The forest of India are ancient in nature and composition. Each Indian forest are rich
in variety and shelter a wide range of fauna, avi-fauna and insects. The
fact that they have existed for very long time is proved from the ancient
texts all of which have some mention of the forests. The people revered
forests in India and a large number of religious ceremonies centred on trees and
plants. Even today in parts of India the sacred groves exist and are
India possesses a distinct identity, not only because of its geography,
history and culture but also because of the great diversity of its natural
ecosystems. The panorama of Indian forest ranges from evergreen tropical
rain forests in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Western Ghats, and the
north-eastern states, to dry alpine scrub high in the Himalaya to the north.
Between the two extremes, the country has semi-evergreen rain forests,
deciduous monsoon forests, thorn forests, subtropical pine forests in the
lower montane zone and temperate montane forests (Lal, 1989).
Report on Forest of India
As per the latest state of forests report of the Forest Survey of India the
actual forest cover of India is 19.27% of the geographic area, corresponding
to 63.3 million ha. Only 38 million ha of forests in India are well stocked (crown
density above 40%). This resource has to meet the demand of a population of
950 million people and around 450 million cattle. As such, country has to
meet the needs of 16% of the world's population from 1% of the world forest
resources. The same forest of India has also to cater for the 19% of the world cattle
The History of Indian Forest Reserves
In Mumbai (Bombay), the conservator of forest, Gibson, tried to introduce
rules prohibiting shifting cultivation and plantation of teak forests. From
1865 to 1894, forest reserves were established to secure material for
imperial needs. From the 18th century, scientific forest management systems
were employed to regenerate and harvest the forest to make it sustainable.
Between 1926 and 1947 afforestation was carried out on a large scale in the
Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In the early 1930s, people began showing interest
in the conservation of wild life.
Around the same time the Indian rulers of the States also started
conservation of habitats to help conserve the birds and mammals in forest of India. Though all
of them were hunters and between them and the British they cleaned at least
5000 tigers from the forests of India. But still these areas of conservation helped save
the species from extinction and formed most of the modern National Parks in India.
The new Forest Policy of 1952 recognised the protective functions of the
forest of India and aimed at maintaining one-third of India's land area under forest.
Certain activities were banned and grazing restricted to protect forest of India. Much of the original
British policy was kept in place, such as the classification of forest land
into two broad types.
The next 50 years saw development and change in people's thinking regarding
the forest. A constructive attitude was brought about through a number of
five-year plans. Until 1976, the forest resource was seen as a source of
earning money for the state and therefore little was spent in protecting Indian forests
or looking after it.
Types of Forests in India
In it 16 major forests types are recognised, subdivided into 221 minor
types. Structure, physiognomy and floristics are all used as characters to
define the types of Indian forest.
The main areas of tropical forest of India are found in
the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; the Western Ghats, which fringe the Arabian
Sea coastline of peninsular India; and the greater Assam region in the
north-east. Small remnants of rain forest of India are found in Orissa state.
Semi-evergreen rain forest is more extensive than the evergreen formation
partly because evergreen forests tend to degrade to semi-evergreen with
human interference. There are substantial differences in both the flora and
fauna between the three major rain forest regions (IUCN, 1986; Rodges and
The Western Ghats Monsoon forests in India occur both on the western (coastal)
margins of the ghats and on the eastern side where there is less rainfall.
Forests in India contain several tree species of great commercial significance
(e.g. Indian rosewood Dalbergia latifolia, Malabar Kino Pterocarpus
marsupium, teak and Terminalia crenulata), but they have now been cleared
from many areas. In the rain forest of India there is an enormous number of tree
species. At least 60 percent of the trees of the upper canopy are of species
which individually contribute not more than one percent of the total number.
Clumps of bamboo occur along streams or in poorly drained hollows throughout
the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of south-west India, probably in
areas once cleared for shifting agriculture.
The tropical vegetation of north-east India (which includes the states of
Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya as well as the
plain regions of Arunachal Pradesh) typically occurs at elevations up to 900
m. It embraces evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forests, moist deciduous
monsoon forests, riparian forests, swamps and grasslands. Evergreen rain
forests in India are found in the Assam Valley, the foothills of the eastern
Himalayas and the lower parts of the Naga Hills, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and
Manipur where the rain fall exceeds 2300 mm per annum. In the Assam Valley
the giant Dipterocarpus macrocarpus and Shorea assamica occur singly,
occasionally attaining a girth of up to 7 m and a height of up to 50 m. The
monsoon forests in India are mainly moist sal Shorea robusta forests, which occur
widely in this region (IUCN, 1991).
The Andamans and Nicobar islands have tropical evergreen rain forests and
tropical semi-evergreen rainforests as well as tropical monsoon moist
monsoon forests (IUCN, 1986). The dominant species these Indian forest is Dipterocarpus
grandiflorus in hilly areas, while Dipterocarpus kerrii is dominant on some
islands in the southern parts of the archipelago. The monsoon forests of the
Andamans are dominated by Pterocarpus dalbergioides and Terminalia spp.