Forest and Wildlife Resources (Class 10 Geography Chapter 2 Notes)

Indian Elephant
Indian Elephant
India and its Biodiversity
Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of organisms exist in a region. It is an indicator of a healthy and rich environment.

India is one of the 17 mega-biodiverse countries. It is home to nearly 8% of world species (nearly 1.6 million). Out of which, there are 81000 fauna species and 47000 flora species.

However, due to mindless human activities, the biodiversity is under threat. It is estimated 10% of flora and 20% of mammal species are under threat. Many of these species are categorised as "critically endangered" which means these species are on the verge of extinction such as cheetah, pink-headed duck, mountain quail, forest spotted owlet, madhuca insignis and hubbardia heptaneuron (a grass species).

IUCN Classification
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) species can be categorized under the following categories
1. Normal species - with a considerably normal population such as cattle, sal, pine and rats
2. Endangered species - which are on the verge of extinction such as blackbuck, Indian wild ass, Indian rhinoceros, lion-tailed macaque and sangai.
3. Vulnerable species - whose population has declined significantly and can move into endangered species category in the near future if negative factors continue to affect such as Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphins and blue sheep.
4. Rare species - whose population has declined significantly and can move into endangered or vulnerable species category in near future if negative factors continue to affect such as Himalayan by own bear, wild Asiatic buffalo and desert fox.
5. Endemic species - which are found in a specific region within a natural boundary such as Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon and Andaman wild pig.
6. Extinct species - not found in their natural habitats - a species may extinct from a region, state, nation, continent and earth such as dodo and passenger pigeon.

Negative Factors Behind Depletion of Flora and Fauna
1. Agricultural Expansion
2. Preference to commercially valuable species
3. Large scale development projects
4. Mining and quarrying
5. Overgrazing and fuelwood collection
6. Industrial expansion and urbanization of economy
7. Environmental pollution
8. Over-population
9. Habitat destruction along with hunting and poaching

Social Impact of Biodiversity Depletion
The biodiversity depletion not only result in loss of flora and fauna species, but it made a severe impact on marginalized and forest-dependent communities. The communities are dependent on forests for their food, medicine and drink. In addition, they are also culturally and spiritually dependent on forests.

Women are most vulnerable in these communities as they bear the responsibility to collect fuel, water and fodder from the forest. With depletion in resources, they sometimes need to travel more than 10 km.

Conservation of Forest and Wildlife in India
Many have understood conservation of forest and wildlife is not essential to save our biodiversity, but we as humans are intricately dependent on them. For example, we have not developed any substance which can replace food crops and fill our bellies. We are still dependent on nature for our food.

The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was first such major effort by Government of India to save our forests and preserve biodiversity in large. The aim of the act to protect the remaining population of certain endangered species by putting a ban on hunting, giving legal protection to their habitats, and making the wildlife trade a punishable offence.

Following, several wildlife sanctuaries and national parks were established by Central and States Government of India. The Central Government also announced several conservation projects such as Project Tiger, Project Rhino, Project Hangul and most recently Project Elephant. They also came up with a protection plan for animals and birds such as blackbuck (chinkara), the great Indian bustard (godawan) and the snow leopard.

Project Tiger
The Project Tiger was launched in the wake of the realization that the tiger population has dropped significantly from estimated 55000 (1901) to 1827 in 1973.
The major threats to the tiger population are poaching, shrinking habitat, depletion of prey base and growing human population. They are poached for their skin and bones.
The Project saw an initial success. Tiger population peaked 4334 in 1989, but since 1993, it is depleting. As of 2014 population count, it stands at 2226. It dipped dismally low to 1411 in 2006. As of 2018, there are 50 tiger reserves in India.

India conservation programme is now focussed on preserving biodiversity rather than single species. Under the Wildlife Act of 1980 and 1986, several species of butterflies, moths, and beetles were added to the protected list along with one dragonfly. In 1991, six plant species were added to the list.

Types and Distribution of Forest and Wildlife Resources

In India, most of the forests are either managed by the Forest Department or other governmental agencies. The forests in India are grouped into the following categories
1. Reserved Forests: More than half of the Indian forests are categorized as reserved forests. They enjoy judicial protection and considered one of the most valuable resources of our country.
2. Protected Forests: Around one-third of Indian forests are protected forests. They also enjoy judicial protection but local people are allowed to collect timber or fuelwood without causing any serious damage.
3. Unclassified Forests: These forests belong to both Government and Communities. They do not enjoy any kind of judicial protection.

Reserved and Protected Forests are also known as Permanent Forest Estates.

Madhya Pradesh
has the largest area under permanent forests, comprising 75% of the total forest area. Northeast India has highest unclassified forest area.

Community and Conservation

The local communities play a vital role in forest conservation and examples of their participation are spread throughout the country. In Sariska Tiger Reserve, villagers fought against mining activities with help of Indian Wildlife Protection Act. In Alwar, five villages declared 1200 acres of community land as Bhairodev Dakav 'Sonchuri' to protect local flora and fauna. Chipko Movement in the Himalayas, Beej Bachao Aandolan in Tehri and Navdanya have shown community effort and dedication to preserve our environment.

The Government across the world have identified the importance of local communities in the conservation of biodiversity. Keep this in mind, they have come up with Joint Forest Management (JFM). In India, such an initiative was first taken by the State Government of Odisha in 1988.