Forests are crucial for India’s natural heritage, preserving ecological balance, supporting biodiversity, and providing resources to millions of people. However, growing urbanization, industrialization, and unsustainable land-use practices have created substantial obstacles to forest preservation in India. The country has established national parks, animal sanctuaries, and conservation reserves to protect its diverse range of plants and animals. Project Tiger, initiated in 1973, aims to save the Bengal tiger and its habitats, while Project Elephant, initiated in 1992, protects Asian elephants and their habitats. India has 18 Biosphere Reserves, including the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve, promoting sustainable development.

Conservation in Communities involves people working together to preserve natural resources and reduce pollution. India has initiated programs involving local communities in conserving forests, such as Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Community Forest Management (CFM), which help communities make decisions about forests and gain long-term benefits. India actively participates in global efforts to protect biodiversity and is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), committing to protecting biodiversity.

The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 was enacted to compensate for the commercialization of forestry, which led to long-term damage to the forest’s organic framework. The Act categorized forests into spared, secured, and town forests. The former categorizes forests as government property, allowing the government to control activities such as clearing trees, setting fire, and chasing. The latter grants the government control over government property and open forests, allowing them to reserve trees, burn charcoal, and evacuate timberland travelers. The final category is town forest, where the state government can designate rights over spared or secured forests to local communities.

The Indian Forest Act of 1927 aimed to prevent deforestation and budget deficit by granting the state government control over forests and requiring central government support for non-forest activities. The Supreme Court in T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India defined the term “forest” to include all legally recognized forests and forest land. A Promotion hoc compensatory afforestation back organization and planning master (CAMPA) was formed, and in Sushila Saw Plants v. State of Orissa, the court ruled that prohibiting saw handle access within 10 km of protected timberlands does not violate Article 149 of the Constitution.

Challenges faced by India’s forests include deforestation, hunting, habitat damage, and human activities. Deforestation occurs when forests are removed to make more room for farming, building things like roads and buildings, mining, and making cities bigger. Cutting down forests has a bad effect on climate change, biodiversity, and soil erosion. India lost about 12,000 square kilometers of forest between 2019 and 2021, showing the seriousness of the situation.

Poachers often go to protected areas to hunt animals for their body parts, which they then sell illegally. Construction projects also harm the environment and disrupt the natural balance. The Wildlife Protection Society of India has recorded many crimes involving animals, highlighting the importance of addressing these issues.

Illegal logging poses a big threat to India’s efforts to protect its forests, as people illegally cut down trees and take forest products for valuable wood. This practice harms the environment and causes corruption and crime. The Forest Survey of India found that illegal logging is a major part of the wood trade, with serious consequences for nature and the economy.

Forest shrinkage and habitat fragmentation can lead to conflicts and dangers for humans and animals, as invaded species can outcompete native plants and animals, affecting their essential services like pollination and water purification. Policy development and implementation are crucial for protecting forests, but enforcement is challenging due to resource limitations, corruption, and lack of knowledge among local communities.


Author: Nakshatra Sandeep Dapse, a Student at DES Shri Navalmal Firodiya Law College, Pune


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