The salient features and goals of the National Forest Policy, 1988

National Forest Policy

Salient Features and Goals of National Forest Policy-

• Maintenance of “environmental stability” through preservation and restoration of ecological balance
• Conservation of Natural Heritage(existing)
• Checking Soil Erosion and Denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs;
• Checking extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts;
• Substantially increasing Forest/Tree Cover through Afforestation and Social Forestry
• Taking steps to meet requirements of fuel, wood, fodder, minor forest produce, soil and timber of Rural and Tribal Population.
• Increasing the productivity of Forests to meet National Needs.
• Encouraging efficient utilization of Forest Produce and Optimum Use of Wood(Timber)
• Generation of Work Opportunities, involvement of Women.

Aims of the Forest Policy:

The basic issue is to protect the forests, wherever they are situated within the boundaries of the nation. The Forest Policies in India aim at three main areas in the context of protection and preservation of the forests.

The principal aim of forest policy must be to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium, which are vital for sustenance of all life forms, human, animals and plants. The derivation of direct economic benefit must be subordinated to this principal aim.

Historical Background of Forest Policies

Policies are guidelines for the government and the people and help in making various decisions. Forests are a vital part of any nation, not only for the commercial value, but also for the quality of life that it guarantees. Hence it was considered imperative, even during the British Rule, that India must have a Forest Policy.

The British were the first to officially recognize the natural wealth of India and it was they who initiated the process of forming a forest policy during the second half of the 19th century.

Their scheme was to plunder the natural wealth of the nation as much as possible, since timber trade was a highly lucrative trade during those times. Hence, their policies were aimed at putting themselves in an advantageous position and to exploit the resources to the extent possible.

The sequence of their efforts in this direction (by means of Acts and Policies) are given below:

(i) The first Conservator of Forests was appointed in the year 1850 by the British, in Bombay, and the first Forest Department was set-up in the year 1864.

(ii) In order to generate income, the Forest Act of 1865 was brought out, which classified the forests into reserved forests and unclassified forests. The former were out of bounds of the local people and the latter un-surveyed forests were progressively reclassified as reserved forests before the end of the century and the process was speeded up to contain the provision in the revised Forest Act of 1878.

(iii) The Forest Act, 1865 was first enacted to counteract various local population.

(iv) By the Forest Act of 1878, even the village forests were closed, and what was the right of the people was translated into privileges, and that to for a fee.

(v) The first Forest Policy was in the year 1894, which gave priority to agriculture over forests.

(vi) The next Forest Act was enacted in the year 1927, which made the rules more stringent and the people’s privileges were curtailed further.

The Post-Independence Era:

After independence, the area of forestry was given importance, but only after the priority areas of agriculture and industry. Yet this area gained much importance due to the dams and reservoir projects that were coming up then. But, the plan allocation seems to be biased towards agriculture and industries.

The Central Forestry Board was set-up in the year 1950 and this was followed by a National Policy on Forests in the year 1952. It was in this 1952 National Forest Policy that the target of 33% of the total land to be covered by forests, was established.

The 1952 National Forest Policy was replaced by the National Forest Policy of 1988. This policy was considered to be better than the earlier one, as it laid emphasis on the conservation of our existing forests through the reforestation and soil conservation.

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