From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Deemed forest
Mains level : Forest conservation in India
Karnataka Forest Minister has announced that the state government would soon declassify 6.64 lakh hectares of the 9.94 lakh hectares of deemed forests in the state (nearly 67%) and hand it over to Revenue authorities.
Try this PYQ:
Q. In India, in which one of the following types of forests is teak a dominant tree species?
(a) Tropical moist deciduous forest
(b) Tropical rain forest
(c) Tropical thorn scrub forest
(d) Temperate forest with grasslands
What are Deemed Forests?
- The concept of deemed forests has not been clearly defined in any law including the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
- However, the Supreme Court in the case of T N Godavarman Thirumalpad (1996) accepted a wide definition of forests under the Act.
- It covered all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2 (1) of the Forest Conservation Act.
- The term ‘forest land’ occurring in Section 2 will not only include ‘forest’ as understood in the dictionary sense but also any areas recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the owners said the court.
Why it is in news?
- The issue of deemed forests is a contentious one in Karnataka, with legislators across party lines often alleging that large amounts of agriculture and non-forest land are “unscientifically” classified as such.
Demands to reclassify
- A deemed forest fits “dictionary meaning” of a forest, “irrespective of ownership”.
- Amidst claims that the move hit farmers, as well as barred large tracts from mining, the state has been arguing that the classification was done without taking into account the needs of people.
Why does the government want to release these forests?
- In 2014, the then government decided to have a relook at the categorisation of forests.
- The dictionary definition of forests was applied to identify thickly wooded areas as deemed forests, a well-defined scientific, verifiable criterion was not used, resulting in a subjective classification.
- The subjective classification in turn resulted in conflicts.
- Ministers have also argued that land was randomly classified as deemed forest by officials, causing hardship to farmers in some areas.
- There is also a commercial demand for mining in some regions designated as deemed forests.
Back2Basics: Forest Classification in India
The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover in 4 classes.
- Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
- Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
- Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
- Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.