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In the constitution of India, ‘forestry’ appears on the ‘concurrent list’

meaning that both federal as well as state governments have control over forestry

activities but the federal government, as a policy-making body, has overriding

authority. However, management authority is with the state governments. The

organizational structure and operating procedures of the state Forest Departments,

as lineal descendants of the colonial system of management, are almost similar in

all the states of India (Kumar and Kant, 2005).

Conservation of forests formed an integral part of the Vedic tradition of

India as early as 300 BC. The Maurya kingdom recognized the importance of

forests, and the first emperor of the dynasty, Chandragupta, appointed an officer to

look after the forests (FAO, 2012). The forest policy is a complex balance between

economic, social and political objectives in an environment where the forests and

the institutions continuously change (Kant, 2003). The forest policy in India

changed over a period of time. The arrival of British and their perception about

forest resources created enormous change in the forest cover, forest resources and

the rights of tribal people in India. The forest management and conservation

practices in India are dissimilar in different period and it is primarily divided into
two periods namely (i) colonial and (ii) post-colonial period for analysing the

changes generally in forest sector and particularly in forest management for

preventing atmospheric concentration of GHGs, especially CO2. The forest policy

discussions include a variety of topics like timber supply, sale and pricing, forest

taxation, international trade, forest management standards, carbon sequestration,

deforestation, forest ownership, property rights and policy reforms (Kant, 2003).


During colonial rule in India, the forest policy gave much importance to

exploitation of forest resources without concerning conservation. The ownership

was assumed by the colonial powers and this period records a march towards

centralization and the forests came under the control of the state. Huge quantity of

natural resources were exploited in the name of development, however the reality

behind this was commercial exploitation by the state. The colonial British

Administration realized the international demand for timber and potential monetary

benefits from the forests, strict rules were enforced by compulsion to bring all

these forests under the state control. The over exploitation of forest resources

during British Administration marked a new phase in the use of forest produce in

India. Most of the policies during the colonial period have a custodial attitude and

they gave much importance to the forests than the dependent people (Balaji, 2002).
Between 1800 and 1947 India witnessed rigorous policy interventions in forest

management and there was much debate within the colonial bureaucracy on the

subject of forest versus people. Since 1855, the establishment of railway network

required large quantities of wood for sleepers and low cost engine fuel, and the

expansion of railways and deforestation positively related (Kumar, 2010).

Forest Policy, 1855

In 1855, Lord Dalhousie framed the Forest Charter which leads regulation of

wasteland by changing its status into government property in India. This was

treated as a key intellectual transition of legal rights of wasteland which leads to

forest conservation in the later period. The Forest Charter of 1855 put the Indian

forestry on a solid scientific basis which introduced new environmental

interventions which were paternalistic, radical and previously untried. These forest

initiatives, born in India, spread to other British colonies and the United States of


Lord Dalhousie’s new forest policies greatly expanded British authority over

the land and people of India. British India’s forest administrators feared the

potential long-term environmental, economic and climatic effects of deforestation

caused by indiscriminate logging which convinced Dalhousie to support modern

scientific forestry methods and conservation.

Indian Forest Act, 1865

The organized forestry activity began in 1864, when the Imperial Forest

Department was established in India. The Imperial Forest Department attempted to

establish its control over forests, by various legislations with the help of German

Forester Dietrich Brandis, who was brought to look into the process of forest

resource management in India (Mishra, 1999). The Indian Forest Act, 1865 was

legislated with the objective of asserting state monopoly on forest resources.

Brandis argued about the influence of forest on climate, rainfall, and irrigation

sources as a strong tool to the imposition of state control over forests. The property

rights regime changed with the first Forest Policy Statement of Colonial British


In India, British rulers transformed the indigenous decentralized forest

management systems into a centralized system, created a bureaucratic agency,

Forest Department (FD) to meet their timber and revenue demands. The

bureaucratic structure of the FD with its hierarchical working practices, though

non-responsive to societal needs, was in line with the colonial government’s

requirements (Kumar and Kant, 2005). The Indian Forest Act, 1865 was declared

the British Administration’s monopoly over the forests of India.

The Forest Act, 1878

In India, by the Forest Act of 1878, the British Administration acquired the

sovereignty of all wastelands which by definition included forests. This Act also

enabled the administration to demarcate reserved and protected forests. The local

rights were refused in the case of protected forests while some privileges which

were given to the local people by the government which can be taken away are

anytime. This Act classified the forests into three – reserved forests, protected

forests and village forests. It was attempted to regulate the collection of forest

produce by forest dwellers and some activities declared as offence and

imprisonment and fines were imposed in this policy to establish the state control

over forests.

National Forest Policy, 1894

The Forest Policy 1894, the first formal policy in India gave much

importance to commercial exploitation of forest products, state custodianship and

permanent cultivation. This policy is primarily based on Dr. Voelcker's

recommendations given in a report on 'Improvement of Indian Agriculture', 1893.

Through this policy the British Administration encouraged the Zamindars to

convert the open forests into agricultural land for enhancing the revenue earning of
the state. Forests are treated as a source of revenue to the state and not to meet the

needs of the people.

In this policy, the forests were divided into four classes. The first class

generally situated in hill slopes and essential to protect the cultivated plains from

landslides and they played a conservation role for the benefit of cultivated plains

and assured revenue to the state. The second class of forests consisted of valuable

timber trees like devadharu (Cedrus deodara), sal (Shorea robusta) and teak

(tectona grandis), and due to commercial interest natural regeneration of devadharu

and sal are promoted and artificial regeneration of teak was developed. The third

class of forests as per the classification under this policy meant for minor forests,

which yields low quality timber, fuelwood and fodder and for meeting the demands

of local people. Finally, the fourth class covered the pastures and grazing lands, the

local people were allowed to use them with restrictions (Balooni and Singh 2007).

Indian Forest Act, 1927

This Act impacted the life of forest dependent communities. The penalties

and procedures given in this Act aimed to extend the state’s control over forests as

well as diminishing the status of people’s rights to forest use. The village

communities were alienated from their age-old symbiotic association with forests.
Further amendments were also made to restrain the local use of forests mainly by

forest dependent communities.


The post-colonial period starts with the Independence of India and

continuing till date. Since 1974 the Independent India formulated policies for

forest conservation and management. These policies were formulated with national

interest and changes were brought about in the forest cover of the country.

Indian Forest Policy, 1952

Forest degradation and deforestation sustained from colonial period to post-

colonial period and emergence of a comprehensive forest policy arose to reduce

the over exploitation of forests. There are three forest policies after independence,

Indian Forest Policy, 1952, National Commission on Agriculture, 1976 and Indian

Forest Policy, 1988. The Indian Forest Policy, 1952 was a simple extension of

colonial forest policy. However it became conscious about the need to increase the

forest cover to one-third of the total land area. At that time maximum annual

revenue from forests is the vital national need. The two World Wars, need for

defence, developmental projects such as river valley projects, industries like pulp,

paper and plywood, and communication heavily depended on forest produce on

national interest (Balaji, 2002). When National Forest Policy first came into

existence in 1952, the use of forest by adjoining village communities was relatively

restricted at the cost of national interests (Rishi, 2007).

Forests are classified as protected forests, national forests, village forests and

tree lands according to this policy with distinct uses. The protected forests are

preserved for maintaining physical and climatic conditions and the commercial

forests are to meet the demand from defence and communication industry. The

forest dependent community can extract the produce of village forests for domestic


Independent India inherited this bureaucratic organizational structure of the

FD. In 1952, new national forest policy did make some deviations from the

colonial forest policy of 1894; however, these changes could not percolate down to

the operational levels (Kumar and Kant, 2005). In 1953, the Indian government

nationalized the forests which were earlier with zamindars.

Forest Conservation Act, 1980

The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 serves to check the diversion of forest

land for non-forestry purposes has become the cornerstone for conservation of

forests (SFR, 2011). The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 stipulated that the central

permission is necessary to practice sustainable agro-forestry in forest areas.

Violation or lack of permit was treated as criminal offense. It targeted to limit

deforestation, conserve biodiversity and save wildlife. Though this Act provides

greater hope towards forest conservation it was not successful in its target. It

resulted in increased deforestation and loss of biodiversity and wildlife because the

rural population ignored the regulations and continued to use the forests for their


Indian Forest Policy 1988

Indian Forest Policy, 1988 is the second forest policy after independence of

India and first forest policy which recognized the role of local people in forest

protection and management of forests for achieving improvements in community

livelihood (Behera and Engel, 2006). The ultimate objective of this forest policy is

maintaining environmental stability and ecological balance through conservation

of forests as a natural heritage. The National Forest Policy in 1988 made a very

significant and categorical shift from commercial concerns to focus on the

ecological role of the forests and participatory management (Balaji, 2002).

Community based forest management can be an effective tool for improving rural

livelihood and ensuring sustainable management of forest resources (Hoare, 2010).

Joint Forest Management in India

The Government of India formally adopted community based forest

management on July 1, 1990 which laid down broad guidelines for an institutional

arrangement involving the local people to jointly protect and manage the forest

resources in return for benefits from it (Singh, 2008). The village committees in

association with the FD will manage specific forest blocks. Forest protection is the

responsibility of the people. It brought positive effect in forest protection and

management directed to the participation of 17 states in JFM by 1992 with 2

million hectares of forest land under protection.

Forest cover of India

The forest cover of India is presented in figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1 Forest cover of India (1987-2011)

Source: State of Forest Reports, FSI, (1987-2011)

It is important to note the coverage of dense forests and open forests. It is a

threat to carbon sequestration and other environmental services of forests if the

dense forests are degraded and increase in open forests. The qualitative loss will

occur to the forest wealth and quantitatively there is no change in forest cover if it

is left as unnoticed. The forest policies should aim at increasing the forest cover to

33 percent of the geographical area of the country without compromising the area

under dense forests.



COVER OF INDIA (1987-2011)

Dense Forest Open Forest Total Forest

Year (km2)
Area (km2) Area (km2) Share (%)

1987 357686 56.4 276583 43.6 634269

1989 378470 59.5 257409 40.5 635879

1991 385008 60.6 249930 39.4 634938

1993 385576 60.6 250275 39.4 635851

1995 385756 60.7 249311 39.3 635067

1997 367260 58.4 261310 41.6 628570

1999 377358 59.7 255064 40.3 632422

2001 416809 61.7 258729 38.3 675538

2003 390564 57.6 287769 42.4 678333

2005 387216 57.2 289872 42.8 677088

2007 402522 58.3 288377 41.7 690899

2009 403666 58.3 288728 41.7 692394

2011 404207 58.4 287820 41.6 692027

Source: State of Forest Reports, FSI, 1987-2011.

From table 4.1 it is evident that there is not much variation in the share of

dense forests in India. However, there are slight variations in the share of dense

forests in forest area from 1997. It is steadily increasing from 2005 and provides

hope of sustainable forestry and indicates the successful implementation of JFM in

Figure 4.2 Change in dense and open forest cover in India

Source: State of Forest Reports, FSI, 1987-2011.

Resource Allocation for Forestry under Five Year Plans

Forestry Outlay (in Percentage in
million rupees) Total Outlay
First Plan (1951-56) 76 0.32
Second Plan (1956-1961) 212 0.47
Third Plan (1961-1966) 458 0.61
Annual Plan (1966-1969) 419 0.63
Fourth Plan (1969-1974) 894 0.56
Fifth Plan (1974-1979) 2088 0.53
Annual Plan (1979-1980) 683 0.54
Sixth Plan (1980-1985) 6924 0.71
Seventh Plan (1985-1990) 18519 1.09
Annual Plan (1990-1991) 6299 0.97
Annual Plan (1991-1992) 7831 1.08
Eighth Plan (1992-1997) 40820 0.94
Ninth Plan (1997-2002) 68228 --
Source: FAO, 2003.

Like other sectors of national importance the forestry also receives

budgetary allocation from the plan outlay. However, the allocation is less than one

percentage of total outlay except in the seventh plan (1.09%).



Period Year Policy
Colonial 1855 Lord Dalhousie’s Forest Charter - regulation of wasteland
period – modern scientific forestry
1864 Establishment of Imperial Forest Department
1865 Indian Forest Act, 1865 – asserted state monopoly on
forest resources – scientific forest management
1878 Forest Act, 1878 – classification of reserved, protected
and village forests – refusal of local rights – opposed by
the forest dwellers
1894 National Forest Policy, 1894 – encouraged conversion of
open forests into agricultural land
1927 Indian Forest Act, 1927 – alienation of forest dependent
1930 Establishment of Forest Department at state level
Post – 1952 Indian Forest Policy, 1952 – classification of protection,
colonial national, village forests and tree lands – aimed to bring
period 33% of geographical area under forest cover
1953 Nationalization of forests
1980 Forest Conservation Act, 1980 – intended to limit
deforestation, conserve biodiversity and wildlife
1988 Indian Forest Policy, 1988 – recognition of the role of
local people in forest protection
1990 Adoption of community based forest management


It is evident that the people’s interests were made subservient to the state’s

commercial interests with regard to forests in the colonial period. Colonial forest

management paid much attention to maximum output of quality timber for export

and sleepers for expanding railways. British Administration used to project from

the fear of deforestation on the climate and irrigation to extent state control over
the forest and they never gave due importance to the climatic impact of

deforestation. They performed effective destruction of forests on one hand and

talking about preservation of forests on the other and continuously focused the

forest dwellers as destroyers. It is acknowledged fact that the British initially

destroyed forests and subsequently implemented policies for forest conservation

(Kumar, 2010).

After Independence, the Indian Government travelled through the path

showed by colonial forest policies and strengthened the state power by legislative

measures. Then the drive switched over to industrial wood production. Diversion

of forest land for agricultural and industrial purposes leads to degradation of

forests (Bhat et al, 2001). The JFM implies a historical shift towards

decentralization of forest management in India through the New Forest Policy of



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