India’s Forest Cover & Wasteland | 27 Jul 2021

Why in News

Recently, the Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) informed Rajya Sabha about the forest area in the country.

Key Points

  • Definition of Forest:
    • The word ‘forest’ is not defined in any Central Forest Act, namely the Indian Forest Act (1927), or the Forest Conservation Act (1980).
      • The Central government has not laid down any criterion to define forest.
      • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 gives states the rights to notify Reserved Forests in their areas.
    • States are responsible for determining their definition of forests; this prerogative stems from a Supreme Court order called the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad vs the Union of India 1996 judgment.
      • In the judgement, the Supreme Court interpreted that the word “forest” must be understood according to its “dictionary meaning”.
      • This description covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise.
  • Total Forest Area:
    • The recorded forest area in the country is 7,67,419 sq km, however the ministry has so far not quantified the forest area that has been under dispute.
  • Category-Wise Forest:
    • Reserved Forests category:
      • It is under direct supervision of the Government.
      • No public entry allowed for the commercial purpose of cattle grazing.
      • Total area under this category is 4,34,853 sq km.
    • Protected Forests category:
      • It is looked after by the government.
      • Local people are allowed to collect forest produce and cattle grazing without causing any serious damage.
      • Total area under this category is 2,18,924 sq km.
    • Unprotected Forest Category:
      • They are unclassified Forests.
      • No restriction on cutting trees or grazing cattle.
      • Total area under this category is 1,13,642 sq km.
  • Wasteland:
    • As per the Wasteland Atlas, 2019, published by the Ministry of Rural Development, the total wasteland in the country is 5,57,665.51 sq km.
    • Wasteland is defined not as desertified land, but land that is not used for agriculture, commercial use or as forest land.
      • For instance, it could use grasslands that are used by communities for grazing.
  • Governments Initiatives:
    • National Mission for a Green India:
      • It is one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
      • It was launched in February, 2014 with the objective to safeguard the biological resources of our nation and associated livelihoods against the peril of adverse climate change and to recognise the vital impact of forestry on ecological sustainability, biodiversity conservation and food-, water- and livelihood-security
    • National Afforestation Programme (NAP):
      • It has been implemented since 2000 for the afforestation of degraded forest lands.
      • It is being implemented by the MoEFCC.
    • Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, (CAMPA Funds):
      • Launched in 2016, 90% of the fund is to be given to the states while 10% is to be retained by the Centre.
      • The funds can be used for treatment of catchment areas, assisted natural generation, forest management, wildlife protection and management, relocation of villages from protected areas, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation, supply of wood saving devices and allied activities.
    • National Action Programme to Combat Desertification:
      • It was prepared in 2001 to address issues of increasing desertification and to take appropriate actions.
      • It is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Constitutional Provisions for Forests

  • Forests are included in the Concurrent List in the (Seventh Schedule) of the Constitution of India.
  • Through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds were transferred from State to Concurrent List.
  • Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests and Wildlife.
  • Article 48 A in the Directive Principles of State policy, mandates that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.


Source: IE