A cross-section of opinions in response to 'Dark truths and lost woods' (pages 31-41) by ANIL AGARWAL
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
The author is Vice-President, Cotporate Communications, Siemens
Employing environment management: INDAL
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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