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Lesson 6, Topic 2
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Chapter- 2 Forest & Wildlife Resouces

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Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), we can classify different categories of existing plants and animal species as follows –

  • Normal Species: Species whose population levels are considered to be normal for their survival, such as cattle, sal, pine, rodents, etc.

  • Endangered Species: These are species which are in danger of extinction. The survival of such species is difficult if the negative factors that have led to a decline in their population continue to operate. The examples of such species are black buck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, lion tailed macaque, sangai,

  • Vulnerable Species: These are species whose population has declined to levels from where it is likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the negative factors continue to operate. The examples of such species are blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin, etc.

  • Rare Species: Species with small population may move into the endangered or vulnerable category if the negative factors affecting them continue to operate. The examples of such species are the Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox and hornbill, etc.

  • Endemic Species: These are species which are only found in some particular areas usually isolated by natural or geographical barriers. Examples of such species are the Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, mithun in Arunchal Pradesh.

  • Extinct Species: These are species which are not found after searches of known or likely areas where they may occur. A species may be extinct from a local area, region, country, continent or the entire earth. Examples of such species are the Asiatic cheetah, pink head duck.

What are the negative factors that cause such fearful depletion of the flora and fauna?

  • It is we ourselves who have depleted our forests and wildlife. The greatest damage inflicted on Indian forests was during the colonial period due to the expansion of the railways, agriculture, commercial and scientific forestry and mining activities.

  • Even after Independence, agricultural expansion continues to be one of the major causes of depletion of forest resources. Between 1951 and 1980, according to the Forest Survey of India, over 26,200 sq. km. of forest area was converted into agricultural land all over India.

  • Substantial parts of the tribal belts, especially in the northeastern and central India, have been deforested or degraded by shifting cultivation (jhum), a type of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture.

  • Large-scale development projects have also contributed significantly to the loss of forests. Since 1951, over 5,000 sq km of forest was cleared for river valley projects.

  • Mining is another important factor behind deforestation. The Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal is seriously threatened by the ongoing dolomite mining. It has disturbed the natural habitat of many species and blocked the migration route.

  • Greatest degrading factors behind the depletion of forest resources are grazing and fuel-wood collection.

  • Habitat destruction, hunting, poaching, over-exploitation, environmental pollution, poisoning and forest fires are factors, which have led to the decline in India’s biodiversity. Other important causes of environmental destruction are unequal access, inequitable consumption of resources and differential sharing of responsibility for environmental well-being.

  • Over-population in third world countries is often cited as the cause of environmental degradation.

Conservation of Forest and Wildlife in India

  • The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act was implemented in 1972, with various provisions for protecting habitats.The thrust of the programme was towards protecting the remaining population of certain endangered species by banning hunting, giving legal protection to their habitats, and restricting trade in wildlife.

  • Central and many state governments established national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The central government also announced several projects for protecting specific animals, which were gravely threatened, including the tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, the Kashmir stag or hangul, three types of crocodiles – fresh water crocodile, saltwater crocodile and the Gharial, the Asiatic lion, and others.

  • The Indian elephant, black buck (chinkara), the great Indian bustard (godawan) and the snow leopard, etc. have been given full or partial legal protection against hunting and trade throughout India.

  • Under Wildlife Act of 1980 and 1986, several hundred butterflies, moths, beetles, and one dragonfly have been added to the list of protected species.

Types and Distribution of Forest and Wildlife Resources

(i) Reserved Forests: More than half of the total forest land has been declared reserved forests. Reserved forests are regarded as the most valuable as far as the conservation of forest and wildlife resources are concerned.

(ii) Protected Forests: Almost one-third of the total forest area is protected forest, as declared by the Forest Department. This forest land are protected from any further depletion.

(iii) Unclassed Forests: These are other forests and wastelands belonging to both government and private individuals and communities. Reserved and protected forests are also referred to as permanent forest estates

Community and Conservation

  • The inhabitants of five villages in the Alwar district of Rajasthan have declared 1,200 hectares of forest as the Bhairodev Dakav ‘Sonchuri’, declaring their own set of rules and regulations which do not allow hunting, and are protecting the wildlife against any outside encroachments.

  • The famous Chipko movement in the Himalayas has not only successfully resisted deforestation in several areas but has also shown that community afforestation with indigenous species can be enormously successful.

  • Farmers and citizen’s groups like the Beej Bachao Andolan in Tehri and Navdanya have shown that adequate levels of diversified crop production without the use of synthetic chemicals are possible and economically viable.

  • JFM(joint forest management)depends on the formation of local (village) institutions that undertake protection activities mostly on degraded forest land managed by the forest department. In return, the members of these communities are entitled to intermediary benefits like non-timber forest produces and share in the timber harvested by ‘successful protection’.

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