Green puzzle

A cross-section of opinions in response to 'Dark truths and lost woods' (pages 31-41) by ANIL AGARWAL

 
By G Thimmaiah
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015 | 21:11:47 PM

Green puzzle

-- ANIL AGARWAL has brought out the discrepancy between the extent of India's forest cover as reported by The State of Forest Report (SFR) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and has also highlighted some of the changes that have taken place in the area under dense forest cover, natural forest cover and plantations. His note gives the impression that the data provided by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) are not so reliable and -at private plantations seem to have increased in area. But the truth lies some where in between.
Inadequate analysis The SFR published by the (FSI) deals with the assessment of various aspects of forest cover. It presents the data relating to the forest cover seen through satellite. But the report does not throw light on the forests managed and owned by state forest departments. It also uses the data received from state governments for purpose of comparison. From this comparison it has been observed that the area under forest cover as reported by state governments is more than that estimated by using data generated from satellite imagery.

The latest SFR (1995) shows that the total area under forest cover has slightly declined to 639,600 sq km from 640,107 sq km in 1993. The FSI does not give any explanation for this decline. The loss of forest cover may be on account of loss of tree cover in the private as well as state-owned forests. The FSI report for 1995 has shown a loss of forest cover in the northeast region to the extent of 783 kin. It would be proper to mention here that roughly 90 per cent of the forest lands in the northeast are privately owned. Though the SFR deals with forest cover, what is happening under the forest cover is not yet investigated through satellite imagery. It is well-known that today forests are under tremendous biotic pressure. It is, in fact, the open forests which register maximum change. This is obvious because both decrease and increase in density of forest cover leads to reduction and increase of area under different types of forest cover. Due to decrease in density, area under open forests is reclassified as scrub and an increase in density shifts open forests to dense forests category. Thus, areas under open forests are most vulnerable to change in density. On the other hand, decrease in density of dense forests may go unnoticed. For example, if density of forest cover reduces from 70 to 50 per cent, the area is still classified as dense forest. Moreover, additional area comes under dense forests from open forests because density improves from plantation activities and protection measures. The SFR is not based on satellite imagery but also on the changes that have been verified by extensive 'ground truthing. The changed maps for all the states and Union territories of the country between any two assessments are available at FSl on Survey of India toposheets on a scale of 1:250,000. Increasing demand for vegetation maps during the past few years by user organisations, particularly state forest departments, show their utility. Thus, the contention that the SFRS are a smokescreen on India's forests is an unfair observation.

Inconsistent reports

The discrepancy between the area under forest cover as assessed independently by the FAO and the FSI has been well brought out by Anil Agarwal. His observations imply that according to FAO'S report, the natural forest cover has declined between 1980 and 1990 to the extent of 3.389 mha, whereas there is a substantial increase in the plantation area. It has also been highlighted that the total plantation area in India is much higher than in most tropical countries like Indonesia and Brazil. Instead, Agarwal wants the area under natural forest cover to increase. He is asking for the moon. The SFR 1995 has not given any estimate on the plantation area because of the limitations of technology.

What is happening under the forest cover is not yet investigated through satellite imagery

On the basis of change in density, open forests get reclassified as scrub or dense forests, but a decrease in density of dense forests goes unnoticed

That The State of Forest Reports (SFRS) are a smoke screen on India's forests, is an unfair observation

Agarwal wants the area under natural forest cover to increase. He is asking for the moon

The SFR 1995 has not given any estimate on the plantation area because of limitations of technology

The loss of natural forest cover is due to a number of socio-economic factors. For example, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, provides for a penalty of Rs 500 for illegally felling trees which would fetch thousands of rupees

If the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) releases data to sensationalise the loss of forest cover, we have to question the objectivity of this organisation

A new scheme is proposed to contain illicit felling of trees in forests

The FAO claim, that the prescriptions of working plans (WP) have been adhered to, is an exaggeration. The prescriptions of WPS have become a theoretical exercise

- G THIMMAIAH Currently, the FSI is using IRS- I B data which is of lesser resolution and, therefore, many plantation areas may not be mapped. Further, it is not possible to differentiate between natural forests and plantations, particularly if they are contiguous as both of them give similar reflections. It is here that the Planning Commission may have to suggest to the FS1 to use advanced technology in the form of IRS- IC data and include plantation areas in their future SFRS.

Regarding the loss of natural forest cover, it would be proper to mention that it is the result of a number of socio-economic factors. Infrastructural facilities, as well as regulatory measures in almost all state forest departments are inadequate and need to be improved, if the rate of deforestation is to be changed. For instance, the Indian Forest Act was enacted as far back as 1927 and provides a penalty of Rs 500 for felling a tree illegally. People would be happy to pay a paltry sum of Rs 500 as fine for felling a tree which would fetch thousands of rupees.

Regarding the methodology used by the FAO and today by the FS1, FAO's estimate of forest cover is partly based on information supplied by the FSI and partly on its own technology sources. Our enquiry with the ministry of environment and forests (MEF) and also with the FSI reveals that they get the forest imagery from American satellites. I was also told that the FSI has disputed the FAO's estimates, which have given rise to discrepancy. The format used by the FAO is different from that used by the FS1, which has its own relevance for the country's needs. What is more important is that the FAO depends entirely on technology whereas the FS1 cross-checks the satellite images by 'ground truthing'. If the FAO releases the data to sensationalise the issue of loss of forest cover, we have to question the objectivity of this Organisation. The Planning Commission and the Government of India should take up this issue with the FAO.

Natural forests: under threat
Destruction of natural forests is a complex phenomenon. It is proposed to launch a new scheme to contain illicit felling of trees in the forests. It is true that the biomass withdrawal in the form of illicit felling for timber, fuelwood and fodder have not been scientifically documented by state governments. Therefore, the rate of deforestation as reflected by the data collected and published by different agencies may vary. The report prepared by the FAO containing total closed broadleaved area, closed broadleaved forest area, newly logged and previously logged areas as per 1990 data, are altogether missing in the FS1 report. The authenticity of the FAO figures cannot be checked immediately by 'ground truthing' in state forests and forests on private land. Therefore, the Planning Commission would like to suggest to the FSI that they improve their data on deforestation in their future SFRs.

The claim of the FAO report that by and large the prescriptions of working plans (WP) have been adhered to is an exaggeration. Soon after forestry sector development was shifted to plan funding, the financial resources became meagre and most of the forestry operations that were carried out with religious fervour - like creation and maintenance of fire lines and silvicultural operations - were given up. Consequently, the prescriptions of WPs have become a theoretical exercise. One of the important reasons for Indian forests losing their natural regeneration capacity is the failure to pursue silvicultural operations regularly. Besides pendency of the WP prescriptions, this problem has been further compounded by growing human and livestock population.

The main reason, other than the slump in the market, has been the increase in the number of small and marginal holdings in the country. Now, there has been a steady increase in the areas of public lands, including forest lands - from 0.550 mha in. 1990-91 to 1.123 mha in 1995-96. The main task of plantation activity on private and forest lands has been the maintenance and upkeep of seedlings. The inflated figures of target and achievement do not necessarily show seedlings maturing into full-grown trees. I agree with Agarwal that there is need to have a more reliable database from the point of view Of the MEF.

Joint forest management (JFM) has yielded reasonably good results and in recent years most state governments have come up with proposals for making JFM mandatory for the forestry sector. This is one of the important components of the Ninth Plan forestry programme to manage and aid forest protection. It may be observed from the table 'Treeless in tiger country' in Agarwal's paper that about eight protected areas have shown an increase in dense forest cover whereas 10 protected areas have shown a slight decline. The MEF is also seized or this issue and during the Eighth Plan period, the Government of India launched an eco-development programme with a view to involving local people living in and around national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves, in protecting the forests. The poaching of large fauna, particularly tiger and rhino, has shown some increase. But the elephant population has gone up. During the Ninth Plan period some more measures are being proposed to contain poaching of major animals as part of the Wildlife Protection Programme.

G Thimmaiah is a member of the Planning Commission of India

Fallacy in figure

-- THE FAO assessment claims that in 1990, India had a forest cover of 70.63 mha, of which 51.73 mha were natural forests and plantations another 18.90 mha. A similar FAO study regarding the 1980 forest cover had claimed that then India had a forest cover of 60.42 mha of which natural forests were 57.23 mha and plantations were 3.18 mha. So, according to FAO, the country's tree cover has gone up by over 10 mha - almost one million hectare a year during the 1980s.

While the natural forest cover went down, the area under plantations went up dramatically. After the first set of data regarding India's forest cover in 1980, FAO conducted a fresh exercise to estimate the forest cover for both 1980 and 1990 simultaneously. These estimates were made around 1990 and from one set of data sources so that the two data for 1980 and 1990 would be comparable.

FAO believes that it has now got better baseline data for 1980. The natural forest cover in 1980 according To the organisation was only 55.119 mha as compared to 57.234 mha estimated earlier. When the two ,new sets of FAO data relating to 1980 and 1990 are compared, it becomes clear that while the area under natural forests has gone down by 3.39 mha over the 1980s - an erosion rate of about one-third of a million hectare a year - plantations increased in area by 15.72 mha, an increase of about 500 per cent. The actual increase in the plantation area may actually not be as high.

In a more recent study, the FAO has explained that the 18.9 mha of plantation area is the 'reported area', which is usually based on numbers of trees planted or delivered from nurseries. Since studies available worldwide indicate that the actual or net plantation area is usually 70 per cent of the reported area, FAO now estimates the 1990 plantation area for India to be 13.23 mha.

The sum and substance of all the figures cited by FAO is that while the plantation area in India is' increasing, its natural forest cover is going down. This data, thus, forces us to reach two conclusions. One, that India's forest managers are allowing plantations to increase at the expense of the natural forest cover. Two, that precious little changed between the 1970s and the 1980s in terms of the destruction of natural forests despite the enormous interest that the environ- mental community took in forestry issues in the 1980s, the creation of a full-fledged ministry of environment and forests, and the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act in 1980 with a subsequent amendment a few years later to strengthen the law.

FAO, however, states in its Forest Resource Assessment 1990, that it did not assess any area of closed broadleaved forests. The information supplied was taken from a special study on the state of logging (see graph: Natural forests trail). The given estimate of the closed broadleaved forest - 28.747 mha in 1990 - therefore, is not a reliable estimate especially as there is considerable discrepancy in this data. In 1980, the area under closed broadleaved forests was reported to be as much as 46.044 mha. The FAO report quotes The State of Forest Report 1987 to state that as much as 59 mba out of the total 75 mba area under the control of the state forest departments in India is covered by working plans. While numerous environmentalists have consistently argued that working plans, ironically, betray their name and do not actually work, the FAO report argues that "by and large, prescriptions of the working plans have been adhered to".

But the report admits that once these forest areas are logged, there is very little regeneration. Adequate regeneration has taken place on less than one-sixth (15 per cent) of the area logged under the working plans. The three reasons that are given by Indian foresters for this abysmal rate of regeneration are - open grazing, inadequate fire protection and heavy firewood collection which exceeds the natural annual increment.

This simply boils down to the fact that forest authorities in India are themselves actively involved in logging forests, totally disregarding people's biomass needs. As logging considerably reduces biomass availability, continued pressure of the people on the forests to meet their survival needs naturally suppresses any kind of regeneration. The picture that emerges is that if state-owned forest lands were managed for ecological needs and for the survival needs of the local communities only, in accordance with the National Forest Policy of 1987, then these lands should not be brought under working plans and logged.

Thirdly, the FAO report points out that India has the world's largest area under plantations today, something that most environmentalists in India are not aware of. The total plantation area reported by 90 countries of the tropical zone amounted to a total of 43.8 mha in 1990. Of this, India alone had 18.9 mha or 43 per cent of the tropical world's total. The next four countries with large plantation areas in 1990 were Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Thailand. The four combined just about match the Indian area under plantations.

Nothing is known about how much of the plantation area projected by FAO (see graph: Topper) is in the state-owned forest lands, non-forest government lands like revenue lands, panchayat lands or private farmlands. S N Rai, director of the Forest Survey of India, recently told a Planning Commission meeting that most of this plantation area in India consists of farm forests, which indeed was the only successful component of the massive afforestation programme launched in the early 1980s with the assistance of the World Bank and various other bilateral agencies, under the title of social forestry.

According to N C Saxena, who served as a senior officer with the National Wastelands Development Board, some 18 billion trees were planted in the country between 1980 and 1988, of which 10 billion trees (equivalent to an area of five mha) were planted on farmlands (see graph: Tree tales). Between 1990-91 and 1995-96, some 5.571 mha of public lands were afforested and another 6.9649 billion seedlings (equivalent to an area of 3.48 mha) were distributed for planting on private lands. In recent years, however, this programme of farm forestry has received lesser attention from the government. As available figures clearly show (see graph: Bad report), the annual targets for farm forestry have been consistently going down.

A major reason for the decline in farm forestry was that neither the MEF nor the state forest departments made any efforts towards understanding the volume of the wood market in India or to influence wood prices in such a manner that farmers would not lose out financially.

With the liberalisation of pulp imports, many tree farmers plucked out their seedlings because of resistance from pulp mills and falling prices. The government too, did not stop its subsidised supplies and farmwood began to come into the market, thus depressing prices further. But why do the state of forest reports fail to show the area under plantations as distinct from the natural forest area like the FAO surveys, is indeed, a very disturbing question.

Says Rai, "This is because the assessment of forest cover is based on the interpretation of satellite data. Differentiating between natural forests and plantations is difficult because reflectance of the two is same. Moreover, young plantations, plantations of thorny species and those with yellowish or reddish leaves do not also give proper reflectance." Obviously good data collection mechanisms for assessing India's forest covers are needed in the government.

During the 1990s, several state government have started pushing the Joint Forest Management (JFM) concept. After the early successes of this concept in West Bengal during the 1980s in which people were involved' in the regeneration of degraded forest lands, the JFM programme was supported by the Union government and subsequently it spread to several states. According to the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development in New Delhi, an assessment made by the organisation in 1994 had revealed that there were about 15,000 village committees involved in JFM covering some 1.5 mha (at an assumed rate of 100 ha per committee).

Since then, Andhra Pradesh has set up some 400 committees, Madhya Pradesh 6,000 committees and Rajasthan 1,700 committees while Uttar Pradesh has some 400 van panchayats (village forest councils). Thus, there are about 24,000 village committees today. This gives us the approximate area covered by the JFM scheme as 2.4 mha.

Forests regenerated under the JFM would not be considered as plantations, but as regenerated natural forests, although of a low quality. Unfortunately, the eagerness with which forest departments pushed farm forestry in the 1980s, was not displayed in pushing community-managed natural regeneration in the 1990s.

Otherwise, India would have been blessed with a two-pronged effort to increase its tree cover - one to bring about a natural forest cover in degraded forest lands, and the other to bring about plantations in degraded private and revenue lands.

A R Maslekar

-- ANIL AGARWAL has raised many important points regarding the status of India's forests with reference to the SFR 1995 by the PSI and the FAO's assessment for 1980 and 1990. The paper commends PSI reports for their transparency and accountability but they may not help much in learning about the true status of forest cover in the country.

The PSI has published its reports every two years, starting from 1987. The PSI was created in 1981 from the Preinvestment Survey of Forest Resources (PISFR), which started in 1965 with United Nations Development Programme aid. The PISFR surveyed 'unsurveyed' but potentially important forest pockets having rich timber resources. It used aerial photographs and low-intensity cluster sampling techniques to assess growing forest stock. Satellite imagery soon became the main tool. The FSI started its biannual assessments from 1983. It used the previous two years' imagery for this purpose (see table. Green wealth).

It was understood that the satellite imagery was a quicker method compared to interpretation of aerial photographs. However, as in Landsat satellites, the resolutions were rather poor (from 89 sq in Landsat I to 36 sq in thematic map- ping) for a very detailed assessment. As it was not possible to identify species/species groups, a classification system based on crown density of visual canopy was adopted. A forest cover of 40 per cent and above was taken as dense forests, 10-40 per cent as open forests, and below 10 per cent as scrub forests.

But there were many constraints apart from resolution in this method. These include cloud cover, shadows of high hills, seasons (important in broadleaved deciduous forests that shed leaves in certain seasons), skill of interpreter, accuracy of delineation of different density classes and also in transferring details on base as well as final printing. Loss of maps information and misinterpretation were common. Digital interpretation, however, has improved this to some extent.

Depleted resource
There are hardly any undisturbed forest areas left in India, including the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Almost all dense, natural forests are now under protected areas - wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and reserves. Felling in natural forests has been officially stopped since 1987. However, unofficial removal by headloading as well as by organised groups (as in Uttar Pradesh) and for nistar (rights over minor forest produce) in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, contributes greatly to depletion of forest resources and remain unrecorded. There was a significant decrease in forest loss (rather forest land loss) since 1984 after the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA), 1980, was strictly enforced.

Natural forests are exposed all through and are constantly abused and overused. Grazing by domestic cattle has not only depleted the growth but has hindered the natural regenerative process. Whatever grazing control existed a decade ago has been lost due to political expediency. Paucity of funds for 'normal' forestry operations - sanitation, boundary maintenance or protection - has been the main constraint in maintaining forest estates in India.

It is not always true that dense forests represent all natural forests. Many mature plantations do get denser and get included as dense forests. Satellites record tree canopies but do not say where they are located and how they are formed.

Deforestation is more in dry, deciduous forests (they are more logged!) - more than 80 per cent of India's forests are in dry and moist deciduous categories and contain very valuable timber species like rosewood, ain, dhauda and teak.

Need for objectives
"Working plans (WP) do not actually work," say environmentalists. The FAO, however, says "By and large, prescriptions of WP are adhered to". Both are correct. WPs were made to prescribe a harvesting (logging) cycle of 10-15 years. They were the fundamental tools to 'manipulate' forests to change them from local natural, mixed, miscellaneous forests to the forests of desired timber species like deodar, sal or teak. I have always held the view that conventional WPs have lost their relevance in the present context. This is also evident from the fact that wildlife-protected area plans are now called 'management plans'. Same is the case with JFM areas. WPs will work if they change their objectives to fit the National Forest Policy of 1988. Very little has happened towards that end, except that WPs are written and sanctioned by states in consultation with the MEF after 1980. Guidelines issued by the MEF in 1984 are important from the conservation point of view, but have been lost sight of after the FCA amendment in 1989. Having dealt with the discrepancies and macro-level pictures of FSI reports, I will now deal with many suggestions made in the paper. I fully endorse Anil Agarwal's statement that good data collection mechanisms are needed for assessing the forest cover of India. India's latest satellite, IRS- I C, with up to six metres resolution in PAN, and IR*- I D with the Global Positioning System, would become powerful tools. They will give more detailed density and degradation assessments. But to assess the extent of all plantations, pristine pockets of forests, legal and administrative boundaries, field surveys alone will help. The FSI and the states will have to work together for this in a systematic manner. Forestry will also need adequate funds and political support. Only then can the SFR become a 'tool of enlightenment and intelligent decision making'. Till then, the FS1 will continue to give a 'gross picture' of change in forest cover.

I agree with Anil Agarwal in his evaluation Of JFM, social forestry and the fact that the FSI-SFR gives something candidly, but not all that is desired. I have no comments on the FAO assessments of 1980 and 1991 and I have not read either. But I feel FSI-SFR's and FAO's assessments differ because of their 'different angles of looking' at India's forests.

A R Maslekar is former principal chief conservator offorests, Maharashtra

Satellite imagery, a quicker method than interpretation of aerial photographs, suffered from many constraints like loss of information and misinterpretation. Digital interpretation, however, has improved this to some extent

There are hardly any undisturbed forests left in India. Almost all dense, natural forests are now under protected areas

Natural forests are exposed all through and are constantly abused. There exists little grazing control due to political expediency. Paucity of funds has been the main constraint in maintaining forest estates in India

"Working plans (WP) do not actually work,- say, environmentalists. The mo, however, says, "By and large, prescriptions of WPs are adhered to-- Both are correct. Conventional WPs have lost their relevance in the present context

WPs will work if they change their objectives to fit the National Forest Policy of 1988. Very little has happened towards this end

Good data collection mechanisms are needed for assessing the forest cover in India. The Forest Survey of India and the states will have to work together for this in a systematic manner. Only then can the SFR become a 'tool of enlightenment and intelligent decision making'

- A R MASLEKAR

S Shyam Sunder

-- MY INITIAL response is on the tenor of the article, that foresters are responsible for the mismanagement and degradation of forests. I feel that India continues to have forested areas only because of the efforts of foresters, who, during the last 125 years, have striven for conservation of forests. But for their efforts, the reserved forests in India would have gone the way of unreserved forests, which covered 45 per cent of the land area in 1928.

Anil Agarwal's article says that forests with a crown density of 10-40 per cent are considered open forests, which are regarded as relatively degraded. This is not necessarily so as in the low rainfall areas, even undisturbed forests would fall in this category. It would be useful if the SFR can further classify this category into open good forests (which have their own biodiversity) and degraded forests.

Satellite imagery cannot tell us about the biodiversity, species mix, regenerative power and biotic interference of a forest. This requires specific ground studies over identified areas, whose results are site-specific.

Agarwal's article states that forest managers are allowing plantations to come up at the expense of natural forest cover. It is true that in the past, certain categories of natural forests were converted into plantations for meeting certain identified needs, but since the early'80s, plantations have been limited to degraded areas. Besides, plantations are necessary to meet the deficit of firewood, to the order of 200 million cubic metres, and prevent the degradation of forests.

The real reason for the continuing degradation of forests is that between 1970 and 1990, human population in India has increased by 250 million and the cattle population by 125 million, while investment in forestry has remained at less than one per cent of India's budgetary outlay. Also, there is no correlation between the prescriptions of the WPs and the budget made available for the purpose.
Population pressure Coppice system (referred to as logging in the dry deciduous forest in the article 'Dark truths and lost woods') is a cost effective method for firewood production so long as there is no cattle grazing in the area for three or four years. It is not correct to state that forests of the dry deciduous belt are most affected by deforestation because these were most logged. The prime factor is the population pressure, which is the highest around deciduous forests as they are located in the fertile plains.

In forests other than the conifers, logging implies felling of only three or four trees per acre at intervals of 30-40 years. This allows for the regeneration of the forest. Lapses on the part of foresters may account for absence of regeneration in five per cent of the forest area; in the remaining area it is because of unregulated grazing, inadequate protection against fires and indiscriminate firewood collection by the local people.

A constant refrain in the article is that the reserved forests should first meet the biomass needs of the local people - the very same people who have been responsible for the degradation of forests. It needs to be pointed out here that the right to collect dry firewood and limited grazing was initially granted in only a few reserved forests. In all other cases these activities were to be restricted to forests that did not fall in the reserved category. This was when the population of India was 200 million and there was twice as much forest land available in the non-reserved category. Now the population is 920 million and the forests where community rights existed are gone. There is no government order restricting free removal of dry (and green) wood and regulating grazing. Nor are environmental groups willing to take up these issues, for obvious reasons.

Skewed priorities
Agarwal's article rightly comments that farm forestry, which has yielded good results, has lost the support of the forest departments, as is apparent from the declining number of seedlings supplied to farmers. Social forestry in most states was funded by international aiding agencies. Its two major components were raising plantations in community areas and supplying seedlings to farmers. During the 1980s, when SF was at its height, the aiding agencies came in for bitter criticism for subsidising industries through farm forestry. It was not appreciated that the need of the hour was production of wood, for use as firewood and timber for meeting the people's needs. Now, there is no aid agency willing to support farm forestry in India.

Farm forestry has tremendous scope and needs support in a country in which unsustainable agricultural practices prevail in more than 50 per cent of the cultivated area. Let us take the case of the paper and pulp industry. India produces 0.8 per cent of the world output, while Sweden, one-seventh the size of India and with one-third the growth in India, produces 15 per cent. And the prosperity of Sweden is based on its forest industries while the tragedy of India are its wastelands. Again, 30-40 per cent of the biomass that cannot be put to industrial use is available as firewood. The environmentalists' faith in regenerating degraded forests through JFM is misplaced. JFM has succeeded in the sal (a fantastic coppicer) forests because it is possible to secure returns from sal trees within one or two years. In other forests, the initial euphoria was because of the four to five times yield of fodder, alongwith the protection offered. The share of timber value, the motivating force, can be derived only after 20 or 30 years. Will the interest survive till then? As to firewood and usufruct now offered to them, it has always been theirs for the taking. The only factor that may help is that now those living in the forest and on its fringes will help keep out the vaster population beyond which also depended on this same resource earlier. Again, what about the requirement of firewood and its present deficit? Unless JFM considers planting fast-growing species, its fate will be no different from social forestry in 10 years.

The contention that forest conservation will work if people are allowed to take care of the resources without interference, was propounded by Madhav Gadgil, professor of ecology at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He asserted that forests in India were in good condition till the British reserved some of them for commercial interests. Citing a hypothetical case, he said that if a village had a forest covering 200 ha, which sufficed to meet its needs, the forest would be in a good condition. If the reservation took away 180 ha, the balance 20 ha got destroyed because it could not be sustainably worked by the villagers. The 180 ha reserved got destroyed in due course because of unscientific forestry.

But reservation records in Karnataka show that, on an average, more than twice the reserved area was left for local use. Besides, reserved forests exist in almost all countries and in some, as in Germany, they have existed for 150 years before forests were reserved in India, In fact, India was the model for forest reservation in USA. In the late '20s, reserve forests in five districts of the then Madras Province were transferred to the panchayats for management. In about 15 years, these forests were completely destroyed and district collectors moved the government to transfer these areas back to the forest department.

I wish that those clamouring for people's management of forest resources would visit some of the northeastern states where more than 90 per cent of the forests are with the people. These forests are n a deplorable condition.

S Shyam Sunder is a retired senior Indian Forest Service officer from Karnataka

Forests with a crown density of 10-40 per cent are considered open forests, which are regarded as relatively degraded. However, in low rainfall areas, even undisturbed forests will fall in this category. It would be useful if the SFR could classify open forests as good and degraded forests

Certain categories of natural forests were earlier converted into plantations to meet certain identified needs, but since the early '80s, plantations have been limited to degraded areas

The real reason for the continued forest degradation is the tremendous increase in human and cattle population in India, while investment in forestry has remained at less than one per cent of the budgetary outlay

Lapses on the part of foresters may account for absence of regeneration in five per cent of the forest area; in the remaining area it is because of unregulated grazing, inadequate protection against fires and indiscriminate firewood collection by the people

Farm forestry has lost the support of forest departments as no aid agency is willing to support farm forestry in India

The environmentalists' faith in regenerating degraded forests through joint forest management (JFM) is misplaced. JFM has succeeded in sal forests because of quick returns from sal trees. In other forests, the share of timber value can be derived only after 20-30 years. Unless JFM considers planting fast growing species, its fate will be no different from social forestry In 10 years

- S SHYAM SUNDER

Building a work environment: Siemens' approach

SIEMENS, a world leader in electronic products, has a firin belief that a safe and healthy working environment is as essential as quality control, production and marketing. It has, therefore, taken steps to prevent accidents, to take care of the health of its employees and to protect the environment.

Safety and environment protection is an integral part of every job, process and decision involved at the workplace. The approach to enhance safety is based on a three-prolonged strategy of education, engineering and enforcement. Educating the personnel is an important element of enhancing industrial safety. Siemens organises safety programmes with posters displays and distribution of pocket calendars with the theme of safety and environment protection culture.

On the engineering front, corrective action is taken after identifying potential hazards, including the introduction of nylon-reinforced gloves to prevent injuries while handling sheet metal, use of crawling ladders, ear plugs and safety goggles. Air quality is also monitored by means of sampling ports.

The educational and engineering activities are reinforced with the active participation of the management and the safety committees. Each unit has a safety committee which identifies potential hazards and recommends remedial measures, Contests are organised to enhance safety awareness.

The increased awareness has generated a sense of pride and achievement with recognition from various external agencies. Siemens has received many awards in recent years. It got the Gold Award for Occupational Safety from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, UK, in 1995 and 1996. It also got the best safety week celebration award from the Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health, Nashik, and the 1996 certificate for meritorious performance in industrial safety from the Council of Industrial Safet)@,. Siemens has been instrumental in maintaining a green environment, with trees of different types are planted around va4Qous units. Environmentally compatible technology introduced by the company includes water conservation in rinsing tanks at its Calcutta works. Rinsing, initially carried out in flowing water, consumption 6f 3,836 cubic metres per year. With the installation of an electrical gate valve, the volume of effluent generated was reduced and energy conserved. Recycling of liquid ammonia used in printing machi4i has also been introduced.

Si4ens' objective is to bring about an active participation in safety programmes through involvement of all employees, Prevent environmental pollution and conserve natural resources by adhering to regulations laid down for safety and environmental protection.

The author is Vice-President, Cotporate Communications, Siemens

Employing environment management: INDAL

-- (Credit: Sanjay Ghosh)CONSEQUENT to economic liberalisation, the pace of industrial growth has accelerated. The current growth and expansion of industrial development in India is putting mts on resources like energy, water and raw materials. However, the growing awareness among the general public, regulatory bodies and NGOS, as also the increasing number of legislations are acting as a check, ensuring better vigilance and control over environmental degradation . Protecting the environment is not expensive, nor is it non-rewarding, if new approaches and proper systems can be established for long-term benefits. Many companies today look upon environment management as a long-term strategy for sustaining business.

Briefly, an environment management system (Ems) is that part of the overall management system that seeks to define and deploy men, materials and resources of an enterprise to reduce the adverse environmental impact and enhance the more favourable impacts arising from its business activities.

An aspiring company has to first review its environmental status and prepare a policy/programme to address adverse environmental effects, and ensure commitment to work towards resource conservation and pollution prevention. Once designed and implemented, the certifying body is invited to examine the effectiveness of the system.

Major benefits derived from EMS It promotes a proactive approach. Bya well designed system of receiving communication, evaluating and prioritising the significant environ- mental impact and working out solu- tions in advance, it aims to preempt damage to the environment.

It makes environment protection a sound business opportunity. Generally, environment protection is considered synonymous with 'pollution control' which is primarily based on 'end-of- pipe treatment'. Pollution control has always been expensive, but prevention rewarding. Thus, properly integrated, - EMS provides excellent business opportunities, profitability and low costs.

It ensures total employee involve ment. By assigning responsibilities among employees,delegating authority and resources to the relevant people, and imple- menting a system of audit and review, employee participation is assured.

It is based on continuous improvement. This is the most important feature of EMS. Since all EMS activity is in response to "environmental effects", the system is flexible and dynamic. It fosters creativity without prescribing or imposing solutions.

It encourages industries to go for EMS at any stage. It tends to address the environmental effects on all interested parties. This aspect alone will tend to improve the acceptability of the business among all interested parties, like community, customers, vendors, investors and NGOS, because their environ- mental needs are appropriately addressed.

Ariticipating the growing importance of environment management as early as 1986, the Indian Aluminium Company Limited (INDAL), institutionalised and integrated EMS in all its business operations. The company has a well for- mulated environment poliCy which focuses on creating aware- ness and a sense of responsibility towards the environment and resource conservation for sustainable development.

Over the years, several INDAL locations including its mines, have consistently won state-levelawards for environment management, occupational health, safety and community welfare. However, a historic milestone was the achievement of ISO 14001 EMS certification for three units: the Durgmanwadi bauxite mines, Maharashtra, Hirakud power plant in "Orissa and INDAL'S subsidiary near Mysore, which manufactures printed circuit boards. To attain certification for the Durgmanwadi mines, for example, INDAL had to design, install and demonstrate an EMS that would improve the mines and their environment well beyond the statutory requirements. INDAL is strengthening its EMS at its other units with the aim of attaining ISO 14001 EMS certification.

We hope that government and non- government agencies will encourage and guide Indian industry towards greater corporate responsibility.

The author is Chief Executive, Chemicals Business, INDAL

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