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Forest is a terrestrial cover, where habitats like plants and wildlife interact with each other and with the physical atmosphere of nature, which is also their hereditary home. They are an important source for our natural resources. Without forests the world would come to a halt and would become grey. Various countries all over the world differ in forest cover, which in turn depends on numerous factors like weather, availability of landscape, water, rainfall and the number of the population etc.
Forests are critical in maintaining the quality of nature and life all around us. The benefits accruing from forests include many tangible products such as fuel wood, timber, fodder, gum, paper, manure and other minor products such as fruits, flowers and services such as soil conservation, climate change control habitat for wildlife and values such as spirituality, recreational and aesthetic values.
India is the seventh largest country in the whole world occupying at least 2.4 percent of the world area. However, in India there lies only 1.8 percent of total forest cover. In spite of recent efforts in increasing forest and to reduce deforestation through reforestation under the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), India still continues to be in a devastated condition with only over 21 percent of India under forest cover in 2007. According to the policy requirement, the forest cover in India should be 33 percent of the area of the country, and all should be a closed forest. Sadly, we are very far from achieving this figure.
Indian forests are under immense pressure every day. From deforestation to felling of trees all these man doings contribute to a less population of forests. Systematic management of forests came into existence in the mid nineteenth century. The first forest scheme of India was established in 1894 which mainly focused on commercial exploitation of timber and gave importance to permanent cultivation. According to the 1952 revision of the policy recognized the protective role of forests and proposed that one-third of the land area of the country must.
Be retained under the forest and tree cover. Also, the scheme of 1988 focused on the environment balance and maintenance of ecological stability in nature.
Before 1976, forest and wildlife were the state subjects of the Indian Constitution. The forest departments regulated forests in accordance with the Forest Act of 1927. After recognizing the importance of forest and wildlife, the 42nd amendment of the constitution removed them from the state list and placed them under the concurrent list bringing them under light of the Central and the State governments.
Prior to the British era, customary rules have been regulated for the use of forests in India. Certain types of trees which had a significant importance in nature were regarded as sacred and therefore were never cut. Also, certain areas under the forest were highly regarded as God’s groves and not even the deadwoods and the dead leaves were taken out from these areas.
In India the current Forest and Wildlife Legislations are:
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted before the independence era with the goal of “to consolidate the law relating to forests, the transit of forest-produce and the duty leviable on timber and different forest-produce.” It also focuses to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife.
The Forest Act has also established three kinds of forests, which are the Reserved forests, Protected Forests and Village Forests. The Reserved Forests are considered to be in the most restrictive category of forests. These forests are government property and only the government has rights to them. Protected forests are distinguished from the Reserved forests and are those forests over which again the government has proprietary rights and are constituted by the state government. Village forests are those in which the state government assigns to ‘any village-community the rights of government to or over land which has constituted a reserved forest’.
There is also another type of forest which is known as the Non-government Forest. This type covers the forests and land which are not in the hands of government control. The state government can by alerting, regulate or prohibit the breaking up or any clearing of land for cultivation, the pasture for the cattle or the firing or clearing of vegetation in order to protect them from the storms, winds rolling stones, floods and also avalanches, to preserve the soil from erosion, to maintain water supply in the springs, rivers and tanks, and also to protect roads, bridges, railways, lines of communication and to preserve public health. The Act also defines a forest offence and vests power to the state government in order to impose penalties on violation of the provisions of the Act.
In the year 1980, There was an ever-increasing decline in forest cover, to which a new legislation was enacted called The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 this also fulfilled the Constitutional obligation under Article 48-A. This act regulates the proper diversion of forest lands to non-forestry purposes. The traditional objective of this Act was to regulate the indiscrimination of diversion in forests lands to non-forestry purposes and to also stabilize between the developmental needs of the country and for the conservation of rich natural heritage.
The Act made the before approval of the Central Government a compulsion for non reservation of the reserved forest and for the use of forest land and for the use of non-forest purposes. It also paved the way for the establishment of the advisory committee to advise the Central Government with regard to grant of such approval. This Act allows the diversion of forests only for certain developmental projects, which include drinking water projects, irrigational projects, transmission lines, railway lines, roadways, power related projects, defense related and for mining. For these diversions of the forest lands for non-forestry projects, compensatory afforestation is stipulated and catchment area treatment plan, the wildlife habitat improvement plan, rehabilitation plan etc. are used in order to remove all the bad consequences of deviation of such huge cover of forest lands. In accordance to check the effective use of the compensatory afforestation in the country, an authority called the “Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)” has been established at the national level. A surveillance cell has also been set up in the Ministry of Environment and Forests to survey the movement of proposals at various stages and the consent of the conditions imposed in the forestry clearances by the user agencies.
“The Scheduled Tribe and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was passed by the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha on 18th December 2006. This Legislation was aimed at giving ownership rights over forestland to traditional forest dwellers. This Ministry of the Tribal Affairs was constituted as an independent ministry in the year 1999 to deal with especially the scheduled tribes in India. The basis for designating a tribe such as “scheduled” include having ‘primitive’ traits, dwelling in geographical isolation, having a very distinctive culture, being shy of contact with the outside world and people and also being economically ‘backward’. In India there are more than 600 officially listed scheduled tribes, which consists less than 10% of the country’s total population and with a little over 2% is believed to be dwelling in forests.
The list of rights that are provided under the Act includes:
And lastly, the Right to protect, restore or save or control any community forest materials which the scheduled tribes and other traditional forest habitats have been traditionally protecting and saving.
The Act is not a land distribution measure, and furthermore the Act is more transparent than current law and so can help to stop land stealing. With regard to wildlife protection, it has come to a conclusion that the Act in fact provides a very fine and explicit measure for resettling people where needed for wildlife preservation, but also provides safeguards to prevent this being done in a very arbitrary way.
The Wildlife Protection Act is the most crucial regulation when it comes to preservation of the wildlife. In this Act, it bans killing of animals which are listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV. In this Act, the state government can proclaim any area of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, natural or zoological importance as a reserve or a national park. In both national parks and at the reserves, public entry is banned and the demolition of any wildlife or settlement is prohibited. In the year 1986 the Act was appropriately altered. Under the 1972 Act, marketing and business in wild animals, animal articles and trophies were permissible within the country limits. But many traders have been smuggling animal skin, various animal related articles and many trophies for getting a huge amount of profit. Thereby, in the 1986 Act it was said that no one will be allowed to carry on business in wild animals named in the Schedules Acts of I and II. Also, the past existing licenses for internal trade of animals and animal skin was revoked and there was a complete ban on the trade in Indian ivory was imposed.
Another Amendment in 1991 banned the killing of all wild animals excluding vermin. But in very certain cases, in order for protection of life as well as for property, education, research, scientific management and for caged breeding, hunting of wild animals was allowed. Further, the Act banned the collection of snake venom for producing lifesaving drugs.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was further altered by the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002. In the said revision there were more penalties on killing wild animals. In order to ensure better safety and safeguarding to the wildlife habitats, all sorts of illegal encroach within the national parks or wildlife sanctuaries can now be evacuated and also have the structures removed. There cannot be any kind of construction of commercial tourist lodges, hotels and zoos without any prior approval of the National Board of wildlife. The commercial manipulation of forest produce has now been made unlawful.
From the above study, we come to a conclusion that the various central legislations for the forest conservation and wildlife protection have provided a very powerful legal framework for protection of all kinds of wildlife, establishment of all safeguarded areas, settlements, fine administration of habitats, regulations of rules and proper control of hunting and trade in parts and products obtained from the wildlife. India is still a developing country, and we are still trying to achieve proper balance and greatness in sustaining our forests and wildlife. The different campaigns which have been conducted by the government as well as by the private NGO organization’s pave a path to establishing a more secure life for the wildlife of our country. Also, movements such as “Go Green” help make the common people aware of the situation of our forest cover and encourage them to plant more trees in the process. Therefore, though we are still working hard towards a more sustainable lifestyle for the forest and wildlife, India will definitely hit the milestone mark soon and make the forests and the wildlife great again.
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