Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Apr, 13, 2018

No easing of mining norms


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Forest Advisory Committee, open forests

Mains level: Actvities allowed in protected forests and measures taken for the preservation of forests


Limits remain for exploratory boreholes

  1. Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has shot down a joint proposal by the Coal, Petroleum and Mining ministries to fully exempt themselves from Forest department permissions to scale up the density of exploratory boreholes
  2. These boreholes are used to prospect minerals in forests
  3. FAC is an expert panel of Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) and India’s apex forest advisory body

Why the limits?

  1. Mining companies deploy heavy machinery and rigs to dig test, or exploratory boreholes, which are thin, cylindrical caverns that usually go hundreds of metres underground to look for signs of metals, minerals and coal
  2. The exploration of coal and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals damages the forest area
  3. Currently, companies can dig up to 20 boreholes a square kilometre in forests without taking the Central government’s permission

Easing the procedure

  1. State governments could permit the commissioning of such boreholes, provided they involved forests that had a tree-canopy density of less than 40% i.e. ‘open forests’
  2. For more heavily forested areas, the Central government’s permissions would be required
  3. There could be no permission accorded to companies to prospect in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries
Mar, 17, 2018

Government unveils draft national forest policy


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Forest Policy 2018, National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission, National Board of Forestry (NBF)

Mains level: Policies and programs for forest management and conservation


National Forest Policy

  1. India’s environment ministry has unveiled a draft of the new National Forest Policy
  2. National Forest Policy will be an overarching policy for forest management, with the aim of bringing a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover
  3. The first National Forest Policy in independent India took effect in 1952, with the second edition in 1988

India’s forest cover

  1. At present, India’s forest and tree cover is estimated to be about 24.39% of the country’s total geographical area

Proposals in NFP 2018

  1. It proposes to restrict schemes and projects which interfere with forests that cover steep slopes, catchments of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, geologically unstable terrain and such other ecologically sensitive areas
  2. It also suggests setting up of two national-level bodies—National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and National Board of Forestry (NBF)—for better management of the country’s forests
  3. NBF needs to be headed by the central minister in charge of forests
  4. The draft calls for state boards of forestry headed by state ministers in charge of forests to be established for ensuring inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, among other things

Maintenance of forests and green tax

  1. The latest draft of National Forest Policy has omitted any reference to a green tax or a national stream revival programme
  2. It continues to speak about private participation in forest management
  3. Public-private participation models will be developed for undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded forest areas and forest areas available with forest development corporations and outside forests
  4. It continues with the target of having 33% of India’s geographical area under forest and tree cover
  5. In the hills and mountainous regions, the aim will be to maintain two-thirds of the area under forest and tree cover
Feb, 20, 2018

[op-ed snap] The right way to save India’s forests


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAF Act, 2016, Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, CAG

Mains level: Issues related to forest conservation


Concerns related to compensatory afforestation

  1. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAF Act), 2016 has raised serious concerns about the human and environmental costs of compensatory afforestation (CA)
  2. Evidence establishes that CA plantations
  • Destroy natural forests
  • Harm biodiversity
  • Undermine the rights and nutrition of local communities and
  • Disguise rampant misuse of public funds

Act encourages bureaucratic encroachment

  1. The Act enables the forest bureaucracy to entrench its control over forests
  2. It can subvert democratic forest governance established by the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (Pesa), 1996

Commercial plantations in name of afforestation

  1. Case studies of CA plantation sites in Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh reveals that 60% of these are monocultural commercial plantations, sometimes set up in the name of “forests”
  2. These plantations have been carried out over forest lands both claimed and titled under the FRA, and even over dense natural forests
  3. The consent of these communities has not been sought, violating their legal rights and leading to livelihood distress

Shortcomings in the act

  1. The Act lacks a mechanism to monitor expenditure of funds
  2. The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report, 2013 had found massive misutilization by the forest department (FD)
  3. This prompted the finance ministry to object to the direct disbursal of funds through the public fund

Solution to this problem

  1. Repeal of, or amendments to, the CAF Act
  2. Adopting a framework of democratic forest governance as per the FRA as the principal approach for the governance of CA
  3. Forest Survey of India reports show that forest cover in tribal districts, constituting 60% of the country’s total forest cover
  4. It is well-established that communities are the best stewards for the governance and conservation of forests

Way forward

  1. The government needs to look no further than the FRA to reorient the current CA approach and meet its goals of ecological restoration
  2. The CAF Act needs to be integrated with the FRA and PESA by centering the role of gram sabhas and incorporating land and forest rights guarantees
  3. Government should promote community-led conservation initiatives
Feb, 15, 2018

Government weighs doubling of protected areas over next few years


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aichi targets

Mains level: Important step for achieving Aichi targets.


Future plan of the Environment Ministry

  1. The ministry is considering doubling the number of protected areas such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries from the current 729 over the next few years

Current situation

  1. At present protected areas, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and conservation and community reserves, cover 4.9% or 162,072 sq. km of India’s geographical area

Why is this important?

  1. India’s network of protected areas is far below the “Aichi Target” of 17% of the terrestrial land
  2. About 0.3 % of EEZ (exclusive economic zone) is under Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in India, far below the Aichi Target of 10%
  3. Aichi biodiversity targets are a series of goals that were set in 2010 at a Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting for protection and conservation of biodiversity

Next possible step

  1. States such as
    Uttar Pradesh (2.4 %), Rajasthan (2.8 %), Jharkhand (2.7 %), West Bengal (3.2 %), Bihar (3.4 %), Madhya Pradesh (3.5 %), Tamil Nadu (4.1 %)
    may be requested to achieve the average national target of at least 5% of their geographical area under the four protected area categories
  2. These states have contributed less than the national average to the network of projected area
Feb, 14, 2018

[op-ed snap] Woods and trees



Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the report

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the India State of Forest Report 2017.


‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ 

  1. The Environment Ministry’s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ based on satellite imagery, present a net positive balance in the form of 24.4% of India’s land area under some form of forest or tree cover
  2. According to the report, forest and tree cover together registered a 1% rise over the previous estimate two years ago
  3. However, according to some experts, such an estimate through remote sensing does not really provide deep insights into the integrity of the green areas

India’s forest cover is not satisfactory

  1. The ecosystem services performed by plantations that have a lot of trees grown for commercial purposes(as included in this report) cannot be equated with those of an undisturbed assemblage of plants, trees and animals
  2. India retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation
  3. Forest restoration should, therefore, aid the return of native vegetation

Other findings of the report

  1. In its audit of various regions, the Ministry’s report has calculated a cumulative loss of forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal of nearly 1,200 sq km
  2. The impact of such a terrible loss must be seen against the backdrop of the Northeast representing a global biodiversity hotspot
  3. Dedicated efforts are required to protect the precious forests of the Northeast

What should be done?

  1. India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests
  2. And move away from monoculture plantations that are favoured by even forest development corporations in many States
  3. Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed
Feb, 13, 2018

India posts marginal increase in forest cover, says report

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, FSI

Mains level: Status of forests in India


India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017

  1. India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the biennial India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017
  2. Report says that India has forest cover of about 21.53% of the geographic area of the country

Long-standing status and targets

  1. Various editions of the SFR over the years have reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%
  2. Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long-standing goal of the government since 1988

India’s ranking in world 

  1. India is ranked 10th in the world, with 24.4% of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17% of human and 18% livestock population

Fluctuations in forest categories

  1. The category of ‘very dense forest’— defined as a canopy cover over 70% — and an indicator of the quality of a forest saw a dramatic rise
  2. The category of ‘moderately dense forest’ (40%-70%) saw a decline in area from 2015

Major change

  1. Earlier this year, the government ceased to define bamboo as a tree to promote economic activity among tribals


India State of Forest Report

  1. State of Forests Report is published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on a biennial basis since 1987
  2. Forest Survey of India (FSI), founded in 1976 and headquartered at Dehradun in Uttarakhand, is a Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change organization for conducting forest surveys, studies, and research to periodically monitor the changing situation of land and forest resources
Feb, 07, 2018

First family tree for tropical forests

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tropical forests, plate tectonics

Mains level: Types of forests and their extent in India


Tropical forests in different continents are related

  1. Tropical forests in different continents across the world are related and share a common ancestry
  2. This was discovered by a team of more than 100 researchers, including several Indian scientists

A new plant classification system necessary

  1. The discovery necessitates a new classification system for plant communities
  2. It could help researchers predict the resilience or susceptibility of different forests to global environmental changes more accurately

About the study

  1. To classify tropical forests based on their genetic relationships, scientists contributed almost one million tree samples of 15,000 species from tree plots across 400 locations in the world
  2. Incorporating genetic information of these species, built a family tree to see how these trees are related to each other through millions of years of evolution
  3. With this, they identified five major forest regions in the tropics: the Indo-Pacific, Subtropical, African, American and Dry forests


  1. According to their results, tropical forests in Africa and South America are closely related, with most of the differences between them occurring within the last 100 million years
  2. This likely reflects patterns of plate tectonics, as South America and Africa broke apart resulting in the formation of the Atlantic Ocean that started approximately 140 million years ago
  3. Dry forests found in India, America, Africa and Madagascar are also closely related to each other


Tropical forests

  1. Tropical forests are forested landscapes in Tropical regions: i.e. land areas approximately bounded by the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn but possibly affected by other factors such as prevailing winds
  2. Tropical Forests are extensive, making up just under half the world’s forests
  3. While forests in temperate areas are readily categorised on the basis of tree canopy density, such schemes do not work well in tropical forests
  4. There is no single scheme that defines what a forest is, in tropical regions or elsewhere
  5. The Global 200 scheme, promoted by the World Wildlife Fund, classifies three main tropical forest habitat types (biomes), grouping together tropical and sub-tropical areas:
  • Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests,
  • Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests,
  • Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests
Jan, 12, 2018

[oped snap] The bamboo curtain


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between tree and grass.

Mains level: Complement it with our previous newscards on the same issue(attached below).


Bamboo: Grass or Tree

  1. Bamboo may belong to the plant kingdom, but even if we choose to call it a tree, it is not a tree
  2. It belongs to the family Poaceae, which means it is a kind of grass
  3. There are complicated botanical differences between grass and a tree
  4. But one is simple to understand. A tree’s stem is solid, while a bamboo’s is hollow

The Indian Forest Act (IFA) of 1927 has been amended

  1. Initially it was done through an ordinance( Read [op-ed snap] Bamboo shoots and Bamboo ceases to be a tree, freed of Forest Act )
  2. It was decided to amend clause (7) of section 2 of the said Act so as to omit the word ‘bamboos’ from the definition of tree
  3. Why: In order to exempt bamboos grown on non-forest area from the requirement of permit(from one state to the another) for felling or transit under the said Act
  4. And would encourage bamboo plantation by farmers resulting in the enhancement of their income from agricultural fields

Does the amended law demolish the bamboo curtain?

  1. According to some experts, it doesn’t
  2. The first tension is this bamboo anywhere versus bamboo in forest/non-forest areas. (Almost all, if not all, bamboo in the Northeast will be in forest areas.)
  3. Second, while IFA doesn’t define “forest”, notwithstanding the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, are we clear about what is “forest”, or will it be left to the courts (such as in the Godavarman case) to determine what is a forest?
  4. Third, where is “forest” in the Seventh Schedule? Today, forests feature as Entry 17A in the Concurrent List.
  5. But this is after the 42nd Amendment, famous for other reasons
  6. Before that, “forests” featured in the State List
  7. We, therefore, have a Union government cum state government angle, with several states (Assam, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka) enacting legislation/rules on the cutting or transit of bamboo.
  8. Fourth, under FRA, is there clarity between the rights of the forest department vis-à-vis community rights?
  9. Think of a piece of bamboo in transit
  10. In the absence of chips embedded into it, how does one establish it originated in a non-forest area?

The way forward

  1. Legislation on forests in India have a colonial and complicated legacy, the antecedents go back to 1865, not 1927
  2. Bamboo has suffered in the process, “in the skirts of the forest like fringe upon a petticoat”
  3. There is still a lot of cleaning up to do
Jan, 04, 2018

Key ministries disagree over CAMPA fund


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAMPA, Public account, Consolidated Fund of India, agro-forestry

Mains level: Red tapism prevailing in bureaucracy and ways to remove it


Roadblock to the CAMPA fund

  1. Differences between the environment ministry and the finance ministry have become a roadblock to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)
  2. While the rules have been framed, the finance ministry isn’t on board

What does finance ministry want?

  1. Currently, funds collected under CAMPA directly go into the Public Account and from thereon to the states
  2. The finance ministry says it should be routed through the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI)

Why should this not happen?

  1. It could allow states to use it for purposes other than afforestation
  2. By way of example, the education cess that the government collects never necessarily gets spent on education


  1. The Supreme Court, in a 2009 order, had directed that an independent authority be charged with disbursing these funds, which paved the way for the Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill
  2. Bill envisaged the creation of a permanent Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority
  3. This authority was envisaged as an independent body that would manage a corpus — collected from industries that have used forest land for projects
  4. These funds are meant to be used by states to implement agro-forestry in non-forest land to compensate for felled forest
Oct, 12, 2017

Eye on China, foreign secy S Jaishankar in Seychelles for infrastructure pact

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Geographical location of Seychelles

Mains Level: Growing presence of China in the Indian Ocean is a serious strategic concern for India. This step is deals with the same concern.


Unannounced visit to Seychelles

  1. Recently, India had sent Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on an unannounced visit to the seychelles
  2. Possible reasons behind this move: Due to concerns arise from China’s moves and increasing presence in Seychelles
  3. And to iron out differences over the development of infrastructure in seychelles

Seychelles’ changed view on the agreement(related to infrastructure)

  1. Seychelles has said it would like to take a “relook” at the agreement between the two countries to build military infrastructure on Assumption Island
  2. The agreement was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seychelles in 2015
  3. Officials in Seychelles have said the agreement does not have legal backing on their side, whereas it has legal basis in India
  4. To avoid returning to the negotiating table, Jaishankar met Seychelles President Danny Faure and discussed the hurdles that have come up in recent months

Particulars of the agreement

  1. The agreement will enable India to help Seychelles build military infrastructure for the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) on Assumption Island
  2. The infrastructure also includes residential barracks for SPDF’s Coast Guard and fixing up the jetty and existing airstrip for the SPDF

Concerns of India over China’s presence in Seychelles

  1. According to Indian intelligence reports, there has been a sharp spike in the number of Chinese visitors in Seychelles over the last six years — from about 500 in 2011 to over 15,000 in 2016

India’s relations with Seychelles

  1. The two countries have an established relationship in defence and maritime security, through which India helps to patrol the waters of Seychelles and gives equipment to the island nation’s defence forces
  2. In recent years, India has agreed to help Seychelles map its hydrology reserves, launched a coastal surveillance radar project and boosted security cooperation with the nation
  3. India will also give a second Dornier maritime patrol aircraft
Jun, 27, 2016

Environment Ministry withdraws draft forest policy

  1. News: The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has withdrawn the Draft National Forest Policy
  2. It said that the draft that had been uploaded on its website earlier, was an ‘inadvertent’ error
  3. It was just a study done by Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal and not a draft
  4. Context: The ministry is in the process of revising the present National Forest Policy, 1988
Jun, 22, 2016

Draft forest policy moots green cess

  1. Green cess: To promote ecologically responsible behaviour and called on the government to promote the sustainable use of wood
  2. Wood: Has a significantly lower carbon footprint than many of the substitutes that consume fossil fuels in their production
  3. Use of wood also has the potential to create new green jobs by giving a boost to indigenous manufacturing using locally grown raw material
  4. Thus promotion of wood use, obtained from sustainably-managed forests and trees, would play a positive role in mitigating climate change and ensuring sustainable living
  5. Governments and stakeholders must shift from regulating to promoting cultivation, harvesting, transportation and marketing of wood
Jun, 21, 2016

Draft National Forest Policy- new institutional arrangements

  1. MIS: National forest ecosystems management information system should be developed and made operational using the latest information and communication technology
  2. Aim: To ensure regular flow of comprehensive and reliable information
    This web-based system should be available for public use
  3. National Board of Forestry and State Boards of Forestry to be established
  4. Inter-ministerial action plan to be formulated with action points, targets, milestone activities, and timelines
  5. Inter-ministerial committee should be set up to periodically monitor the achievements and progress
Jun, 21, 2016

Draft National Forest Policy- community

  1. CFMM: A new Community Forest Management Mission, bringing government, community and private land under the new proposed management system
  2. Special communities: At the gram sabha (village council) level be created to take over management of forests
  3. The plans prepared by the gram sabhas for their forestlands would have to be vetted by the forest department based on rules
  4. Pre-production agreements: Between industries and farmers to fix price and quantity
  5. Aim: Producing supply for the wood industry through farm forestry
  6. Management plans: For community forests, parks, garden and woodlands
  7. Aim: To manage urban forest cover and to nurture and sustain urban health, clean air and related benefits
  8. No mention of the Forest Rights Act but promises to set up a parallel arrangement to the Forest Rights Act
Jun, 21, 2016

Draft National Forest Policy

  1. Drafted by: the Indian Institute of Forest Management, the research arm of the environment ministry
  2. Targets: Continued with the national goal of a minimum of one-third of the geographical area under forest or tree cover
  3. Done away with the goal for hill and mountainous regions to maintain two-thirds of the geographical area under forest cover
  4. Climate change concerns should be effectively factored into all the forest and wildlife areas management plans and community ecosystem management plans
  5. Funds from diversion of forest land by industry to be used for purchasing wildlife corridors from people
  6. Old laws to be amended to bring it tune with the policy
Apr, 02, 2016

Diversion of forest land to set up missile testing facility


  1. Context: 150 hectares of forest in the Krishna wildlife sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh has been diverted for setting up a missile testing facility
  2. Issue: Ministry has overridden the concerns that it could threaten endangered Olive Ridley turtles and several bird species
  3. It is the third time in two years that a defence project has claimed space meant for wildlife
  4. The go-ahead to the project, overseen by DRDO, was given by environment ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC)
Dec, 10, 2015

What are various classification of forests?

  1. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover in 4 classes.
  2. Very Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  3. Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  4. Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  5. Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.
Dec, 10, 2015

Green cover battling for survival in Karnataka

  1. There is a stark reduction in moderately dense forest by nearly 30,000 acres in the state of Karnataka.
  2. The moderately dense forest are generally found in the lower reaches of Western Ghats.
  3. The dense forests form only 4% of the total forest area in the State.
  4. The state has seen massive increase in open forests that are either afforested land or plantations.
  5. The large-scale replanting of eucalyptus and acacia plantations may have led to the perception of lower greenery in the State.
Dec, 09, 2015

India adds 112 sq. km. to mangrove cover

  1. The latest report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), 2015 has recorded a net increase of 112 sq. km. of mangroves forest.
  2. The FSI report in 2013 recorded a net decrease of 34 sq. km. of mangrove forest.
  3. 2015 Report: The overall mangrove cover in the country stands at 4,740 sq. km., which is 0.14 sq. km. of India’s overall geographical area.
  4. Mangroves are crucial to the survival of the coastal ecosystem, which is very vulnerable to climate change.
  5. The studies suggest that mangroves absorb the highest amount of carbon in the nature, including soil carbon.
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