The woods are lovely

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Manoj Kumar Sarcar & Aruna Basu Sarcar

March 21 is World Forestry day. Geographically, this is the day when seasonal changes coincide with the Equinox. Forests, classified as commercial resources, need to be protected and preserved. It is the responsibility of every individual to ensure that trees are planted and forests are protected.

MARCH 21 , World Forestry Day, was thought of at the European Conference of Agriculture in 1971, in Spain. Consequently, it was, decided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that it will be celebrated in every country. Geographically this day is when seasonal changes which coincide with the Equinox, the date when day and night are equal. The day is also when spring ends and summer begins. Physiologically, in the plant kingdom, this day coincides with a period of gradual increase in photo-period and the onset of active growth period of plant tissues despite the relatively dry season.

Indian civilisation, at all social levels, has been impregnated with environmental consciousness can be traced back to Vedic period onwards. We in India do not look upon our forests as mere sinks for toxic emissions. Forests mean much more to us.- more as a community resource linked to society, the economy and culture.

While the rich talk about the ozone- layer. global warming and forests as sinks for carbon emissions, communities around forests worry only about their day to day struggle for basic commodities like water, firewood and a square meal. For a layman away from the forests the term conservation seems to be complicated.

After independence, forests, in addition to being classified as commercial resources, were a resource that could be preserved and protected. With the changes in society, forest administration started losing its effectiveness. Several rules and regulations were passed to overhaul forest policies, yet they were not so effective from the social point of view. The preservation and protection that people could required even today were has on their social beliefs and rituals. The natural pockets of vegetation maintained and preserved for centuries in the name of a village deity were usually looked after by the local communities. but seldom touched for any kind of produce. They are b own to house many rare species, and are called sacred groves.

Forest management requires the cooperation of the people. Despite several attempts to preserve our biodiversity by declaring forests as protected ones, is there an example like the sacred groves maintained for several years by the local people without any incentive, or directions from any agencies?

The rapid depletion of forests is attributed to the rapid population growth, But there are policies, especially the National Forest Policy: 1952, which recommends tree planting. Though such schemes are successful, people’s participation in the preservation and protection of natural forests was not stressed.

In 1981, the idea was thought of in Tamil Nadu implemented as a part of joint forest management. The concept is around the protection of forests with a mutual understanding between the forest department and the people living near these areas.

A further step was taken up with a policy of people’s participation in forest management, implemented in ‘Arabari’ in west Bengal. About 20 states have launched the scheme.

The concept of pure air, pollution checks, acid rain does not bother the common man. Unless the individual is assured of logical returns, he will not be motivated to grow trees. It is here that the idea of tree crops comes in. The generous growth of Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) trees in the dry parts of southern India has fulfilled the house-hold demands of the poorest of the poor. In fact the wood cut from the forests is sold towards ensuring their daily income for the family.

Under the joint forest management scheme, the States have the liberalized the system of forest produce by providing free collection and sale of such produces. The 1988 National Forest Policy, emphasises improving the production and marketing of forest produce. If appropriate measures are initiated for this purpose the economic returns will be good.

According to a survey done by the Ministry of Environments and Forests, over 8,000 plant species are used as medicinal plants. The estimated market value of allopathic medicines derived from plants used in traditional remedies is over $43 billion annually. When an individual realises the necessity of planting and protecting trees he/she will require no further motivation.

Courtesy: The Hindu (SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1999)

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Manoj Kumar Sarcar & Aruna Basu Sarcar. The woods are lovely. The Hindu (SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1999). Via:


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