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Kid's Corner - Forests

What is Forest ?  

The forest is a complex ecosystem consisting mainly of trees that buffer the earth and support a myriad of life forms. The trees help create a special environment which, in turn, affects the kinds of animals and plants that can exist in the forest. Trees are an important component of the environment. They clean the air, cool it on hot days, conserve heat at night, and act as excellent sound absorbers.

Uses of forests   
Fuelwood - For the rural population, wood is an important source of energy for cooking and heating 
Fodder - Fodder from the forest forms an important source for cattle and other grazing animals in the hilly and the arid regions and during a drought. There are many varieties of grasses, trees, and shrubs that are nutritious for the livestock. 
Fencing - Fences created with trees and shrubs are preferred in developing countries as they are cheap to maintain yet give protection 
Soil erosion check - Tree roots bind the soil and prevent erosion caused by wind or water 
Soil improvement - Some species of trees have the ability to return nitrogen to the soil through root decomposition or fallen leaves
  
Forest Products and their use 

Timber Grasses
Cane Medicinal Use
Friut Floss
Fibre Essential Oils
Bamboo Construction

Depletion and conservation   
Over the years, the area under forest cover has decreased steadily, as forests have been cleared for agriculture, industry, housing, and other development activities like the construction of roads, railways, and hydroelectric plants.   Since the beginning of civilization, people have been clearing land for agriculture to meet the food needs of the ever- growing population. Forests are also being converted to permanent settlements. Thus, forests cannot regenerate, and, in some cases, forest areas have become wasteland within a few years due to frequent cultivation. Apart from forest loss, one also has to contend with forest degradation. Communities living in and around forests remove fuelwood from forests. As long as the population was low, the forest could meet the demand and yet remain healthy. But the increasing population has severely depleted the forest.

After independence India lost forest area in the following manner: 

  • 4696 million hectares forest land to non-forestry purposes 
  • 0.07 million hectares to illegal encroachment 
  • 4.37 million hectares to cultivation 
  • 0.518 million hectares to river valley projects 
  • 0.141 million hectares to industries and townships 
  • 0.061 million hectares to transmission lines and roads

Conservation measures   
The government launched joint forest management and social forestry schemes, Governments and communities should take steps to plant trees on a large scale. The community should be consulted and trees that will meet their requirements should be planted. People in the living in the rural and forestry areas should be encouraged to cut branches, twigs and leaves of the trees for their daily requirements Horticulture should be encouraged as an alternative source of income 
  
Some of the conservation schemes:   
Agroforestry 
Agroforestry is defined by some as a dynamic, ecologically-based natural farm management system that, along with agriculture and the integration of trees on farms, has many environmental benefits. Put simply, agroforestry is using trees on farms. It reduces the farmers' dependency on forests even as it provides them economic benefits. Trees can provide many products such as timber, fodder, fuelwood, medicines, and oils. It also helps to conserve soil, enhance soil fertility, and provide shelter belts for crops and fruit trees.

The agroforestry programmes in India were started in the late 1970s as a result of the recommendations of the National Commission on Agriculture. This in turn led to various social forestry projects, which provided the farmers additional income from the sale of timber and other subsistence benefits like fuelwood, fodder, and non-timber forest produce. 
  
Social forestry 
Social forestry project with the aim of taking the pressure off the forests and making use of all unused and fallow land. Trees were to be planted in and around agricultural fields. Plantation of trees along railway lines and roadsides, and river and canal banks were carried out. They were planted in village common land, Government wasteland and Panchayat land. Social forestry scheme can be categorized into groups : farm forestry, community forestry, extension forestry and agro-forestry.

  1. Farm forestry 
    Individual farmers are being encouraged to plant trees on their own farmland to meet the domestic needs of the family. Non-commercial farm forestry is the main thrust of most of the social forestry projects in the country today. It is not always necessary that the farmer grows trees for fuel wood, but very often they are interested in growing trees without any economic motive 
  2. Community forestry 
    Another scheme taken up under the social forestry programme, is the raising of trees on community land and not on private land as in farm forestry. All these programmes aim to provide for the entire community and not for any individual. The government has the responsibility of providing seedlings, fertilizer but the community has to take responsibility of protecting the trees. 
  3. Extension forestry 
    Planting of trees on the sides of roads, canals and railways, along with planting on wastelands is known as 'extension' forestry, increasing the boundaries of forests. Under this project there has been creation a of wood lots in the village common lands, government wastelands and panchayat lands. 
  4. Agro- forestry 
    Planting of trees on and around agricultural boundaries, and on marginal, private lands, in combination with agricultural crops is known as agro-forestry.

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http://coe.mse.ac.in 2003-09. Madras School of Economics - Systems Department