Forest Resources & Bio-diversity in India

1. As per data released by Ministry of Forest & Environment the total forest cover of the country as per 2005 assessment is 677,088 sq. kms and this constitutes 20.60 percent of the geographic area of the country. Of this, 54,569 sq. kms (1.66 %) is very dense forest, 332,647 sq. kms (10.12 %) is moderately dense forest, while 289,872 sq. kms (8.82 %) is open forest cover. The scrub accounts for 38,475 sq. kms (1.17 %).

2. The State/UT wise forest cover in the country shows that Madhya Pradesh with 76,013 sq. kms has the largest area under forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (67,777 km²), Chhattisgarh (55,863 km²), Orissa (48,374 km²) and Maharashtra (47,476 km²).

3. Considering the proportion of geographic area under forest cover, Mizoram has the maximum percentage of 88.63%, followed by Nagaland (82.75%), Arunachal Pradesh (80.93%), and Andaman & Nicobar Islands (80.36%). Andhra Pradesh has the largest area under scrub (9,862 km²).

4. Even though forestry is the second largest land use in India after agriculture the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product from forestry is minimal (it was barely 1.1 percent in 2001).In 2008-09 the combined share of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing was 17.1 %. An estimated 41 percent of the country’s forest cover has been degraded to some degree. As much as 78 percent of forest area is subject to heavy grazing and about 50 percent of the forest area is prone to forest fires. Domestic demand for timber and fuel wood is well above the sustainable level.

5. National Forest Policy of India targets to cover the 33% of the total geographical area under forests. Much money has been invested; however there is not positive growth.

6. India is also a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Accordingly, India had developed a ‘National Policy and Macro level Action Strategy on Biodiversity’ in 1999.

7. India is known for its rich heritage of biological diversity, having already documented over 91,000 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants in its ten bio-geographic regions.

8. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the nodal agency for implementing provisions of CBD in India, developed a strategy for biodiversity conservation at macro-level in 1999 and enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 followed by the Rules there under in 2004. The National Environment Policy, 2006, seeks to achieve balance and harmony between conservation of natural resources and development processes and also forms the basic framework for the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

9. Theme of NEP 2006: The National Environment Policy (NEP) 2006 seeks to achieve balance and harmony between conservation and development. The policy is intended to mainstream environmental concerns in all development activities. The dominant theme of this policy is that while conservation of environmental resources is necessary to secure livelihoods and wellbeing of all, the most secure basis for conservation is to ensure that people dependent on particular resources obtain better livelihoods from the fact of conservation, than from degradation of the resources.

10. International cooperation : India has participated in major international events on environment and biodiversity conservation since 1972. India has also contributed to developing the agreed texts, ratified, and complied with the commitments in various international conventions relating to biodiversity.

India’s International cooperation in Environment & Biodiversity Conservation

11. A National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) is being implemented for conservation of polluted and degraded urban/semi-urban lakes, leading to lake Rejuvenation in terms of improvement in water quality and biodiversity. As on March 2007, 31 projects for conservation of 46 lakes have been taken up.

12. A National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) is also under implementation in 160 towns along polluted stretches of 34 rivers spread over 20 states, the major rivers being Ganga, Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar, Satluj, Krishna, Cauveri and Godavari. The objective of NRCP is to check pollution in rivers through implementation of various pollution abatement schemes.

13. A National Medicinal Plants Board was set up under a government resolution notified on 24th November 2000 under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to promote coordination and implementation of policies relating to medicinal plants both at the Central and State levels.

14. Under a plan scheme ‘Assistance to Botanic Gardens’, financial assistance is provided to strengthen measures for ex situ conservation of threatened and endangered species. Guidelines for botanical gardens have been finalized and the vision is to have at least one botanical garden per district.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has set up a number of gene banks for ex situ conservation under the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR), Lucknow, and National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms (NBAIM), Mau.

15. A large number of microorganisms of agricultural importance also form a vital part of the diversified Indian agricultural ecosystem Projects have been initiated for reintroduction of threatened species into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions. Examples include mass propagation of pitcher plant, rehabilitation of mangroves in degraded open mud flats, and the effort towards relocation of rhinoceros from Kaziranga to Manas and tigers from Ranthambore to Sariska in Rajasthan.

16.India has established National Clean Development Mechanism Authority (NCDMA) for according host country approval to CDM projects as mandated under the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One of the criteria used for approval of CDM projects is impact on biodiversity. Host country approvals have so far been accorded to 404 CDM projects facilitating investment of more than Rs, 22,000 crores.

17. The Government has set up an ‘Expert Committee on the Impacts of Climate Change’ on 7th May 2007 under the chairmanship of Dr. R. Chidambaram Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India to study the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on India and to identify the measures that may have to be taken for addressing vulnerability to anthropogenic climate change impacts.

18.A high level coordination committee chaired by Prime Minister, namely, ‘Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change’ has been set up on 6th June 2007 to coordinate national actions for assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The Government of India has released ‘National Action Plan on Climate change’ on 30th June 2008, which outlines a number of steps to simultaneously advance India’s development and climate change – related objectives of adaptation and mitigation, including through setting up of eight National Missions.

19. Various Acts and Rules Related to Biodiversity Conservation

20. Bishnois of Rajasthan Committed to Conservation of Nature

21. Prof. M.S. Swaminathan Committe on Management of Coastal Zones