Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Aug, 29, 2019

REDD+ Himalayan programme extended till 2020


  • 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.
Aug, 28, 2019

Explained: Land Degradation Neutrality


  • 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”.
Jul, 20, 2019

CAMPA funds should be used to conserve nature


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.
Jun, 19, 2019

India unlikely to meet carbon sink commitment


  • 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.
May, 09, 2019

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


  • 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.
Apr, 20, 2019

[op-ed snap] Humanise the law


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.

Apr, 17, 2019

Scientific management of mangroves is need of the hour


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.
Apr, 08, 2019

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.
Mar, 23, 2019

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.
Mar, 23, 2019

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.
Mar, 20, 2019

[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.






Mar, 09, 2019

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?

Feb, 28, 2019

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.
Jan, 29, 2019

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).
Dec, 20, 2018

Centre to give Indian Forest Act a facelift


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Forest Act, 1927

Mains level:  Amending the colonial era definition acts and policies


  • The MoEFCC has started the process of “comprehensively amending” the backbone of forest governance in India—the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA).

Weeding out process

  1. The process would involve the examination of all the sections of the Act.
  2. The obsolete provisions will be weeded out and provisions fit for the present will be introduced.
  3. The amendments will also include definitions of terms like forests, pollution, ecological services etc.
  4. There is no definition of forest in any Indian law pertaining to forest or its governance.

Defining Forests

  1. According to the 1996 Supreme Court order, the dictionary definition of the word forest is taken to be the legal definition too.
  2. This description covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act (1980).
  3. The term forest land, occurring in Section 2, will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the ownership.

Impact of amendment

  1. The legal definition of forests will have huge ramifications on the conservation of forests as well as the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
  2. The amendments will include changes to punishments and fines prescribed in the IFA, incorporate provisions related to carbon sequestering, ecological services etc.

Why such move?

  1. The provisions of IFA, like the amount of the fines prescribed for violating the law, were set according to that time and they are very low for today.
  2. Moreover, many laws concerning forest government have been implemented since 1927, with this amendment we will try to address conflicts which might be there in these laws with respect to the IFA.
  3. Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.

Recent amendments in the IFA

  1. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was amended to add new changes to transform the bamboo sector.
  2. Before, bamboo was categorised as a tree. As a result, felled or extracted bamboo, whether found in or brought from a forest, was considered as “timber”.
  3. The Act empowered state governments to regulate the trade and movement of bamboo.
  4. After amending Section 2(7) of Indian Forest Act, 1927, bamboo is no longer a tree and felled bamboo too is not timber.
  5. So any bamboo grown in private or homestead land by millions of farmers does not require a felling permission or transit permission from any state forest department.


Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA)

  1. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on the British made Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  2. Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  3. It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  4. It defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
  5. Reserved Forest is an area mass of land duly notified under the provisions of India Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having full degree of protection. In Reserved Forests, all activities are prohibited unless permitted.
Oct, 31, 2018

[op-ed snap] Assault on Aravallis

Related image


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aravali ranges (location, unique features)

Mains level: How does Aravali mountain range help in pollution reduction in Delhi NCR and Indo-Gangetic plain in general


Degradation of Aravali Mountain Range

  1. The Supreme Court has reprimanded the Rajasthan government for its failure to check illegal mining in an over 100-hectare range of the Aravalli mountains
  2. India’s oldest mountain range has lost nearly a fourth of its hills
  3. The apex court referred to a report of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) — the body that advises it on forest-related matters — which pointed out that 31 of the 128 hills in the Aravallis “have vanished”

Impact of the loss

  1. It could be a reason for the rising pollution levels in the National Capital Region (NCR)
  2. In the past two decades, several studies have pointed out that the denudation of the hills is leading to the drifting of desert sands towards the plains
  3. Last year, a study by the Wildlife Institute of India pointed out that the shrinking green cover in the Aravallis is a major reason for the increase in the intensity of dust storms in the Indo-Gangetic plains

Importance of Aravali

  1. Extending for nearly 700 km from Banaskantha in Eastern Gujarat to Southern Haryana, through Rajasthan and Delhi, the Aravallis have played a major role in shaping the terrain of large parts of north-western India
  2. For more than three billion years, its hills have moderated the velocity of winds that blow towards North India and resisted the advance of the Thar Desert towards the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain

What needs to be done?

  1. SC’s strictures on mining in the range should be followed in letter and spirit
  2. Illegal construction in the Aravalli hills needs to be stopped
  3. The censure should apply to the Haryana government as well

Way forward

  1. The warning bells rung by the latest CEC report should make the two state governments change their ways
  2. While the Aravallis’ role as a green lung for the NCR should, in itself, be the compelling reason to halt its degradation, the other ecosystem services it provides demand the strict application of the principle of sustainable development to regulate activities such as mining and construction
Apr, 13, 2018

No easing of mining norms


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Forest Advisory Committee, open forests

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


Limits remain for exploratory boreholes

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

Why the limits?

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

Easing the procedure

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

Government unveils draft national forest policy


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Policies and programs for forest management and conservation


National Forest Policy

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

India’s forest cover

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

Proposals in NFP 2018

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

Maintenance of forests and green tax

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

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


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Issues related to forest conservation


Concerns related to compensatory afforestation

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

Act encourages bureaucratic encroachment

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

Commercial plantations in name of afforestation

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

Shortcomings in the act

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

Solution to this problem

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

Way forward

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

Government weighs doubling of protected areas over next few years


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aichi targets

Mains level: Important step for achieving Aichi targets.


Future plan of the Environment Ministry

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

Current situation

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

Why is this important?

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

Next possible step

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

[op-ed snap] Woods and trees



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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the report

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


‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ 

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

India’s forest cover is not satisfactory

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

Other findings of the report

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

What should be done?

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

India posts marginal increase in forest cover, says report

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

Mains level: Status of forests in India


India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017

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

Long-standing status and targets

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

India’s ranking in world 

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

Fluctuations in forest categories

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

Major change

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


India State of Forest Report

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

First family tree for tropical forests

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tropical forests, plate tectonics

Mains level: Types of forests and their extent in India


Tropical forests in different continents are related

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

A new plant classification system necessary

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

About the study

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


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


Tropical forests

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

[oped snap] The bamboo curtain


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between tree and grass.

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


Bamboo: Grass or Tree

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

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

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

Does the amended law demolish the bamboo curtain?

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

The way forward

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

Key ministries disagree over CAMPA fund


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

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


Roadblock to the CAMPA fund

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

What does finance ministry want?

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

Why should this not happen?

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


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

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

Image Source


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

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Geographical location of Seychelles

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


Unannounced visit to Seychelles

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

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

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

Particulars of the agreement

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

Concerns of India over China’s presence in Seychelles

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

India’s relations with Seychelles

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

Environment Ministry withdraws draft forest policy

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

Draft forest policy moots green cess

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

Draft National Forest Policy- new institutional arrangements

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

Draft National Forest Policy- community

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

Draft National Forest Policy

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

Diversion of forest land to set up missile testing facility


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

What are various classification of forests?

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

Green cover battling for survival in Karnataka

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

India adds 112 sq. km. to mangrove cover

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