Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Hyderabad wins Global ‘Tree City’ Status


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tree Cities of the World

Mains level : Urban forestry

Hyderabad city has received another feather in its cap by being chosen as one among the ‘Tree Cities of the World’.

Tree Cities of the World

  • The Tree Cities of the World programme is an international effort to recognize cities and towns committed to ensuring that their urban forests and trees are properly maintained, sustainably managed, and duly celebrated.
  • This status is accorded by the Arbor Day Foundation jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.
  • To receive recognition, a town or city must meet five core standards:
  1. Establish Responsibility
  2. Set the Rules
  3. Know What You Have
  4. Allocate the Resources and
  5. Celebrate the Achievements

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Why it is a great achievement?

  • Hyderabad is the only city in the country to have been selected for this recognition in response to its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forestry.
  • The recognition stands Hyderabad alongside 120 cities from 23 countries, including developed nations such as USA, UK, Canada, Australia and others.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Limited success of the Green India Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green India Mission

Mains level : Success of afforestation measures

The central government’s afforestation scheme, Green India Mission (GIM), was able to only achieve 2.8 per cent of its plantation target, according to the Economic Survey 2021.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. As per law, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority exists at both National and State levels.
  2. People’s participation is mandatory in the compensatory afforestation programmes carried out under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Green India Mission

  • GIM is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • Launched in February 2014, it is aimed at protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • The mission has the broad objective of both increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha,  as well as increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in 10 years.
  • The Mission proposes a holistic view of greening and focuses not on carbon sequestration targets alone, but also, on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass etc., along with provisioning services like fuel, fodder, timber and non-timber forest produces.
  • It will also increase options of forest-based livelihood of households living in the fringe of those landscapes where the Mission is implemented.

Limited success of the scheme

  • As of March 2020, plantation under the scheme was undertaken only over 0.14 m ha land.
  • A 2018 parliamentary committee report on GIM found that the scheme was grossly underfunded.
  • The report found that the scheme had also missed its targets by 34 per cent in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.
  • The committee also pointed out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions.
  • Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it.
  • Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought and prevent biodiversity in the regions.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Great Green Wall (GGW) Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GGW Project

Mains level : Combating Desertification

The Great Green Wall (GGW) Project to address desertification, land degradation and climate change in the Sahel region of Africa has hit a new low due to funds crunch.

Note the countries swept by the GGW project on the African map.

GGW Project

  • The Great Green Wall project is conceived by 11 countries located along the southern border of the Sahara and their international partners, is aimed at limiting the desertification of the Sahel zone.
  • Led by the African Union, the initiative aims to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.
  • The initial idea of the GGW was to develop a line of trees from east to the west bordering the Saharan Desert.
  • Its vision has evolved into that of a mosaic of interventions addressing the challenges facing the people in the Sahel and the Sahara.

Why was such project incepted?

  • The project is a response to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas.
  • It aimed to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030; only four million hectares had been restored between 2007 and 2019.
  • It is a partnership that supports communities working towards sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources.
  • It seeks to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improve food security.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shola forests, Sky Islands

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

Tropical montane grasslands (TMG) in the Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats have suffered big losses due to invasions by exotic trees.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In India, which type of forest among the following occupies the largest area?
(a) Montane Wet Temperate Forest
(b) Sub – tropical Dry Evergreen Forest
(c) Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest
(d) Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest

Sky Islands

  • “Sky islands” are the tops of tall mountains that become environmentally isolated from each other even if they are close together, geographically speaking.
  • The Western Ghats are a mountain chain in southwest India home to spectacular and unique sky islands.
  • The peaks of the Western Ghats, ranging between 3,000 and 8,500 feet above sea level, host an almost unbelievable array of microclimates, looking like “patches of forests floating in a sea of grasslands.

What are TMGs?

  • TMG are high elevation grasslands forming only 2% of all grasslands in the world.
  • Among their functions is regulating the global carbon cycle and serving as a source of water to downstream communities.
  • Researchers say grasslands do not benefit from conservation and restoration efforts afforded to tropical montane forests, possibly due to limited information.

Treasures of Shola

  • One of the specific habitats unique to the sky islands of this area is a type of low-temperature, high-humidity tropical cloud forest full of stunted trees mixed with grasslands called the Shola.
  • The Shola forests of South derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rain forest’.
  • Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’ the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.

Various threats to them

  • Loss of grasslands due to invasive exotic trees is a “novel threat” through the establishment and expansion of exotic tree plantations.
  • These exotic trees include acacias, pines and eucalyptus, shrinking the range sizes of endemic species, including plants, birds, amphibians and mammals.
  • In the Western Ghats, 23% of montane grasslands were reportedly converted into invasive exotic tree cover over a period of 44 years.
  • Attempts to manage invasive exotic trees in montane grasslands incorporated approaches that include prevention and mechanical, chemical and biological control.
  • For invasive species such as Acacia mearnsii that grow rapidly and disperse seeds widely, removing mature trees is often ineffective.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Jadav Payeng: The Forest Man of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Success models of reforestation

Jadav Payeng, known as ‘The Forest Man of India’, takes us through his journey of grit that saw a desert turning into a forest. His story is been depicted through an upcoming trilingual film.

We knew about the mountain man in India. We have also had the Forest Man of India who is also a living inspiration for successful afforestation. We can quote such examples in essays very well.

Who is Jadav Payeng?

  • Jadav “Molai” Payeng (born 1963) is an environmental activist and forestry worker from Majuli Island popularly known as the Forest Man of India.
  • He was born in the indigenous Mising tribe of Assam.
  • Over the course of several decades, he has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra turning it into a forest reserve.
  • The forest, called Molai forest after him is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India and encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres / 550 hectares.
  • In 2015, he was honoured with Padmashri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

His work

  • The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits.
  • Molai forest is also home to elephants and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
  • Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What are Miyawaki Forests?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Miyawaki Forests

Mains level : Various afforestation measures

Japan-inspired Miyawaki forests are emerging as a popular solution to restoring degraded habitats in the country.

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Miyawaki Forests

  • Doctor Akira Miyawaki, botanist and professor, is the inventor of the technique since 1980.
  • He is a recipient of the 2006 Blue Planet Prize, which is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in ecology.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • It involves planting dozens of native species in the same area and becomes maintenance-free after the first three years.

The technique

  • The method takes its inspiration directly from processes and diversity in nature: 15 to 30 different species of trees and shrubs are planted together.
  • This plant community works very well together and is perfectly adapted to local weather conditions.
  • The habitat thus created will get more complex over time and attract much biodiversity.
  • Vegetation becomes much denser than conventional plantations, and it has the structure of a mature natural forest. It is a multi-storey structure, where different levels of vegetation appear.
  • The forest thus structured delivers many benefits in the form of ecosystem services.
  • It would take about 200 years to let a forest recover on its own. With the Miyawaki method, a similar result is achieved in 20 years.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What are Deemed Forests?


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%.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Maharashtra modifies Forest Rights Act


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fifth Schedule

Mains level : Forest dwellers role in its conservation

Maharashtra government has issued a notification modifying the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 that will enable tribals and other traditional forest dwelling families to build houses in the neighbourhood forest areas.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Forest dwellers are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Analyse.

Historical Background

1878: The Forest Act of 1878 was introduced and it truncated the centuries-old traditional use by communities of their forests and secured the colonial governments control over the forestry. The provision of this Act established a virtual State monopoly over the forests in a legal sense on one hand, and attempted to establish, on the other, that the customary use of the forests by the villagers was not a ‘right’, but a ‘privilege’ that could be withdrawn at will.

1927:  The Indian Forest Act, 1927. In continuance with the forest use policy of 1878, this landmark law – India’s main forest law, had nothing to do with conservation. It was created to serve the British need for timber. It sought to override customary rights and forest management systems by declaring forests state property and exploiting their timber.

1952: ‘National interests’ overrode all interests and forests were viewed as a national asset. It was made clear that local priorities and interests and claims of the communities around forest areas should be subservient to larger national interests

About the FRA, 2006

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation in India.
  • It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act. In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs.
  • While the procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed.
  • As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalised.
  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The FRA, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to the environment with their right to life and livelihood.

What empowers the Governor?

  • The notification has been issued by the Governor using his powers under subparagraph (1) of paragraph 5 of the Schedule V of the Constitution, according to a statement issued by Raj Bhavan.
  • PESA rules in the State have given recognition to many habitations as villages, but there is no provision for land for house-building.

Significance of the move

  • The decision is likely to provide a major relief to Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling families residing in the scheduled areas of the State.
  • The urban areas get increased FSI, the rural areas (on revenue lands) get the same too, but tribal villages (on forest lands) have no legal space for building houses.
  • The move aims to prevent the migration of forest-dwelling families outside their native villages and provide them with housing areas by extending the village site into forest land in their neighbourhood.

Back2Basics: Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

  • It deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram (ATM2).
  • In Article 244(1) of the Constitution, expression Scheduled Areas means such areas as the President may by order declare to be Scheduled Areas (SA).

The President may at any time by order-

  1. direct that the whole or any specified part of SA shall cease to be a SA or a part of such an area;
  2. increase the area of any SA in a State after consultation with the Governor of that State;
  3. alter, but only by way of rectification of boundaries, any Scheduled Area;
  4. on any alteration of the boundaries of a State on the admission into the Union or the establishment of a new State, declare any territory not previously included in any State to be, or to form part of, a SA;
  5. rescind, in relation to any State of States, any order or orders made under these provisions and in consultation with the Governor of the State concerned, make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be SA.
  • The Governor may, by public notification, direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall or shall not apply to a SA or any part thereof in the State, subject to such exceptions and modifications, as specified.
  • The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in the State which is for the time being a SA. Such regulations may
  1. prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
  2. regulate the allotment of land to members of the STs in such area;
  3. regulate the carrying on of business as money-lender by persons who lend money to members of the STs in such area.

In making such regulations, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of Legislature of the State or any existing law after obtaining the assent of the President.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Myth of the pristine forest


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Critical Wildlife Habitat (CHW) under FRA

Mains level : Forest dwellers role in its conservation

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has driven migrant workers back to their villages, including many situated inside or on the fringes of forested areas, including sanctuaries and national parks.
  • Even as they seek to remake livelihoods there, a new battle has emerged between the forest department (FD) and these local communities.
  • It pertains to the declaration of a Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH), which a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeks to get the department to urgently notify.

Try this question for mains:

Forest dwellers are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Analyse.

What is Critical Wildlife Habitat (CHW)?

  • CWH is a provision under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA).
  • The Act primarily focuses on recognising the historically-denied rights of forest-dwellers to use and manage forests.
  • The CWH provision, however, is an attempt to assuage concerns of wildlife conservationists.
  • It allows for the possibility that in protected areas (PAs) — wildlife sanctuaries and national parks — these rights could be attenuated, and, if absolutely necessary, forest-dwellers could be relocated in the interest of wildlife conservation.

Forest dwellers vs. Wildlife

  • Conservationists believe that wildlife needs absolutely “inviolate” areas — those devoid of humans and human activities.
  • Many others believe human-wildlife co-existence is generally possible and must be promoted if we are to have “socially just conservation”.

Achieving balanced conservation: The FRA provisions

  • A careful reading of the CWH provisions in the FRA shows that it is open to both possibilities, as long as they are arrived at through a rigorous and participatory process.
  • It requires setting up a multi-disciplinary expert committee, including representatives from local communities.
  • It also requires determining — using “scientific and objective criteria” and consultative processes — whether, and wherein the PA, the exercise of forest rights will cause irreversible damages.
  • It then requires determining whether coexistence is possible through a modified set of rights or management practices.
  • Only if the multi-stakeholder expert committee agrees that co-existence or other reasonable options are not possible, should relocation be taken up, again with the informed consent of the concerned gram sabhas.
  • For any such process to commence, the Act requires that all forest rights under the FRA must first be recognised.

Issues with the FRA

(1) Concerns of eviction

  • Hardline conservationists took FRA as a great opportunity to complete its agenda of evicting forest-dwellers from PAs.
  • It has been observed that many villages were resettled when they had rights claims pending, others had their claims illegally rejected or incompletely granted, and several had not even applied to this controversy erupted.
  • However, there are settlements in some of these PAs, and of course, people in villages adjacent to all the PAs are likely to have customary rights.
  • In spite of the court ordering rapid completion of the rights recognition process, there has been almost no progress on this front.

(2) Issues with expert committees

  • The constitution of the expert committees is faulty. They do not contain expert social scientists familiar with the area. Wildlife enthusiasts are sometimes substituted for experts in life sciences.
  • Many members have challenged the very constitutionality of the FRA, making a travesty of the idea of “objectivity” in the process.

(3) Criteria judging the damages

  • The criteria being used by the committees to determine the threat of “irreversible damage” to wildlife are quite extreme and are not supported by any consensus even among ecologists.
  • There are no objective criteria decided yet by these committees.


  • The FRA begins by recognising that forest dwellers “are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem”.
  • In that context, the CWH provision should not be seen as simply a tool for evicting forest-dwellers to create so-called “inviolate” spaces.
  • It is an opportunity to rigorously and participatorily explore all avenues of co-existence.
  • Such co-existence is indeed possible. In general, forest-dwellers harbour both the knowledge and the attitudes needed for conservation.
  • Co-managing PAs is, therefore, the most effective and socially just long-term solution, and relocation should be seen as the absolute last resort.


Forest Rights act

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[pib] National Transit Pass System (NTPS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NTPS

Mains level : Regulation of forest produce in India

Environment Minister has launched piloting of the National Transit Pass System for seamless movement of forest produce.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The National Transit Pass System (NTPS) recently seen in news is related to:

(a) Transport of Forest Produces

(b) Transport through National Waterways

(c) Inter-state transport during restrictions

(d) None of these

About National Transit Pass System

  • The NTPS is an online system for issuing transit permits for timber, bamboo and other forest produce.
  • This system helps in monitoring and keeping records of transit permits for inter-state and intra-state transportation of timber and bamboo from private lands/government/private depot and other minor forest produce.
  • E-pass will be issued for transit through the desktop-based web portal as well as a mobile application.
  • It will bring ease of business and expedite the issuance of transit permits for timber, bamboo and other minor forest produce without physically going to forest offices.
  • It will be functional in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana for now on a pilot basis.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

How aerial seeding is helping plantation in hard-to-access Aravalli regions?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aravalli Range

Mains level : Various afforestation measures

The Haryana Forest Department has started aerial seeding across the state on a pilot basis with special focus on the Aravalli region.

Do you know?

The Aravalli range is considered the “lungs” of the polluted National Capital Region.

What is Aerial Seeding?

  • Aerial seeding is a technique of plantation wherein seed balls – seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char and other components.
  • They are sprayed on the ground using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.

How does this technique work?

  • Seeds balls or seed pellets are dispersed in a targeted area by the low-flying drones, falling to the ground with the help of the coating of clay, compost, char and other material.
  • Coating provides the required weight for seeds to drop on a predetermined location rather than disperse in the wind.
  • These pellets will then sprout when there is enough rain, with the nutrients present within them helping in the initial growth.

Why Aravallis?

  • Aravallis these days is severely inundated due to heavy mining and has undergone rapid development and construction activities.

What are the advantages of this technique?

  • Areas that are inaccessible, have steep slopes, are fragmented or disconnected with no forest routes, making conventional plantation difficult, can be targeted with aerial seeding.
  • Furthermore, the process of the seed’s germination and growth is such that it requires no attention after it is dispersed – the reason why seed pellets are known as the “fire and forget” way of the plantation.
  • They eliminate the need for ploughing and digging holes in the soil and the seeds do not need to be planted, since they are already surrounded by soil, nutrients, and microorganisms.
  • The clay shell of these pellets along with the other items in the mixture also protects them from birds, ants and rats.

What kind of species can be dispersed using aerial seeding?

  • The species selected have to be native to the area and hardy, with seeds that are of an appropriate size for preparing seedballs and have to have a higher survival percentage.
  • It is critical that the timing of the seeding be correct in order for the plantation to be successful.

Can this replace conventional plantation methods?

  • Seeding should be done only on a pilot basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology and the dispersal mechanism.
  • Conventional methods of afforestation cannot be replaced but supplemented with areal seeding.
  • In this case, the technique will allow plantation in sections of the Aravallis that are either difficult to access or inaccessible altogether.

Back2Basics: Aravalli Range

  • The Aravalli Range is a mountain range running approximately 692 km in a south-west direction, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan, and ending in Gujarat.
  • The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 metres (5,650 ft).
  • The Aravalli Range, an eroded stub of ancient mountains, is the oldest range of Fold Mountains in India.
  • The natural history of the Aravalli Range dates back to times when the Indian Plate was separated from the Eurasian Plate by an ocean.
  • Aravalli, being the old fold mountains, have stopped growing higher due to the cessation of upward thrust caused by the stopping of movement of the tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust below them.
  • In ancient times, Aravalli was extremely high but since have worn down almost completely by millions of years of weathering, whereas the Himalayas being young fold mountains are still continuously rising.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GFRA

Mains level : Forest conservation in India

India has ranked third among the top 10 countries that have gained in forest areas in the last decade a/c to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA).

Possible prelim question:

Q.The Global Forest Resources Assessment Report recently seen in news is published by-


b) UN Forum on Forests

c) International Union of Forest Research Organizations

d) None of these

India gains in forest cover

  • The top 10 countries that have recorded the maximum average annual net gains in a forest area during 2010-2020 are China, Australia, India, Chile, Vietnam, Turkey, the US, France, Italy and Romania.
  • India accounts for two per cent of total global forest area.
  • Globally, 12.5 million people were employed in the forestry sector. Out of this, India accounted for 6.23 million, or nearly 50 per cent.

Global prospects

  • The Asian continent reported the highest net gain in a forest area in 2010-2020, according to the report.
  • It recorded a 1.17 million hectares (ha) per year net increase in forests in the last decade.
  • However, the South Asia sub-region reported net forest losses during 1990-2020.
  • But, this decline would have been much higher without the net gain in India’s forest during this period, according to FRA 2020.

How did India gain?

  • The FRA 2020 has credited the government’s Joint Forest Management programme for the significant increase in community-managed forest areas in the Asian continent.
  • The forest area managed by local, tribal and indigenous communities in India increased from zero in 1990 to about 25 million ha in 2015, the assessment said.
  • India has been taking up massive afforestation and plantation schemes.

About Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
  • It reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), forest conservation, and sustainable use.

Back2Basics: Defining forests as per FRA

  • The definition excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems, such as fruit tree plantations, oil palm plantations, olive orchards, and agroforestry systems when crops are grown under tree cover.

The FAO definition of a forest includes:

  • land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ
  • does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Cestrum nocturnum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cestrum nocturnum

Mains level : Invasive alien species

Nilgiris forest officials are restoring native Shola habitats in places overrun by the invasive species ‘Cestrum nocturnum’.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in the news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Cestrum nocturnum

  • Cestrum nocturnum is commonly known by the names night-blooming jasmine and raatrani.
  • It is native to the West Indies but naturalized in South Asia.
  • Its spread is a threat to all Shola and grassland habitats as it does not allow any native flora to thrive.
  • The plants unless completely removed with their roots, keep sprouting and keep taking over Shola and native grasslands.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Nagar Van (Urban Forest) Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Urban Forest Scheme

Mains level : NA

On the occasion of World Environment Day (5th June), the union govt has announced the implementation of the Nagar Van Scheme to develop 200 Urban Forests across the country in the next five years.

Do you know?

India has 8 per cent of world’s biodiversity, despite having many constraints like only 2.5 % of the world’s landmass, has to carry 16% of human population and having only 4% of freshwater sources.

Urban Forest Scheme

  • The scheme will be implemented with people’s participation and collaboration between the Forest Department, Municipal bodies, NGOs and corporates.
  • These forests will work as lungs of the cities and will primarily be on the forest land or any other vacant land offered by local urban local bodies.
  • This urban area rejuvenation scheme is based on the Smriti Van in the Warje area of Pune City
  • This forest now hosts rich biodiversity with 23 plant species, 29 bird species, 15 butterfly species, 10 reptiles and 3 mammal species.
  • This Urban Forest project is now helping maintain ecological balance, serving both environmental and social needs.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Forest Resources Assessment

Mains level : Global afforrestation measures and its success

The deforestation rate globally declined between 2015 and 2020, according to the Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2020. This decline is a result of sustainable management measures worldwide.

Possible prelim question:

Q. The Global Forest Resources Assessment Report recently seen in news is published by-


b) UN Forum on Forests

c) International Union of Forest Research Organizations

d) None of these

Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • The FRA reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), legal and institutional frameworks for forest conservation, and sustainable use.

Click here for amazing visuals of the FRA

Highlights of the 2020 report

  • The rate of forest loss in 2015-2020 declined to an estimated 10 million hectares (mha), down from 12 million hectares (mha) in 2010-2015, according to the FRA 2020.
  • The FRA 2020 has examined the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.
  • The world lost 178 mha of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya, according to the report.
  • However, the rate of net forest loss decreased substantially during 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in the forest area in others through afforestation.
  • The largest proportion of the world’s forests were tropical (45 per cent), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.

Data on losses and gains

  • The world’s total forest area was 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which was 31 per cent of the total land area. This area was equivalent to 0.52 ha per person.
  • Among the world’s regions, Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.
  • On the other hand, Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.
  • However, both Europe and Asia recorded substantially lower rates of the net gain in 2010–2020 than in 2000–2010.
  • Oceania experienced net losses of forest area in the decades 1990–2000 and 2000–2010.
  • More than 54 per cent of the world’s forests were in only five countries — the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
  • The highest per cent of plantation forests were in South America while the lowest was in Europe.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Carissa carandas (the Great Hedge of India)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carissa carandas

Mains level : NA


Carissa carandas, a  multi-utility wild berry, whose thorny plant the British had used to build a barrier through India in the 1870s, has a hitherto unknown wilder cousin in Assam, a new study has revealed.

Carissa carandas

  • The Carissa carandas was also among several thorny plants the British had grown 140 years ago for a 1,100-mile barrier apparently to enforce taxes and stop the smuggling of salt.
  • It has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for a number of ailments such as diarrhoea, anaemia, constipation, indigestion, skin infections and urinary disorders.
  • The leaves have been used as fodder for silkworms while a paste of its pounded roots serves as a fly repellent.
  • It is better known as karonda in Hindi, kalakkai in Tamil, koromcha in Bengali and karja tenga in Assamese, the Carissa kopilii is threatened by the very river it is named after — Kopili in central Assam.
  • The “sun-loving” plant was distributed sparsely, rooted in rocky crevices along the Kopili riverbed at altitudes ranging from 85-600 metres above sea level.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Private: Need for Inclusive Forest Rights


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level : Mains level : Read the attached story


  • During a public meeting of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch held in Telangana in early March, the Central government was accused of delaying and denying forest land rights of nearly 53 lakh Adivasi families. 
  • The allegations against the central government included subverting pro-poor policies by opting for subsidy cuts and also catering to corporate interests at the expense of Adivasi settlements. 

Diluting Forest Rights: 

  • Forest rights” in India, both for the forest itself and for the communities that inhabit it, have been largely non-existent.
  • The fate of forests and their ecosystems have historically been at the mercy of capitalist interests, and governments—both colonial and post-independence—have restructured law to suit vested interests.
  • The callous nature in which natural resources are being extracted and justified for their “development” agenda has been unprecedented.
  • In Jharkhand, the Centre is currently looking into the “feasibility” of opening up 43,000 hectares of forest land for iron ore mining.
  • Further, the draft Indian Forest Act, 2019 seeks to undermine the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, to confer rights to traditional forest dwellers.
  • This act would override the powers of state governments and exacerbate the already-precarious conditions of local forest tribes.
  • Forest officials are to be given quasi-judicial powers in deciding whose claims of land and titles are authentic, and for those perceived to have committed forest-related “crimes,” officials can “shoot, search, seize property, and arrest citizens,” with the burden of evidence on the accused.

Eco-sensitive Zones and Erroneous Classifications:

  • The conception of ESZs is ill-conceived—it is an exclusionary mode of conservation that displaces local communities and denies them their livelihoods—but also largely redundant as buffer zones already exist between forests and wildlife sanctuaries and human settlements.  
  • The villages in this area are of two types—traditional ones and others resettled from the core zone of CNP.
  • The Forest Department shifted villages from the core area, gave villagers the patta (documents) of the land, but we are still treated like encroachers.
  • The status of forest villages deprives them of any developmental activities.
  • There are no schools, healthcare facilities, electricity and water connection.
  • These villagers are denied permission to make pucca houses (permanent concrete structures), claim old dried or felled trees in their courtyard, make fencing around their houses or claim compensation for crop loss as these areas are considered to be forest lands owned by the Forest Department.

Pressure of Tourism:

  • Capitalist practices are immune to the ecological fragility of these areas.
  • While locals are made to shift and have their land taken from them, ESZ guidelines do not ban tourism in the ecologically fragile areas.
  • While the Uttarakhand government claims to support “ecotourism,” ground reports prove that such practices are largely non-existent.
  • As the pressure of tourism is rising, the government is developing new sites and gateways to the CNP.
  • Initially Dhikala was the only entry gate for the park. However as tourism grew many new zones were subsequently opened for tourism.
  • Recently Powalgarh Conservation Reserve has been created in the areas adjoining the village Powalgarh, and is being promoted as a tourist destination.
  • It is only the locals who have been made to sacrifice their rights and privileges, by privileging outside interests.

The Fate of Forests: 

  • While the Forest Act, 2006 had its own set of issues, it saw success in empowering local communities and in making forest areas more “democratic,” in that the locals had rights to their land and there were more checks to resource exploitation.
  • The draft bill gives the forest department more power to claim rights over forestland and private companies can also access forestland.
  • The proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA) which, among other things, would empower forest officials to use firearms and to take away forest rights merely through the payment of monetary compensation.
  • Both of these would essentially destroy the FRA.  


The Forest department and the Implementation of the FRA:

  • The forest department officials have been reluctant to implement provisions of the FRA, 2006.
  • The act was supposed to rectify the “historical injustices” to tribal victims, but forest officials opposed it on the grounds of the inevitable destruction to forest cover and wildlife. 
  • The implementation of FRA has not been effective or delayed, for instance (i) when the claims made by the “other forest dwellers” are numerous;
  • (ii) where the number of claims with the evidence of occupation of land in forest are either recent or after 25 October 1980;
  • (iii) where the demand for claims on the forestland is more than two and half hectares per nuclear family; and (iv) if the claims happen to be in the proximity of wildlife sanctuaries or parks.

Way forward

  • India’s approach towards forests and ecology remains rooted in colonial constructs—that of revenue generation.
  • Such a stance is disconnected from such an environment’s realities.
  • If effective forest management practices are to be implemented, then local stakeholders need to be at the forefront of such policy decisions. 
  • Even when the Chipko Movement challenged them, the response was to restrict timber-oriented forestry and shift the focus gradually to conservation, without paying attention to local needs or changing the allocation of management rights.
  • This coincided with an increasing attention to wildlife conservation, both nationally and internationally, and led unthinkingly to the formation of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks (that is, protected areas) where local rights were extinguished without due process or thought to the long-term role of those communities in conservation..
  • For the sustainable use of forests and their conservation to be truly effective, all the stakeholders (locals, forest department officials, and government) need to accept the idea of democratic multilayered governance model and work in unison.
  • The only way forward is to have a more open dialogue with department officials, rather than curtailing their powers. 
  • Gaps in the act are significant, and amendments need to be introduced to reduce the trust deficit between tribals and officials.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[pib] Person in news: Gaura Devi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gaura Devi and her contributions in Chipko Movement

Mains level : Chipko Movement



Union HRD Minister along with senior women officers of the Ministry planted a sapling in memory of Gaura Devi, Chipko Activist in New Delhi.

Gaura Devi

  • Gaura Devi was born in 1925 in a village named Lata in the state of Uttarakhand. She moved to a nearby village named Reni by the Alaknanda River.
  • She was elected to lead the Mahila Mangal Dal (Women’s Welfare Association) in the wake of the Chipko movement. The organization worked on the protection of community forests.

Her contributions in Chipko Movement

  • Gaura Devi came to notice in 1974 when she was told that local loggers were cutting the trees.
  • The men of Reni village had been tricked out of the village by news that the government was going to pay out compensation for land used by the army.
  • She challenged the men to shoot her instead of cutting down the trees and she described the forest with her maika (mother’s house).
  • They managed to halt their work by hugging the trees despite the abuse of the armed loggers.
  • They kept guard of the trees that night and over the next three or four days other villages and villagers joined the action. The loggers left leaving the trees.


  • After this incident, the Uttar Pradesh Government established a committee of experts to investigate the issue of felling of trees, and the lumber company withdrew its men from Reni.
  • The committee stated that the Reni forest was an ecologically sensitive area and that no trees should be felled there.
  • Thereafter the government of Uttar Pradesh placed a 10-year ban on all tree-felling in an area of over 1150 km².

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Plantation Corporation of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PCI

Mains level : Terms of reference for PCI

The Union government is likely to announce the setting up of a Plantation Corporation of India in the upcoming budget.

Plantation Corporation of India

  • The PCI will subsume all afforestation-related schemes currently underway in India including the Green India Mission, National Afforestation Programme and compensatory afforestation.
  • The corporation will use Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) money to undertake the plantations and investment will also come from the global pension fund.
  • CAF is a huge corpus of money collected from projects proponents for diverting forest land to be used for non-forestry activity.

Issues with PCI

  • Critics have raised concerns over the move’s impact on the federal structure of forest governance in the country.
  • While forests are a concurrent subject, land-related issues are the responsibility of the states.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Threat of Invasive Alien Species in Shola Forests of the Nilgiris


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shola Forests

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness


Shola Forests

  • The Shola forests of South India derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rain forest’.
  • Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’ the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.


  • The upper reaches are covered with grasslands, known as Shola grasslands.
  • The vegetation that grows in Shola forests is evergreen. The trees are stunted and have many branches. Their rounded and dense canopies appear in different colours.
  • Generally, the leaves are small in size and leathery. Red-coloured young leaves turning into different colours on maturity is a prominent characteristic of the Shola forests.
  • Epiphytes like lichens, ferns and bryophytes usually grow on the trees.
  • The occurrence of Himalayan plants like rhododendron in these Shola forests is a mystery.

Significance of Sholas

  • Sholas thus act as ‘overhead water tanks’. They play a major role in conserving water supply of the Nilgiris’ streams.
  • The trees are slow-growing varieties which produce timber of little or no value and probably take at least a century to mature.
  • The rolling grasslands found on top of the Western Ghats, enhance the beauty of the region. Usually, Shola forests and grasslands are found in a ratio of 1:5.
  • The rain received from the Southwest and Northeast monsoons is harvested by the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem, leading to the formation of the Bhavani river that finally drains into the Cauvery.
  • Thus, the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem of the Nilgiris, also supports the prosperity of Cauvery delta farmers.
  • As tree species of the montane, evergreen forests are flammable, regeneration of any Shola tree species is completely prevented except for Rhododendron nilagiricum, the only Shola tree that can tolerate fire.

Threats to Sholas

  • Unfortunately, the Sholas have begun to gradually shrink due to the introduction of alien plant species and annual fire occurrences.
  • Alien species like Sticky Snakeroot, Gorse and Scotch Broom introduced during British rule, have encroached upon the grasslands.
  • During 1840, tree species such as Acacia and Eucalyptus were introduced from Australia.
  • Afterwards, between 1886 and 1891, Pine and Cypress were introduced, again from Australia. As the alien species grew, the forests and grasslands gradually became degraded and shrank.
  • In addition, unscientific agricultural practices like growing tea on the slopes, cattle grazing and fuel wood collection have become serious causes for degradation.
  • Unregulated tourism has created concrete jungles, traffic congestion and caused the generation of garbage.

Wrath of Eucalyptus

  • During 1849, the extent of Shola forests was 8,600 hectares (ha), grasslands 29,875 ha and agriculture was 10,875 ha.
  • No wattle or eucalyptus was planted in the area at that time.
  • The comparison of the results of the 1849 and 1992 studies shows that cultivation of tea, wattle and eucalyptus has reduced the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem to a great extent.

Protective measures

  • After realizing the seriousness of the situation, the government banned the planting of wattle and eucalyptus completely in 1987.
  • Ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation were given importance.
  • Under the Hill Area Development Programme since the mid-1980s, seedlings have been planted in degraded patches and protected with chain-link fences to restore the forests.
  • Special Shola forest protection committees were formed involving teachers, nature lovers, ecologists, environmentalists, students and villagers in the Nilgiris.
  • They were motivated to remove plastic garbage from the nearby forests, protect Shola trees, remove alien species and learn about the importance of the Sholas.
  • Presently, the Tamil Nadu forest department is now focusing on eradicating wattle, providing fencing and planting shola seedlings in degraded shola forests.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Green Credit Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Credit Scheme, CAMPA

Mains level : CAMPA

The Forest Advisory Committee has approved a scheme that could allow “forests” to be traded as a commodity.  FAC is an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends.

Green Credit Scheme

  • The proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme’, as it is called, allows agencies — they could be private companies, village forest communities — to identify land and begin growing plantations.
  • After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land if they met the Forest Department’s criteria.
  • An industry needing forest land could then approach the agency and pay it for parcels of such forested land, and this would then be transferred to the Forest Department and be recorded as forest land.
  • The participating agency will be free to trade its asset, that is plantation, in parcels, with project proponents who need forest land.
  • This is not the first time that such a scheme has been mooted.
  • In 2015, a ‘Green Credit Scheme’ for degraded forest land with public-private participation was recommended, but it was not approved by the Union Environment Minister, the final authority.


  • In the current system, industry needs to make good the loss of forest by finding appropriate non-forest land — equal to that which would be razed.
  • It also must pay the State Forest Department the current economic equivalent — called Net Present Value — of the forest land.
  • It’s then the Forest Department’s responsibility to grow appropriate vegetation that, over time, would grow into forests.
  • Industries have often complained that they find it hard to acquire appropriate non-forest land, which has to be contiguous to existing forest.
  • If implemented it allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.

 Individuals outside

  • One of India’s prongs to combat climate change is the Green India Mission that aims to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30, and this involves adding 30 million hectares in addition to existing forest.
  • Critics held that it does not solve the core problems of compensatory afforestation.
  • It creates problems of privatizing multi-use forest areas as monoculture plantation plots. Forests are treated as a mere commodity without any social or ecological character.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Miyawaki Method


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Miyawaki Method

Mains level : Miyawaki Method of Afforestation

Kerala Forest Dept. has adopted Miyawaki afforestation concept to be used in govt. offices, schools and puramboke land.

Miyawaki Method

  • Miyawaki method is a method of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests.
  • It includes planting trees as close as possible in the same area which not only saves space, but the planted saplings also support each other in growth and block sunlight reaching the ground, thereby preventing the growth of weed.
  • Thus the saplings become maintenance-free (self sustainable) after the first three years.
  • It helps to create a forest in just 20 to 30 years while through conventional methods it takes anywhere between 200 to 300 years.

The technique

  • The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
  • The quality of soil is analysed and biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
  • A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density — three to five sapling per square meter.
  • The ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Senna spectabilis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Senna spectabilis

Mains level : Impacts of the invasive alien species

The Kerala Forest Department is planning to adopt steps to arrest the rampant growth of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis, in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR).

Senna spectabilis

  • The Senna spectabilis species was planted as avenue trees in Wayanad. The vayal ecosystem (marshy land) of the forest area now has this plant in large numbers.
  • The spread is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the reserve, owing to its quick growth and coppicing character.
  • The tree species was found in nearly 10 sq km area of the 344.44 sq km sanctuary around five years ago.
  • The plant has started to invade the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka and the Mudumalai tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Now, it had invaded to more than 50 sq km of the sanctuary Wayanad WLS.
  • A recent study of the Ferns Nature Conservation Society recorded the presence of the plant in 78.91 sq km area of the sanctuary.


  • An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes thousands of seeds after gregarious flowering.
  • The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous tree and grass species and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores.
  • Moreover, wildlife will not feed on the leaf of the treeas it is not palatable for them.
  • The allelochemicals produced by this plant adversely affect the germination and growth of the native species.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India State of Forest Report (ISFR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : State of forest conservation and afforestation in India

The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the biennial India State of Forest Report (ISFR).

About the Report

  • The ISFR is a biennial report published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
  • FSI has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country including wall-to-wall forest cover mapping in a biennial cycle.
  • Starting 1987, 16 assessments have been completed so far. ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.

Highlights of the report

  • In the present assessment, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectare which is 24.56 percent of the geographical area of the country.
  • As compared to the assessment of 2017, there is an increase of 5,188 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country.
  • Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 3,976 sq km and that in tree cover is 1,212 sq. km.
  • Range increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest followed by very dense forest and moderately dense forest.
  • The top three states showing increase in forest cover are Karnataka (1,025 sq. km) followed by Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km) and Kerala (823 sq km).

Some Major Findings

  • Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram (85.41%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%), Meghalaya (76.33%), Manipur (75.46%) and Nagaland (75.31%).


  • Mangrove cover has been separately reported in the ISFR 2019 and the total mangrove cover in the country is 4,975 sq km.
  • An increase of 54 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2017.
  • Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Gujarat (37 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).


  • The extent of bamboo bearing area of the country has been estimated 16.00 million hectare.
  • There is an increase of 0.32 million hectare in bamboo bearing area as compared to the last assessment of ISFR 2017.


  • Wetlands within forest areas form important ecosystems and add richness to the biodiversity in forest areas, both of faunal and floral species.
  • Due to importance of wetlands, FSI has carried out an exercise at the national level to identify wetlands of more than 1 ha within RFA.
  • There are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.8% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country.

Carbon Stock

  • Under the current assessment the total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated 7,124.6 million tonnes.
  • There an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2017.
  • The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.2 million tonnes CO2 eq.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Aerial seeding


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerial and Dart seeding

Mains level : Aforestation measures

The Delhi High Court asked forest authorities whether “planting of seeds could be done by throwing dart shots containing them from helicopters into forest areas”.

Aerial seeding

  • Aerial seeding is a well-established concept, but this is generally achieved not with darts but by spraying seeds through an aircraft or a drone.
  • Aerial seeding can be used not only to plant various crops but also to spread grasses to large areas of the land after wildfires, a common problem in countries like the United States.
  • Aerial seeding is adopted because it is quicker and more effective than planting manually.
  • It also allows access to areas where the terrain is rocky or at high elevation.

Dart seeding

  • Dart seeding is used with the same broad objective as aerial seeding: a plantation in inaccessible areas.
  • The process involves throwing darts containing seeds onto open ground.
  • A variation of dart seeding was used in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in the late 1990s, but not with a helicopter.
  • The Forest Department used a long iron rod to access ground that could not be reached due to thick cover of shrubs. Seeds were put into the rod, which had a small opening at the other end.
  • When the rod was inserted into the removed and then removed, the soil would cover the seed, unlike in aerial plantation when seeds are thrown into open ground.
  • In aerial seeding, many seeds fail to germinate. If dart plantation is done from a low-flying helicopter, seeds have a relatively better chance of survival as they reach deeper into the ground.
  • Plantation with both aerial and dart plantations is carried out close to the onset of monsoon as watering the seeds is often challenging in inaccessible areas.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

REDD+ Himalayan programme extended till 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : REDD+

Mains level : State of afforestation in India

  • The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme being carried out in the Himalayan states jointly by Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been extended till July 2020.

About the Programme

  • The Himalaya programme was launched in January 2016 in Mizoram to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in India’s Himalayan states.
  • The initiative was meant to last only till 2018 is extended till July 2020 keeping in view of the contributions made by the agencies.
  • The project is supported by the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety ministry of Germany, was implemented in four countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region— Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal.


  • REDD+ is a mechanism developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • It creates a financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
  • Developing countries would receive results-based payments for results-based actions.
  • REDD+ goes beyond simply deforestation and forest degradation and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
  • It aims to create incentives for communities so that they stop forest degrading practices.
  • More than 300 REDD+ initiatives have taken place since 2006.
  • The mechanism is enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement and its implementation transitions from smaller, isolated projects to larger, jurisdictional programmes with support from bilateral and multilateral agencies.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Explained: Land Degradation Neutrality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LDN

Mains level : State of afforestation in India

  • Union Environment Ministry has committed to rejuvenate 50 lakh hectares (5 million) of degraded land between 2021 and 2030.
  • A Centre for Excellence would be set up in Dehradun for land degradation neutrality.

Why such move?

  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. About 29% or about 96.4 million hectares are considered degraded.

  • The State of India’s Environment report, 2017 calculates that nearly 30 per cent of India is degraded or facing desertification. This figure touches 40 to 70 percent in eight states—Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Various estimates put the economic costs of degradation in the country at 2.54% of its GDP.

Land Degradation Neutrality

  • Land degradation neutrality (LDN) is a condition where further land degradation (loss of productivity caused by environmental or human factors) is prevented and already degraded land can be restored.
  • LDN has been defined by the Parties to the Convention as:

    – A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.

Benefits of LDN

  • As land is fixed in quantity, there is ever-increasing competition to control land resources and capitalize on the flows of goods and services from the land.
  • LDN represents a paradigm shift in land management policies and practices.
  • It is a unique approach that counterbalances the expected loss of productive land with the recovery of degraded areas.
  • This has the potential to cause social and political instability, fueling poverty, conflict and migration.


  • The implementation of LDN requires multi-stakeholder engagement and planning across scales and sectors, supported by national-scale coordination that utilizes existing local and regional governance structures.
  • UNCCD and the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment) came together to mark the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
  • To date, over 120 countries have engaged with the LDN Target Setting Programme and considerable progress has been made since the 2030 Agenda was adopted in 2015.

India’s initiatives

  • This January, India became part of the “Bonn Challenge”, a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.
  • Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Health Card Scheme, Soil Health Management Scheme and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana are seen as prongs to tackle this land degradation.
  • India for the first time will be hosting the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) from September 2 to 13.


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

  • Established in 1994, the UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.
  • It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • 2006 was declared “International Year of Deserts and Desertification”.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

CAMPA funds should be used to conserve nature


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAMPA

Mains level : State of afforestation in India

Decline of forest cover in India

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, 80 per cent of India was covered in thick forests.
  • Now the forest cover has dropped to a mere 17 per cent.
  • Recently, Forest Survey of India (FSI) released its biennial State of Forests Report 2017 that stated that forest cover in the country has increased by about one per cent.
  • However several other reports highlight that this increase is not due to increase in forest area but is the artefact of increase in agricultural green cover.

Is the target achievable?

  • According to National Forest Policy 1952, the mandate was set to preserve 33 per cent of forest cover in the total geographical area.
  • The FSI report clearly revealed that if India’s forest covers grows at the same pace as in the past decade then it would take more than 180 years to achieve the target of 33 per cent forest cover.
  • In the near future, we will be at the next stage of development and the intensity of industrial growth would definitely be more than the present and the past.
  • So achieving such target seems to be very difficult.

Government’s approach

  • Forests are an important natural resource and render a variety of ecological services, they must not be destroyed.
  • However, because of industrial requirements, forests are routinely cut or being diverted for non-forest purposes.
  • As much as 14,000 square kilometres of forests were cleared to accommodate 23,716 industrial projects across India over the last 30 years, according to a recent government data.
  • India cannot completely stop such developmental activities because this is the backbone of the Indian economy.

CAMPA at rescue

  • To compensate the loss of forest area and to maintain the sustainability, the govt. came up with a well-defined Act, known as CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority).
  • According to the Act’s provision, a company diverting forest land must provide alternative land to take up compensatory afforestation.
  • For afforestation, the company should pay to plant new trees in the alternative land provided to the state.
  • The loss of forest ecosystem must also be compensated by paying for net present value (NPV).

CAMPA Funds are under-utilized

  • In 2002, the Supreme Court had observed that collected funds for afforestation were under-utilized by the states and it ordered for centrally pooling of funds under ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
  • The court had set up the ad hoc National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to manage the fund.
  • In 2009, states had also set up state CAMPAs that received 10 per cent of funds from the national CAMPA to use for afforestation and forest conservation.

Cost-benefit analysis of funds and forest cover

  • In the present scenario, both central and state governments got a huge amount of money for afforestation, but at the ground level, the situation is different.
  • FSI analysis showed that funding by the central government increased at a rate of 84.67 per cent in the period, but the forest cover increased by only 2.42 per cent.
  • So, increase in CAMPA funding by the central government has clearly not resulted in significant increase in forest cover.

Drawbacks of CAMPA

  • There are many reasons for forest growth not aligning with the increased fund.
  • The law says that land selected for afforestation should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it.
  • But if no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation.
  • In several states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand where the intensity of mining is very high, to find the non-forest land for afforestation to compensate the loss of forest is a big task.
  • The other point of contention is the utilization of CAMPA fund. Several state governments are not utilising it properly.
  • An amount of Rs 86 lakh from CAMPA funds meant for afforestation was reportedly spent on litigation work in Punjab.
  • Moreover, at several places, the loss of natural species is compensated with plantation of non-native species in the name of the artificial plantation. It serves as a threat to even the existing ecosystem.

Way Forward

  • Centre framed CAMPA with an intention to conserve nature and its natural resources amidst the various development works.
  • The proposed objective of the Act must be fulfilled by utilising the CAMPA funds only for the purpose it is meant for.
  • It should efficiently be used only for afforestation and wildlife conservation activities.
  • Also, a closer look at the state government activities using CAMPA funding is needed.
  • The central government should adopt the concept of outcome budgeting for allocation of funds to the state government in which funding will be done on installment basis by checking the outcome of previous funds.
  • Then, state governments should restore the existing forests rather than creating new ones.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India unlikely to meet carbon sink commitment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Afforestation Programme , Green India Mission

Mains level : India's INDCs

  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030, is unlikely to materialize.

State of Afforestation in India

  • The current rate of afforestation — 35 million tonnes per year carbon dioxide equivalent — is lower than what is needed to achieve the target.
  • At this rate, there will be a shortfall from the target pledged.
  • Various afforestation programmes like the Green India Mission (GIM) and National Afforestation Programme (NAP) are under-funded, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T.
  • There had been a decline in the progress area brought under afforestation as part of the NAP — from 80,583 hectares in 2013-14 to just 35,986 hectares in 2015-16.
  • The report also found that there had been no recent studies to know the efficacy of these programmes.

What needs to be done?

  • The Ministry should undertake a study to assess the impact of National Afforestation Programme and Green India Mission in improving the quality of degraded forests.
  • This should be done so that their actual impact on the forest cover is known and further strategies in this regard could be drawn accordingly.
  • To increase afforestation and reduce land degradation, there was a need to improve the quality of the forest under the categories ‘Open Forests’ and ‘Shrubs’.


Green India Mission (GIM)

  • National Mission for a Green India is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • GIM, launched in February 2014, is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • The mission has the broad objective of both increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha,  as  well as increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in  another 5 million ha of forest/ non forest lands in 10 years.
  • The Mission proposes a holistic view of greening and focuses not on carbon sequestration targets alone, but also, on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass etc.
  • It will also increase options of forest based livelihood of households living in the fringe of those landscapes where the Mission is implemented.

National Afforestation Programme (NAP)

  • National Afforestation Programme (NAP) of the MoEFCC is a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Afforestation and tree plantation and eco-restoration of degraded forests and adjoining areas in the country.
  • The Scheme is being implemented through a decentralized mechanism of State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) at State level, Forest Development Agency (FDA) at Forest Division level and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at Village levels.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

How China, followed by India, has led greening efforts across world


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MODIS

Mains level : Afforestation in India

  • A new satellite-based study shows that China and India are leading the increase in “greening efforts” across the world.

The findings of MODIS

  • The research team set out to track the total amount of Earth’s land area covered by vegetation and how it changed over time (2000-17).
  • Through NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, the team found that the global green leaf area has increased by 5% since the early 2000s.
  • This translates to a net increase in leaf area of 2.3% per decade, which is equivalent to adding 5.4 × 106 sq km new leaf area over the 18-year period of the record (2000 to 2017).
  • This is equivalent to the area of the Amazon.
  • China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area. India has contributed a further 6.8%.
  • The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%) but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%).

What is MODIS?

  • MODIS is a key instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites of NASA.
  • With its low spatial resolution but high temporal resolution, MODIS data is useful to track changes in the landscape over time
  • MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of our environment.
  • Its data helps improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere.

Highlights of the study

  • The study was entirely based on satellite data with access to forest inventory data.
  • There were no physical checks carried out in either China or India to assess what kind of trees or vegetation was preferred.
  • The quality of trees is good in view of leaf abundance.
  • Satellite data do not have the ability to accurately recognise the species at the global scale.
  • When the greening of the Earth was first observed, it was thought due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance.
  • Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing.

India’s growth

  • With only 2.7% of the global vegetated area, India accounts for 6.8% of the global net increase in leaf area.
  • It is as expected because most of the land cover type in India is cropland (2.11×106 sq km).
  • Total cereal production in India increased by 26% during the same period.
  • There are only a few forests in India, and that is why their contribution is small.
  • Data show that since Independence, a fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests.
  • The Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Report 2017 had recorded that forest cover had increased by 6,600 sq km or 0.21% since 2015.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[op-ed snap] Humanise the law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level : There is a need to tranform present forest law towards partnership and collaboration approach.


Modernising colonial era laws is a long-delayed project, but the draft Indian Forest Act, 2019 is woefully short of being a transformative piece of legislation.

Need for reforms

1. Colonial Legacy – The original law, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, is an incongruous relic, its provisions having been drafted to suit the objectives of a colonial power that had extractive uses for forests in mind.

2. Ensuring Well being of Forest and forest dwellers – A new law enacted should make a departure and be aimed to expand India’s forests, and ensure the well-being of traditional forest-dwellers and biodiversity in these landscapes.

3. Community-led, scientific conservation – The need is for a paradigm that encourages community-led, scientifically validated conservation. This is critical, for only 2.99% of India’s geographic area is classified as very dense forest; the rest of the green cover of a total of 21.54% is nearly equally divided into open and moderately dense forest, according to the State of Forest Report 2017.

Draft Bill’s Proposals

1.Bureaucratic control of forests

  • The draft Bill reinforces the idea of bureaucratic control of forests, providing immunity for actions such as use of firearms by personnel to prevent an offence.
  • The hardline policing approach is reflected in the emphasis on creating infrastructure to detain and transport the accused, and to penalise entire communities through denial of access to forests for offences by individuals.
  • Such provisions invariably affect poor inhabitants, and run counter to the empowering and egalitarian goals that produced the Forest Rights Act.

Way forward to conserve Forest

1. Importance of Forests – India’s forests play a key role in moderating the lives of not just the adivasis and other traditional dwellers, but everyone in the subcontinent, through their impact on the climate and monsoons.

2. Improvement through collaboration – Their health can be improved only through collaboration.

    • Any new forest law must, therefore, aim to reduce conflicts, incentivise tribals and stop diversion for non-forest uses.
    • No commercial exploitation – This can be achieved by recognising all suitable landscapes as forests and insulating them from commercial exploitation.
    •  Partnership with communities and scientists – Such an approach requires a partnership with communities on the one hand, and scientists on the other. For decades now, the Forest Department has resisted independent scientific evaluation of forest health and biodiversity conservation outcomes.

Weaknesses of present Environment Policy

  •  Weakened public scrutiny – In parallel, environmental policy has weakened public scrutiny of decisions on diversion of forests for destructive activities such as mining and large dam construction.
  • Dilution of public hearings – Impact assessment reports have mostly been reduced to a farce, and the public hearings process has been diluted.


  • The government needs to launch a process of consultation, beginning with the State governments to ensure that a progressive law is adopted by all States, including those that have their own versions of the existing Act.
  • The Centre must hear the voice of all stakeholders and communities, including independent scientific experts.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Scientific management of mangroves is need of the hour


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Distribution of Mangroves in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

What are Mangroves?

  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant vegetation that grows in intertidal regions of rivers and estuaries.
  • They are referred to as ‘tidal forests’ and belong to the category of ‘tropical wetland rainforest ecosystem’.
  • Mangroves are trees and shrub species that grow at the interface between land and sea in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Mangroves in India

  • Mangrove forests occupy around 2,00,000 square kilometres across the globe in tropical regions of 30 countries. India has a total mangrove cover of 4,482 sq km.
  • A mangrove ecosystem is the interface between terrestrial forests and aquatic marine ecosystems.
  • The ecosystem includes diversified habitats like mangrove-dominant forests, litter-laden forest floors, mudflats, coral reefs and contiguous water courses such as river estuaries, bays, inter-tidal waters, channels and backwaters.
  • Sundarbans in the Gangetic delta with an area of 2.12 lakh hectares (ha) supports 26 plant species of mangrove with a maximum height of more than 10 metres.
  • Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu with an area of 1,100 ha supports 12 plant species growing to a height of 5 metres.

Significance of Mangroves

  • The structural complexities of mangrove vegetation create unique environments which provide ecological niches for a wide variety of organisms.
  • Mangroves serve as breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for most of the commercial fishes and crustaceans on which thousands of people depend for their livelihood.
  • Mangroves give protection to the coastline and minimize disasters due to cyclones and tsunami.
  • Recent studies have shown that mangroves store more carbon dioxide than most other forests.
  • Mangroves are intermediate vegetation between land and sea that grow in oxygen deficient waterlogged soils which have Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S).
  • They perform important ecological functions like nutrient cycling, hydrological regime, coastal protection, fish-fauna production, etc.
  • Mangroves act as shock absorbers. They reduce high tides and waves and help prevent soil erosion.


  • Mangroves are being destroyed and facing severe threats due to urbanisation, industrialisation, and discharge of domestic sewage, industrial effluents and pesticides.
  • Saltpans and aquaculture also pose major threat to the mangroves.
  • 40 per cent of mangrove forests in West Coast of India have been converted into farmlands and housing colonies over the last three decades.
  • Some of the mangrove species like Bruguiera cylindrica and Sonneratia acida are at the verge of extinction.
  • Due to shrimp farming, about 35,000 ha of mangroves have been lost in India.

Conserving Mangroves

  • Suitable sites are to be identified for planting mangrove species. Mangrove nursery banks should be developed for propagation purposes.
  • Environmental monitoring in the existing mangrove areas should be taken up systematically and periodically.
  • Various threats to the mangrove resources and their root causes should be identified, and earnest measures should be taken to eliminate those causes.
  • The participation of the local community should be made compulsory for conservation and management.
  • Floristic survey of mangroves along the coast is to be taken up to prepare biodiversity atlas for mangroves.
  • Potential areas are to be identified for implementing the management action plan for mangroves, especially in cyclone prone areas.
  • Coastal industries and private owners need to be persuaded to actively participate in protecting and developing mangrove biodiversity.
  • The forest department officials should be trained on taxonomy, biology and ecology of mangrove species.

Way Forward

  • So far, none of the mangrove species has been included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • A scientific study reported that 100 per cent of mangrove species, 92 per cent of mangrove associates, 60.8 per cent of algae, 23.8 per cent of invertebrates and 21.1 per cent of fish are under threat.
  • Periodical monitoring of the mangrove forest is very much necessary to assess the status. The impact of environmental and human interference on marine flora and fauna needs to be assessed.
  • The traditional rights of coastal communities to use the natural resources in their surrounding natural habitats for their livelihood should also be recognised on priority basis.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Neelakurinji Blossom

  • Experts fear that for next season, the Neelakurinji blossoms may not carpet the hillocks of the Western Ghats in a ravishing purple.


  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
  • Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.
  • It is the most rigorously demonstrated, with documented bloomings in 1838, 1850, 1862, 1874, 1886, 1898, 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018
  • Some Kurinji flowers bloom once every seven years, and then die. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.
  • The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

Threats to Neelakurinji

  • About 1,000 ha of forestland, grantis and eucalyptus plantations and grasslands have been destroyed in the fire.
  • These large-scale wildfires on the grasslands where Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiiana) blossomed widely last year after a period of 12 years could have wiped out all the seeds of the endemic flowers.
  • There are allegations that the areas coming under the proposed Kurinji sanctuary were set on fire with a motive to destroy the germination of Neelakurinji seeds.
  • In the proposed Kurinji sanctuary, there were encroachments and land grabbers wanted to keep the area off the limits of the sanctuary.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Coming, a law to empower forest staff


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Forest Act, 2019

Mains level: Mechanism for forest conservation in India


  • A proposed legislation accords significant powers to India’s forest officers — including the power issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide indemnity to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.

Indian Forest Act, 2019

  • The Indian Forest Act, 2019 is envisaged as an amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  • It is an attempt to address contemporary challenges to India’s forests.
  • It proposed to provide indemnity to Forest-officer using arms etc, to prevent the forest offence.
  • Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offences and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the CrPC, 1973.
  • Any Forest-officer not below the rank of a Forester may, at any time enter and inspect any land within his area of jurisdiction.

Defining Village forests

  • Village forests according to the proposed Act, may be forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government.
  • It would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.

Issues surrounding this Act

  • Independent experts said that the proposed law would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  • In effect, the aim is to strengthen the forest bureaucracy in terms of deciding on how to decide on [title claims] over forest land, what parts to declare [off-limits] for conservation, checking encroachments, etc.
  • In recent times, things have dramatically changed since 1927 with new laws, greater rights accorded to forest dwellers by the Constitution.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India’s first forest-certification scheme gets global recognition


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Forest Certification

Mains level: Forest Certification Scheme of India


  • Recently, a Geneva-based non-profit decided to endorse the Certification Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) developed by Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), an Indian non-profit.

Forest Certification

  • Forest certification is a global movement initiated in 1990s after Rio Earth Summit.
  • It is a market-based non-regulatory conservation tool designed to promote sustainable management of forests and trees outside forests by an independent third party.
  • As several developed countries have put trade restrictions on import of non-certified timber, non-timber forest products and wood-based goods into their countries, getting sustainable forest management certificates has become mandatory for exports.


  • The council of Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) that provides independent third-party certification for sustainable forest management took this decision through a postal ballot.
  • India now has a globally recognised forest-certification scheme developed specifically for Indian forests.

About NCCF

  • Forest-based industries in India, particularly those for paper, boards, plywood, medium density fibreboard, furniture and handicrafts etc, have been pushing for forest certification to enhance their market accessibility to western markets including European Union and USA.
  • The NCCF was set up in 2015 by representatives of forest-based industries, non-profits, forest auditors and government forest departments with an aim to set standards for certifying India’s forests, their products and their sustainable management.
  • The NCCF’s forest certification scheme is aimed to improve India’s forest management regime that is often criticised for various issues ailing the sector such as forest rights, forest degradation, biodiversity losses, encroachments, lack of manpower, etc.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

[op-ed snap]Disempowering gram sabhas


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various Forest Rights Acts and their provisions

Mains level: Supreme Court Order on  Eviction of forest dwellers and violations of forest rights act



On February 13, the court ordered the eviction of 1.8 million Adivasi and forest-dwelling claimants under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, to stem supposed forest destruction.

Diversion of forest land and it’s impact

  • Since 1980, through the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) has “diverted for non-forest use” (bureaucratese for destroyed) over 1.5 million hectares of forest.
  • Stripping these forests has yielded thousands of crores of rupees for corporations to which a bulk of these forestlands were diverted, and for forest departments via compensatory funds.
  • But how have the original inhabitants of these forests, already among the most marginalised, coped with the loss of homes and livelihoods!
  • Shouldn’t the destruction of over 1.5 million hectares of forest, and the misuse of the FCA, seize the court and petitioners? And how would the FRA perform on forest stewardship, where the FCA is failing?

Forest Rights Act

  • The FRA was enacted to recognise the pre-existing rights of forest-dwellers.
  • Recognising them as “integral to the survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem,” the FRA gives their gram sabhas “the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance.”
  • A key 2009 regulation actualised gram sabha powers by mandating that all forest diversion proposals and compensatory and ameliorative schemes be presented in detail to the relevant gram sabhas to award or withhold its free, prior, informed consent, and also be preceded by the settlement of all rights under the FRA.
  • This long overdue move created for the first time a space for forest communities to participate in decision-making around diversion proposals, making forest governance more accountable, ecologically informed and resource just.

Violation of spirit of Law

  • A decade on, the state and corporations are shredding this reform to bits. In 2016, for instance, I studied a proposal whereby the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) sought 1,400 acres of forestland across seven Adivasi villages of Keonjhar in the ecologically sensitive Gandhamardan mountains, for an iron ore mine.
  • The diversion proposal sent by the OMC and the Odisha government to the MoEF included seven copycat gram sabha resolutions, supposedly representing the seven villages.
  • Each identical resolution depicted villagers, over 2,000 in all, as saying they were not using the forests for cultivation, house-building or any livelihood, had no individual or community claims to it, and that they “request” the government to implement the forest diversion.
  • In the villages, these resolutions evoked shock and rage.
  • After  news report on the case in 2016, the MoEF asked the State government to probe the matter.
  • The probe report, neither shared with villagers nor made public, glossed over testimonies it gathered of 11 villagers.
  • Last October, despite letters by villages about the forgery and pending FRA claims, the MoEF issued permission to the OMC to destroy this stretch of forest.
  • On February 26, the MoEF tried to formalise this travesty by writing to all States that FRA compliance is not needed for ‘in-principle’ approval for diversions.
  • Violating the FRA, this damaging move eliminates gram sabhas from decision-making, and makes diversion a violent fait accompli for forest-dwellers.

Reactions to such violation

  • Communities are increasingly rejecting such disempowerment, evident from protests like a 30-km march days ago by villagers in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand against the MoEF’s recent decision to divert over 2,000 acres of forest to a mine, despite gram sabha forgery complaints.

Way Forward

A model of forest governance, forged on the back of usurping gram sabha powers, is servicing a ruthless resource grab. The Supreme Court should examine this sabotage of the FRA that is damaging our forests and our democracy.






Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Do forest surveys separately


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


  • A high-power committee constituted by the MoEFCC has recommended that the biennial forest surveys exercise by the government to estimate forest cover explicitly demarcate trees grown in forests from those grown outside.

Why such move?

  • Currently, the government counts both plantations and private lands towards estimating the portion of India’s geographical area covered by forest.
  • This isn’t an ecologically sound principle.
  • India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, which was made public in Feb 2018.
  • The document says that India has about 7,08,273 sq. km. of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km.).

Govt. stance

  • Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long-standing goal of the government since 1988.
  • Various editions of the SFR have over the years reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%.
  • So the government also includes substantial patches of trees outside areas designated as forests, such as plantations or greenlands, in its assessment.
  • The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 sq. km. or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 sq. km. in 2015.

Assist this newscard with:

Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


  • The Economic Survey of Delhi 2018-19, released last week, states that the capital’s forest cover has increased from 12.72% of its geographical area in 2015 to 12.97% in 2017 while its tree cover has increased from 7.48% to 7.62%.

Tree Cover & Forest Cover

  • The MoEFCC defines ‘forest cover’ in India as all lands, more than one hectare in area with a tree canopy density of more than 10%.
  • The ‘tree cover’ is defined as tree patches outside recorded forest areas exclusive of forest cover and less than the minimum mappable area of one hectare.

Trees outsides Forest

  • Between these two is a third measure, called ‘trees outside forest’, or TOF.
  • The ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ defines TOF as “trees existing outside the recorded forest area in the form of block, linear & scattered size of patches”.
  • Since tree cover measures only non-forest patches that are less than 1 hectare, it is only a part of TOF.

Statewise cover

  • The India Report, as well as the Delhi Survey, cites state-wise figures, which show that Goa has the highest tree cover as a percentage of geographical area, at 8.73%, followed by Delhi and Kerala, both at 7.62%.
  • Forest cover highs are in Lakshadweep (90.33%) and Mizoram (86.27%). India has 93,815 hectares, or 2.85% of its area, under tree cover, and 7.08 lakh ha (21.54%) under forest cover.


Forest Cover Classification

  • Classification scheme for the purpose of Forest Cover assessment is described as follows:
Class Description
Very Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above.
Moderately Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%.
Open Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40%.
Scrub Degraded forest lands with canopy density less than 10%.
Non-forest Lands not included in any of the above classes.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Earth’s tree-covered areas fell by 35,204 sq km in 15 years


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRIC 17 Assessment

Mains level: Impact of Urbanization on forest cover


  • A preliminary assessment report circulated by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) shows that tree-covered areas remain the dominant land use class.
  • While the rate of deforestation has slowed down after 2005, forests continue to shrink.


  1. The Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 17) of UNCCD is meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.
  2. This is the first such global assessment of land degradation based on data submitted by countries party to the convention.
  3. The assessment is for the 2000-2015 period.
  4. Out of the 197 countries party to UNCCD, 145 have submitted data on land degradation.

Assessment on Tree-Cover

  1. The preliminary assessment based on this data shows that the world’s dominant land class is still the tree-covered areas that include natural forests.
  2. Tree-covered areas account for 32.4 per cent of total land cover area reported by countries.
  3. Globally, tree-covered areas fell by ~1, 41,610 sq km from 2000 to 2005, but rebounded by 2015 to a net decline of 35,204 sq km (-0.1 per cent) below 2000 levels,” says the assessment.
  4. After tree-covered areas, grasslands, croplands, wetlands and artificial surfaces represent 23.1 per cent, 17.7 per cent, 4.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent of the total reported land area.

Region-wise Highlights

  1. Tree-covered areas have increased in Central and Eastern Europe, the Northern Mediterranean and Asia.
  2. Such areas have decreased in Latin American and Caribbean countries and Africa.
  3. Sixty per cent of the tree-covered areas globally are in Central and Eastern Europe and in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Artificial Areas

  1. The world has reported the highest change in the land class called artificial areas that primarily account for lands diverted for uses like urbanisation.
  2. This class recorded a 32.2 per cent growth in the 2000-2015 period.
  3. In other words, an addition of 1, 68, 000 square km.
  4. This trend in increasing artificial areas is considered a critical transition, with 48,240 sq km of the new artificial areas coming from previously ‘natural’ areas, jumping to 143,200 sq km when combining ‘natural and semi-natural’ areas.”
  5. This transition mostly happened from croplands and grasslands.

What made all these changes?

  1. Transitions from other land to cropland are almost three times the transition of cropland to other land, indicating that more marginal lands have been brought back into production.
  2. Drivers of cropland losses include urbanisation, improper soil management, improper crop management and industrial activities.
  3. Population pressure, land tenure and poverty are the most frequently-cited indirect drivers of land cover change, says the report.
  4. This class has gained 575,000 sq km.
  5. Most of this is the result of transitions from tree-covered areas (369,000 sq km), other land (310,900 sq km) and grassland (424,700 sq km).

Also Read: Evolution of Forest Rights in India from 1856 to 2006 | In Depth Analysis of FRA & Its Issues

The environment ministry came out with a draft National Forest Policy (NFP). The policy has been prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) and is aimed at facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour among stakeholders.


The proposed NFP is going to be third such document after India’s independence with first in 1952 followed by the second in 1988.

Why is there a need for Forest Policy?

  • Forests and trees constitute nearly one fourth of the geographic area of the country.
  • Protection of this vast and valuable resource, improving and increasing the forest and tree cover requires adequate investment keeping in view the pressures on these forests, and the ecosystem services that they provide to the nation.
  • Large tracts of forest area in the country have degraded due to immense biotic pressure and lack of adequate investment.
  • The crux of the problem in India’s existing forest policy — the Forest Policy of 1988 — has been that it made the forest department the manager of the forests and the people lost their rights over it.
  • But as the Uttarakhand forest fires showed recently, a few hundred forest officials and a few thousand employees of the department can do nothing when a calamity strikes. They need community support in such emergencies.

Key highlights

  • Less forest on hilly areas: Although the policy continues with the national goal of maintaining a minimum of one-third of the geographical area under forest or tree cover, Hills and mountainous regions may not be required to maintain two-thirds of the geographical area under forest cover.
  • Board to monitor management of forests: The policy states that a National Board of Forestry and State Boards of Forestry are to be established to ensure monitoring of the spread of the forest areas and management of forest cover.
  • Technology to minimize damage to forests: The policy states that forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure need to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted.
  • Green tax on citizens: The draft National Forest Policy (NFP) proposes the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour and supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes.
  • Undermines FRA 2006: NFP ignores Forests Rights Act, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests, and proposes a joint forest management-like mechanism to enhance agro-forestry.
  • New Mission: The policy proposes to launch a new Community Forest Management Mission, bringing government, community and private land under the new proposed management system.
  • Provisions for responsible tourism: It calls for developing “sound ecotourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities.
  • Climate change to emerge as important factor in policy: It states that Climate change concerns should be effectively factored into all the forest and wildlife areas management plans and community ecosystem management plans.
  • Purchase of wildlife corridors: The draft policy indicates that CAMPA funds from diversion of forest land by industry are to be used for purchasing wildlife corridors from people.
  • Maintaining Urban forest: The policy also asks for management plans for city forests, parks, garden and woodlands to nurture and sustain urban health, clean air and related benefits.
  • Supports the Government Vermin Policy: In a nod to the Union government’s controversial decision to declare certain animals as “vermin” and implicitly sanctioning the slaughter of nilgai, wild pigs and monkeys in certain States, the forest policy recommends mitigating human-wildlife conflicts by taking up habitat enrichment, providing adequate and timely compensation in case of injury or loss of human life, property, crop damage or livestock casualties and developing teams of well-equipped and trained forest personnel.

Significance of the policy

  • The policy recommendation for the launch of a national forest streams revival programme in a mission mode to tackle intensifying water crisis in India in the last few decades is a good step.
  • The levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour, supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes will act as a step to mitigate the effects of pollution.
  • Besides specifying how to manage forests, the draft policy said, “Other ecosystems such as alpine meadows, grasslands, deserts, marine and coastal areas should be protected and managed as well” and this will help to make it comprehensive.
  • It calls for developing sound ecotourism models with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities which is a commendable move.

Criticism of the policy

  • NFP ignores Forests Rights Act, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests, and proposes a joint forest management-like mechanism to enhance agro-forestry. This move will bring back the forest department as the final authority over using forest resources instead of forest dwellers and communities dependent on them.

Way forward

  • After facing much criticism from the Civil society the centre has withdrawn the draft policy recently. The criticism is not misplaced as the draft policy proposes to dilute the Forests Rights Act (FRA), do away with requirement of having two-third geographical area of mountainous and hill regions under forests, and for allowing industry to have commercial plantations on the forest land , increase the power of the forest bureaucracy and keep local communities out of the decision-making process.
  • While devising a new policy, the ministry must not only focus on increasing the forest area and bettering the quality of the forests but also ensure that the connection between forest-dependent communities and forests is not lost.


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