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Forests are a renewable source and contribute substantially to economic development. They play a major role in enhancing the quality of environment. The country has an area of 6,78,333 sq. km. notified as forests which represents 20.64 per cent of geographic area. Out of this, very dense forest constitutes 51,285 sq. km. (1.56%), moderately dense forest constitutes 3,39,379 sq. km. (10.32%) and open 2,87,669 sq. km. (8.76%).


India is one of the few countries which has a forest policy since 1894. It was revised in 1952 and again in 1988. The main plank of the Forest Policy of 1988 is protection, conservation and development of forest. Its aims are:

(i) maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance;

(ii) conservation of natural heritage;

(iii) check on soil erosion and denudation in catchment area of rivers, lakes and reservoirs;

(iv) check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts;

(v) substantial increase in forest tree cover through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes;

(vi) steps to meet requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and soil timber of rural and tribal populations;

(vii) increase in productivity of forest to meet the national needs;

(viii) encouragement of efficient utilisation of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood and;

(ix) steps to create massive people’s movement with involvement of women to achieve the objectives and minimise pressure on existing forests.

Under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, prior approval of the Central Government is required for diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes. Since the enactment of the Act, the rate of diversion of forest land has come down to around 25,000 hectares per annum from 1.43 lakh hectares per annum, before 1980.

In 1990, the Government issued guidelines to involve the village communities in the development and protection of degraded forests on the basis of their taking a share of the instruct from such areas. The concept of Joint Forest Management (JFM) was accordingly initiated. The JFM programme was pursued vigorously and as a result JFM resolution has now been adopted in all the 28 states. Total 84,632 JFM committees have been formed and 17.33 million hectares forest area have been brought under JFM programme. About 85.28 lakh families are involved in the programme all over the country.

Environmental Legislation

The Ministry has undertaken the formulation of a Comprehensive National Environment policy to harmonise the demands of development and environment in response to the need to weave environmental consideration into the fabric of development process and national life. The Ministry in consultation with experts, has prepared a draft National Environment Policy, 2005 to harmonize the demands of development and environment. The draft policy will be finalized after a series of discussions with several stake-holders in the country.


For sustainable development and optimal use of natural resources, environmental considerations are required to be integrated in planning, designing and implementation of development projects. To give legislative status to the procedure of impact asssement, EIA was made mandatory since January 1994 for 39 categories of development activities.


Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems which are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. The world’s major ecosystem types and landscapes are represented in this network. Biosphere reserves are multi-purpose protected areas to preserve the genetic diversity in representative eco-systems. Conserve diversity and integrity of plants, animals and micro-organisms; Promote research on ecological conservation and other environmental aspects and Provide facilities for education, awareness and training. So far, fifteen Biosphere Reserves have been set up. They are: (i) Nilgiri; (ii) Nanda Devi; (iii) Nokrek; (iv) Great Nicobar; (v) Gulf of Mannar; (vi) Manas; (vii) Sunderbans; (viii) Similipal and (ix) Dibru Saikhowa (x) Dehong Deband and (xi) Panchmarhi.(xii) Kanchanjunga (xiii) Augustyamalai (xiv) Achanhakmaar (Amar Kantak) and (xv) Kutch notified on January, 29, 2008.


Most of the wetlands in India are directly or indirectly linked with major river systems such as Ganga, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Tapti, Godavari, Krishna, Cauveri, etc.

Mangroves are salt-tolerant forest ecosystems found mainly in the tropical and sub-tropical inter-tidal regions of the world. They are reservoirs of a large number of plant and animal species associated together over a long evolutionary period and exhibiting remarkable capacity for salt tolerance. They stabilise the shoreline and act as a bulwark against encroachments by the sea. In India, Mangroves are the 5% of the world total and total area covered by them is 4500 sq km.

Four coral areas, Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands and Gulf of Kutch have been identified for conservation and management. State-level steering committees have been constituted for the formulation and implementation of management action plans. Such action plans have been sanctioned for Andaman and Nicobar and Gulf of Mannar coral reefs so far. Total area covered by coral reefs in India is 2375 sq km.


Realising the deteriorating air and water quality, increasing vehicular emission and higher noise level, the Ministry adopted a policy for abatement of pollution which provides multi-pronged strategies in the form of regulation, legislations, agreements, fiscal incentive and other measures.

An “Eco-mark” label has been introduced to label consumer products that are environment friendly. So far, the government has issued 19 notifications on different products criteria. A network of 332 Ambient Air quality monitoring stations covering 25 states and 4 Union territories has been set up by central pollution control board in coordination with the state pollution control Boards/Pollution Control Committees and institutions for carrying out regular monitoring.

Under National Air quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP), four air pollutants viz., Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen as Nox, suspended particular matter (SPM) and Respirable Particulate Matter (RSPM/M10), have been identified for regular monitoring at all the locations.


The Central Control Board (CPCB), an autonomous body of the ministry, was set up in September 1974, under the provisions of the water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, It coordinates the activities of the state pollution control committees (PCCs), and also advises the Central Government on all matter concerning the prevention and control of environmental pollution.

Seventeen categories of heavily polluting industries have been identified. They are: cement, thermal power plant, distilleries, sugar, fertilizer, integrated iron and steel, oil refineries, pulp and paper, petrochemical, pesticides, tanneries, basic drugs and paharmaceuticals, dye and dye intermediates, caustic soda, zinc smelter, copper smelter and aluminium smelter.


Project tiger was launched in 1973 with a mandate to conserve tigers in a holistic manner. These are fulfilled by facilitating focused, concerted management of ecotypical reserves in various states, constituted on a core buffer strategy through funding the technical support including site-specific inputs to elicit local community support for conservation. Initially, the project was launched in nine tieger, reserves, covering an area of 16,339 sq. km. which has now increased to 28 tiger reserves, encompassing 37,761 sq. km. of tiger habitat distributed in 17 states. Four new tiger reserves which were added recently: (i) Pakhi- Barmeri (Arunachal/Assam); (ii) Bori-satpura (Madhya Pradesh); (iii) Bhadra (Karnataka) (iv) Pench (Maharashtra).


The National Wildlife Action Plan provides the framework of strategy as well as progamme for conservation of wildlife. The first National Wild Life Action Plan (NWAP) of 1983 has been revised and the new wildlife action plan has been adopted. The Indian Board of wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, is the apex advisory body overseeing and guiding the implementation of various scheme for wildlife conservation. At present, the protected area network comprises 99 national parks and 513 sanctuaries, 41 conservation reserve and 4 community reserve. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 adopted by all states except Jammu and Kashmir (Which has its own act), governs wild life conservation and protection of endangered species. The act prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.


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