Forest conservation is the practice of planting and maintaining forested areas for the benefit and sustainability of future generations. The conservation of forest also stands & aims at a quick shift in the composition of trees species and age distribution. Forest conservation involves the upkeep of the natural resources within a forest that are beneficial to both humans and the environment. Forests are vital for human life because they provide a diverse range of resources: they store carbon and act as carbon sink, produce oxygen which is vital for existence of life on the earth, so they are rightly called as earth lung, help in regulating hydrological cycle, planetary climate, purify water, provide wildlife habitat (50% of the earth's biodiversity occurs in forests), reduce global warming, absorb toxic gases and noise, reduce pollution, conserve soil, mitigate natural hazards such as floods and landslides and so on.
But now-a-days, forest cover is depleting rapidly due to many reasons such as an expansion of agriculture, timber plantation, other land uses like pulp and paper plantations, urbanization, construction of roads, industries, constitutes the biggest and severe threat to the forest causing serious environmental damage.
Forests have an intricate interrelationship with life and environment. These provide numerous direct and indirect advantages to our economy and society. Hence, conservation of forest is of vital importance to the survival and prosperity of humankind.
National Forest Policy
Accordingly, the Government of India proposed to have a nation-wide forest conservation policy, and adopted a forest policy in 1952. The role of forests in the national economy and ecology was further emphasized in the 1988 National Forest Policy, which focused on ensuring environmental stability, restoring the ecological balance, and preserving the remaining forests. Other objectives of the policy were meeting the need for fuelwood, fodder, and small timber for rural and tribal people while recognising the need to actively involve local people in the management of forest resources.
Also in 1988, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was amended to facilitate stricter conservation measures. A new target was to increase the forest cover to 33% of India's land area from the then-official estimate of 23%.
The objectives of the 1988 National Forest Policy were:
- bringing 33 percent of the geographical areas under forest cover;
- maintaining environmental stability and to restore forests where ecological balance was disturbed;
- conserving the natural heritage of the country, its biological diversity and genetic pool;
- checks soil erosion, extension of the desert lands and reduction of floods and droughts;
- increasing the forest cover through social forestry and afforestation on degraded land;
- increasing the productivity of forests to make timber, fuel, fodder and food available to rural population dependant on forests, and encourage the substitution of wood;
- creating of a massive peoples movement involving women to encourage planting of trees, stop felling of trees and thus, reduce pressure on the existing forest.
The 2009 Forest Policy document emphasizes the need to combine India's effort at forest conservation with sustainable forest management. India defines forest management as one where the economic needs of local communities are not ignored, rather forests are sustained while meeting nation's economic needs and local issues through scientific forestry.
Social forestry is the management and protection of forest and afforestation of barren and deforested lands with the purpose of helping environmental, social and rural development. Social forestry is basically a "for the people, by the people and of the people" approach. It is, therefore, a democratic approach to forest conservation and usage.
The term social forestry was first used in 1976 by The National Commission on Agriculture, Government of India. The Commission on classified social forestry into three categories described as below:
- Urban forestry: It pertains to the raising and management of trees on public and privately owned lands in and around urban centres such as green belts, parks, roadside avenues, industrial and commercial green belts, etc.
- Rural forestry: It envisages on the plantations of multi-utility of trees at the certain distance in arrow according to the crops is done under agroforestry. The goal of the Rural forestry is the protection, management and sustainability of forests, woodlands and agroforestry resources (windbreaks and riparian forest buffers) in the rural landscapes.
- Farm forestry: Farm forestry is the name given to programmes which promote commercial tree growing by farmers on their own land. Farm forestry is defined as the practice of forestry in all its aspects in and the around the farms or village lands integrated with other farm operations.
Farm forestry: This is the management of trees for a specific purpose within a farming context. Typically this is a timber plantation on private land. However, it can be applied to a range of enterprises utilizing different parts of the tree and managed in a variety of ways.
Agroforestry: This is the combining of agriculture and tree growing so as to produce both agricultural products and tree products on a commercial basis. The purpose of this is to gain positive interactions between the two systems at both the paddock level and the enterprise level. The two systems may be fully physically integrated, or treated as separate entities within a single business enterprise. It is therefore ideally suited to the landholder seeking to enter farm forestry on a small scale, whilst maintaining an existing agricultural enterprise.
Agroforestry is the raising of trees and agriculture crops on the same land inclusive of the waste patches. It combines forestry with agriculture, thus, altering the simultaneous production of food, fodder, fuel, timber and fruit. Community forestry involves the raising of trees on public or community land such as the village pasture and temple land, roadside, canal bank, strips along railway lines, and schools etc. Community forestry programme aims at providing benefits to the community as a whole. Community forestry provides a means under which the people of landless classes can associate themselves in tree raising and thus, get those benefits which otherwise are restricted for landowners.