National Forest Policy

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Historically our communities have always lived in harmony with nature, and participation of community in protection and management of common property resources has been a tradition. The British introduced scientific management of forests through a centralised approach to forest management and development. The first formal government approach to forestry can be traced to the enactment of the National Forest Policy of 1894 which stressed on conserving forests for maintaining environmental stability and meeting basic needs of fringe forest user groups. The policy was revised in 1952 and the new policy emphasised on extension of forests beyond the traditional forest areas. This gave impetus to social forestry and agro/farm forestry.

This policy was the harbinger of the green movement in the country. It also proposed that 60% of the land in the hills and 20% in the plains and in all 33% of the total geographical area should be under forest/tree cover. The serious depletion of forest resources due to biotic and
industrial pressure and other reasons made the policy makers review the situation in the late eighties and evolve a new strategy for conservation of forests. The National Forest Policy was once again revised in 1988, which envisaged community involvement in the protection and regeneration of forests. It accorded highest priority to sustainable management of the forest resource.

The basic objectives that govern the 1988 National Forest Policy are:

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  • Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance that has been adversely disturbed by serious depletion of forests of the country.

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  • Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represents the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.

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  • Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers, lakes, reservoirs in the interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts and for the retardation of siltation of reservoirs. Also checking the extension of sand dunes.

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  • Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands.

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  • Meeting the requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal population.

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  • Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs.

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  • Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of wood.

  • Creating a massive people’s movement with the involvement of women, for achieving these objectives and to minimise pressure on existing forests.