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Forests in India

Policy and Regulatory Framework

Forests account for almost 23% of India’s landmass. With more than 200 million people, the world’s largest indigenous population, depending upon forests for their survival, it is vital to not only protect and conserve, but to ensure that Indian forests are thriving. The sector contributes 2% to the Indian GDP. Forest policy and planning is a concurrent subject, holding the central and state governments accountable for effective forest management through a series of legislation and policies, implemented through the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Further forestry is directly linked to overall land use. Hence forest policy and legislation flow from, and constitute a part of the national land use and legislative framework for natural resource management and use. [1]


Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 1947

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 strived to consolidate the law relating to forests, the transit of forest produce and the duty that can be levied on timber and other forest produce. The Act established three categories of forests, Reserved, Protected and Village Forests, anticipating three types of claims of land ownership by forest dwellers, rights to pasture or forest produce, and special provisions with regard to the practise of shifting cultivation in the forests mentioned above.

Forest Conservation Act, 1980

Under the provisions of the Act, prior approval of the Central Government is essential for diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes. The Act aims to maintain a balance between the nation’s development needs and the ensuring the conservation of natural heritage. A further amendment to this Act in 1988, prohibited the State governments from assigning, by way of lease or otherwise, any forest land or any portion thereof to any private person or authority not owned, managed or controlled by government without previous sanction by the central government.

National Forest Policy, 1988

The National Forest Policy, 1988 formulated four years before the Earth Summit embodies the principles of sustainable forest management and India’s forests are treated primarily as environmental and social resources and only secondarily as a revenue or commercial resource. [1] This resolution stressed upon the welfare of forest dwelling communities as a major objective of the country’s forest policy. It helped shift the emphasis from revenue to environmental concerns in forest management strategies, by highlighting the legitimate stake of the local forest dependent communities, and recommended community participation in forest regeneration.

Scheduled Tribes And Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

The Forests Rights Act is a milestone in Indian law-making because it acknowledges the historical injustice done to India’s tribal and other traditional forest dwellers by the failure to recognize their rights to ancestral lands during the consolidation of state forests. The act aims at legitimizing the land occupied by the tribal people for generations and by doing so, it provides security of tenure to them and ensures their livelihoods. By conferring the ownership of non-timber forest produces, the act enjoins the stewardship of forests and its produces upon the tribal people. Thus the Act combines human development with conservation of forestry resources. There are several complex and unresolved issues in the content and implementation of the Act like complexities involved in differentiating between justified and unjustified claims. This Act is important form the REDD Plus perspective, should it be implemented in a timely and satisfactory manner, it would aid the implementation of REDD Plus and allow for a just distribution of finances received for REDD Plus.

[1] United Nations Framework on Forests: India National Report