent crown density and 7.76 per cent is the open forest having 10-40 per cent crown density. Rest of the forest area has less than 10 per cent or no tree cover at all. There is about 0.49 per cent mangrove type of forest. There is net increase in dense forest cover. Area under open forest is declining.

The Table given below shows the area under dense, open and mangrove forest as per estimates of Forest Survey of India, 1995:

Although there is a wide variety of vegetation which is reflected in forest yet the proportion of the forest area is rather low compared to most of the countries of the world. The percentage of forest areas varies from 28.1 in West Germany to 32.8 in U.S.A., 33.9 in Russia, 61.8 in Japan, 56.7 in Brazil, 63.5 in Indonesia, 70.9 in Finland and 77.2 in Thailand.

From these data, it can be rightly concluded that India is very backward in this respect. The minimum area of forests that has been regarded necessary is from 25 to 33 per cent of the total area, but India possesses only 23 per cent of the geographical area. It has been estimated that around 41 per cent of the forest area is degraded, hence, unable to play an important role in environmental sustainability and in meeting the forest produce needs of the people, industry and other sectors of the economy.

Though the declared forest area is about 23 per cent of geographical area but only 63.24 million hectares which is around 19.3 per cent of the geographical area has the tree cover. Only 11.48 per cent of the forest area has the dense forest cover.

India’s population is about 18 per cent of the world population. India also has 15 per cent of world’s livestock but only 2 per cent of the geographical area and 1.0 per cent of forest area. As a result per capita availability of forest in India is very low. It has been estimated that per capita availability of forest in India is 0.08 hectare which is much below than the world average of 0.8 hectare.

Thus, the per capita forest area is very low in India as against 8.6 hectares in Brazil, 5.1 hectares in Australia, 3.8 hectares in Sweden and 1.8 hectares in U. S. A. Per capita availability of forest in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh is much lower than the national average.

Not only is the forest area proportionately smaller in India but it is also unevenly distributed. Most of the forests are concentrated in a few states viz., Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, J. and K., Kerala, Orissa, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Andaman and Nicobar Islands etc.

The forest area varies from 3.4 per cent of the reported area in Rajasthan, to 12.5 per cent in Bengal, 1.5 per cent in Punjab, 22.3 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, 14.3 per cent in Karnataka, 16.7 per cent in Bihar, 17.6 per cent in Maharashtra, 16 per cent in Tamil Nadu, 29.3 per cent in Assam, 33 per cent in M. P., 27 per cent in Kerala, 77 per cent in Andamans and 60 per cent in Tripura. In Northern India, the proportion of forest lands to the total area is much lower than the all-India average.

Three facts should be noted about this distribution. First, the conspicuous states which have a very low percentage of forest and where intensification of afforestation programmes are urgently needed are Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, U. P., and West Bengal. Second, in most states forests are situated on mountains (as in Jammu and Kashmir and in Himachal Pradesh) while plains are devoid of these, with the result that the problem of soil has been aggravated.

Third, even 20 per cent of the area under forest is not fully covered with true growth. Actual coverage under forests is about 17 per cent and 3 per cent is forest in name only.

“The result of this unequal distribution of the forest area is that, they have meant to the peasant the dental of a flat roof over his house, the door gaping wide without shutters and furnishings without any furniture. It has pulled down the standard of his cultivation by obliging him to burn his manure in the absence of any firewood. It has adversely affected his animal husbandry by reducing the supply of fodder.”

Sir Howard remarked “Probably 90 per cent of the plains village of U. P., probably half of Gujarat/Maharashtra and all the centre and West of Bengal, much of Bihar and the Coast of Orissa contains populations with an almost completely unsupplied demand for forest produce.” It would, therefore, appear that there is a great need, not only for increasing the proportion of forest area of the country as a whole but also a redistribution of it.

In other words, while there may be still some scope for clearance of forest lands in M. P. and Orissa there is a great need for afforestation in states like U. P., Bihar, Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In addition to above, it would also be necessary to readjust the regional distribution of forest to a certain extent so as to make it more rational and to supplement this minimum forest cover with a penumbra of other vegetal cover, in such a manner as would not seriously encroach on crop-lands and yet would fulfil the protective functions.

12. Essay on the Extent of Forest Cover:

Forests and woodlands are estimated to occupy 28% of the total land area of the earth, thereby covering an area of 4.05 billion hectares (ha). Closed canopy forests where the leaves and twigs of adjacent trees touch each other account for two-thirds of this forested land, while the rest are open-canopy forests or woodlands, where the tree canopy covers less than 20% of the ground, like in the African savannas.

Seven countries (Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) account for more than 60% of the total forest cover.

The extent of forest cover in India is reported to be ranging between 11 to 24% of the total land area, depending upon the reporting agency and the method used in mapping. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) based at Dehradun was established in 1981 with the purpose of periodically monitoring the changing situation of land and forest resources. FSI prepares a comprehensive State of the Forest Report (SFR) including the National Forest Vegetation Map (NVM) every two years.

The State of the Forest Report (2005) presents the ninth assessment of forest cover of the country using satellite remote sensing-technology from the IRS-IB, IC & ID satellites. According to SFR 2005, the forest cover of the country is 678,33 km constituting 20.64% of the geographic area. Among the states, Madhya Pradesh accounts for the largest forest cover of the country with 20.68% followed by Arunachal Pradesh (10.80%), Orissa (7.38%), Maharashtra (7.32%) and Andhra Pradesh (6.94%). The seven North-Eastern states together comprise 25.70% of the total forest cover.

Special significance in the SFR-2003 are:

(i) Introduction of an additional class of forest cover by splitting the dense forest cover (canopy density above 40%) into two classes, namely, very dense forest (canopy density more than 70%) and moderately dense forest (canopy density between 40-70%) while the open forest cover having a density of 10-40% remain the same. The same criterion has been applied in the case of mangroves also;

(ii) Another newly incorporated feature is the chapter on Growing Stock of wood, which provides the information on volumes of wood in forest and non-forest areas;

(iii) The extent of water bodies within the forest cover has also been assessed.

Indian forests are predominated by the tropical deciduous forests (both wet and dry), which account for more than two-thirds of the total forest cover. Other types include tropical rainforests, tropical thorn, temperate coniferous forests etc. However, India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world, 0.1 ha as compared to a world average of 1 ha.

13. Essay on the Importance of Forests:

Forestry is the theory and practice of all that constitutes the creation, conserva­tion, and scientific management of forests and utilisation of their resources to provide for the continuous production of the required goods and services.

Forests of a country are a natural asset of immense value. As explained earlier, forests meet the need of timber, fuel, bamboos, fodder and yield a variety of products of commercial and industrial value such as raw materials for making paper, newsprint, rayon, bidi leaves, gums, resin, dyes and medicinal drugs.

Besides, forests provide employment to a large popula­tion engaged in their protection, harvesting and regeneration, and also in occupation related to processing forest raw material and marking them.

Forests preserve the physical features of the earth, check soil erosion, mitigate floods and make the streams flow perennially and thus help agriculture. Forests provide shelter to the wild-life. These advantages of forests are collectively referred to as the protective and social functions of the forests.