Forest and Wildlife Resources
The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: In the 1960s and 1970s, the conservationists demanded some rules to protect the wildlife. Conceding to their demand, the government enacted the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Under this act, an all India list of protected species was published. Hunting was banned to protect the remaining population of some endangered species. Trade in wildlife was restricted and the habitats of wildlife were given legal protection many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries were established by various state governments and the central government. Several projects were announced for protecting specific animals, e.g. Project Tiger.
Benefits of Conservation:
- Conservation helps in preserving ecological diversity and our life support systems; water, air and soil.
- It preserves the genetic diversity of plants and animals.
Government's Categorization of Forests:
- Reserved Forests: More than half of the total forest land has been declared reserved forests. These are considered as the most valuable from conservation perspective.
- Protected Forests: Almost one-third of the total forest area is protected forest. The protected forests are protected from any further depletion.
- Unclassed Forests: Forests which do not come under either of the above two categories are called unclassed forests.
New Trends In Conservation Policy
Increase Biodiversity: The new trend in conservation policy is the focus on biodiversity rather than on a few of its components. So, instead of just focusing on bigger mammals; like tiger and lion, even insects are finding a place in conservation planning. New notifications were issued under Wildlife Act of 1980 and 1986. As per them; several hundred butterflies, moths, beetles and one dragonfly have been added to the list of protected species. Six species of plants were added to the list in 1991.
Community and Conservation
- Many local communities have recognized that conservation can secure their long-term livelihood. At many places, such communities are coordinating with government officials in conservation efforts.
- At Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan), villagers have fought against mining by citing the Wildlife Protection Act.
- In many villages, people are protecting habitats and are explicitly rejecting government involvement. For example; the inhabitants of five villages in Alwar district of Rajastahn have declared 1,200 hectares of forest as the Bhairodev Dakav ‘Soncuri’. They have declared their own set of rules and regulation to protect the wildlife.
- Nature worship is an age old custom in the Hindu religion and in many tribes. Sacred groves in forests are the result of this tradition. Such spots in forests are untouched by human intervention.
- The Mundas and the Santhals of Chhota Nagpur region worship mahua (Bassia latifolia) and kadamba (Anthocaphalus cadmba) trees. Similarly, the tribals of Orissa and Bihar worship the tamarind (Tamarinudus indica) and mango (Mangifera indica); as part of wedding rituals.
- Monkeys are considered the representatives of the Hindu god Hanuman. At most of the places people do not harm monkeys or langurs because of this belief. In and around Bishnoi villages in Rajasthan, chinkara, nilgai and peacocks are protected by the community and nobody harms them.
- The Chipko Movement is a good example of community participation in conservation programme.
- Farmers and citizen’s groups like the Beej Bachao Andolan in Tehri and Navdanya have shown that adequate levels of diversified crop production without the use of synthetic chemicals are possible and economically viable.
- The Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme is another example of involvement of local communities in forest management. This programme has been in practice in Orissa since 1988. Under this programme, the local villagers form some institutions and manage the conservation activities. In lieu of that, they get the right to take and utilize some forest resources.
- Project Tiger was launched in 1973; to protect tigers from becoming extinct.
- At the turn of the 20th century, the tiger population was around 55,000 which dwindled to 1,827 by 1973.
- Threats for Tiger Population: Poaching for trade, shrinking habitat, depletion of base prey species, growing human population, etc.
Current Status: 27 tiger reserves covering 37,761 sq km.
Important Tiger Reserves: Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand), Sunderband National Park (West Bengal), Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh), Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary (Rajasthan), Manas Tiger Reserve (Assam) and Periyar Tiger Reserve (Kerala)
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