Forest and wildlife resources

This article gives details about Forest and Wildlife resources in India.

At present about 19.39 per cent of the geographical area of India is covered with forests. In measurement, forests cover about 637,203 sq. km of land.

By Flora we mean the total plant cover or vegetation of a region.

Species of animals, birds, reptiles etc. are referred to as fauna.

The existence of millions of living beings in this planet in the shape of human beings, plants and animals is known as biodiversity.

It is about 8 per cent of the total number of species in the world estimated to be 1.6 million.

Approximately 81,000. number of species of animals are found in India

About 47,000. number of species of plants in India

There are about 15,000. flowering plants in India Some non-flowering plants of our country are ferns, algae and fungi.’

The Ranvolfia Serpentania ( Sarpangandha) is a medicine plant which is found only in India.

Cheetak, Pink Headed Duck and Forest Spotted Owlet, are the animals which are on the verge of extinction. Gir forest in Gujarat is the natural habitat of the Indian Lion.

Five states which have less than 10 per cent of their areas under forest i) Haryana (ii) Punjab (iii) Gujarat (iv) Rajasthan (v) Delhi

U.S.A, Canada, Germany and Japan are the countries having higher percentage area under forest cover.

Elephants found in Assam, Kerala and Karnataka.
About 27 tiger reserves in the states under Project Tiger.

i) Siberian crane and ii) Flamingo, are the two migratory birds which come to India.

. Fauna in India consists of fish, birds, amphibians reptiles, mammals, insects, worms, etc.

Tiger is our national animal and Peacock is our national bird. Tigers and Rhinoceros are the two endangered species of wild life. The Asiatic Chetah is nearly extinct due to hunting and loss of available habitat. In Madhya Pradesh. the Narmada Sagar Project has being completed
Himalayan Yew in trouble because this plant is being exploited for making taxot a drug which is now selling as anti-cancer drug in the world.

Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under forests.
Tiger Project is established in Similipal in Orissa.
One horned Rhinoceros are found in swampy and marshy areas of Assam and West Bengal. Elephants are found in the jungles of Assam, Kerala and Karnataka.
The existence of millions of living beings – animal, plants and human beings – side by side is known as biodiversity.

Importance of biodiversity:

i) Human beings depend on biodiversity for their very survival.
ii) Without plants and animals we cannot survive.
iii) Plants create the quality of air we breathe in.

Those forests which are earmarked either for production of timber or for other forest products are called reserved forests. In such forests, the right of grazing and cultivation is seldom allowed. Of the total forest cover, 54.4% are the reserved forests.

Q3. What are the protected forests? What is the percentage of total forest cover under this category?

Protected forests are those forests which has the right of grazing and cultivation is allowed but subject to certain restrictions. Of the total forest cover, 29.2% are the protected forests.

Unclassed forests are those forests which are generally inaccessible or they are unoccupied wastes. Here no restrictions are imposed but because of the inaccessibility and hostile terrain, nobody can easily make use of them. Of the total forest cover 16% are the unclassed forests.

The bad effects of deforestation are that i) It accelerates soil erosion and affects underground flow of water adversely. ii) Depletion of forests leads to disappearance of wild life as well as many wild varieties of plants.
Depletion of forests accelerates soil erosion and affects underground flow of water adversely. It also leads to disappearance of wild life as well as wild variety of plants.

Such species of plants and animals whose population levels are considered normal for their survival are called normal species. Some of such species are cattle, sal and pine trees etc. Endangered Species are species which are near extinction if negative factors for their decline are not checked in time. Some such species are Indian Wild Ass, Indian Rhino, Crocodile, Black Buck and Lion Tailed Macaque ( African Ape) etc.

Vulnerable Species are the species whose number has declined to such levels from where they can move into the endangered category if negative factors against them continue unchecked. Some such species are Gangetic, Dolphines,Asiatic Elephants,Blue Sheep, etc.
Rare Species are those species whose population is so small that they may move into the vulnerable or endangered levels of negative factors continue to operate. Some such species are desert fox. Himalayan Brown Bear, Asiatic, Wild Buffallow and Hornbill etc.

Endemic Species are such species which are limited to particular areas due to natural or geographical barriers. Some such species are Andaman Wild Pig, Andaman Teal (Duck) and Nicobar Pigeon etc.

Extinct Species are such species which have not been found for more than 25 years in any part of the world are known as extinct species. They have been lost for ever. Such species are Asiatic Cheetah, Pink Head Duck, etc.

The main causes of the decline of India’s bio-diversity are Forest – fires, hunting, poaching, poisoning, environmental pollution, habitat destruction and over-exploitation etc.,led to the decline of India’s bio-diversity.

Species of animals have been given legal protection against hunting and trade in India are tiger, the one horned rhinoceros , the Kashmiri stag, specific types of crocodiles, Asian lions, the Indian elephant, the Indian bustard, the snow leopard, the black buck, etc.

Deforestation or cutting of trees affect the eco-system in many ways, the chief being the following:

1. It accelerates soil erosion and affects underground flow of water adversely.
2. Depletion of forests leads to disappearance of wild life as well as many wild varieties of plants.

. Afforestation plays a major role in enhancing the quality of environment.

1. They modify local climate. They influence air temperature and reduce wind force.
2. Afforestation helps in controlling soil erosion.
3. Afforestation provides natural environment for wild life.
4. Afforestation helps in enhancing the quality of rainfall.

The Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur are among the North-Eastern states of India having over 60 per cent of forest cover. The reasons for the same are the following:

1. There is an abundance of rainfall in the North-Eastern states including Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
2. The hilly terrain of these states protects the forests from human exploitation so they remain safe from deforestation activities.

A National Park is relatively a large area where several ecosystems exist freely and are not distributed materially by human exploitation and occupation and where plant and animal species, aesthetic sites and habitats are of special scientific, educational and recreational interest.

These areas are given the highest degree of protection with virtually no human activity barring passage, management work and very restricted tourism.

A wild life sanctuary is like a national park but the difference is that in a sanctuary certain types of activities might be permitted. Livestock grazing and collection of forest produce, for instance, may be allowed. Secondly, in a national park, conservation of species are mostly left in nature, with the least human activity, but in a sanctuary conservation of species are affected by manipulative management. Thirdly, a sanctuary enjoys a less degree of protection than a national park.

Biosphere Reserves are multipurpose protected areas created to deal with the issue of conservation of bio-diversity and its sustainable use.

In a biosphere reserve, local communities, management agencies, scientists , cultural groups and non-government agencies work together to manage and substantially develop the area resources. Here even agricultural activities are allowed to the local communities and bonafide employment is provided to them. Tourism is allowed to boost revenue.

Forests are very unevenly distributed in India. Some areas like Haryana have as low as 3.8 per cent of their area under forest cover while there are other states like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where the forest cover ranges between 86.9 per cent.

Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir have less than 10 per cent of their areas under forest cover.

Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya have more than 60 per cent areas covered with forests.

At present about 23.3 per cent area of India is under forests, where as according to National Forest Policy it should be about 33 per cent.

The Project Tiger :

Apprised of the serious threat to tigers and their dwindling population due to poaching for trade, shrinking habitat, depletion of prey – based species, growing human population etc. and animal lovers all over the world, the Tiger Project was started throughout the world in 1973. The Government of India also took an active part in the Tiger Project to save this important species. About 27 Tiger Reserves in India were erected to save this endangered animal. The chief among them are however the following:

Corbett National Park in Uttrakhand, Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Sariska Wildlife Santuary in Rajasthan, Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala.

Forests are very useful to man in a number of ways:

1. The wood that we get from the forests, is important for building and construction purposes, for domestic furniture and for fuel.
2. The raw materials for paper industry, match making and sports material are mainly derived from the forests.
3. Moreover, the sandal wood, gums, resins, turpentine oil etc., are also extracted from the forest products. Besides the above products, the forests yield many other useful products such as herbs, lac, honey etc.
4. Grass grown in forests is used for grazing the cattle, sheep, camel, etc. To great extent, the shortage for fodder is also made up by these forests.
5. They play a major role in enhancing the quality of environment. They modify local climate.
6. They help in controlling soil erosion.
7. They provide natural environment for wild life.
8. They help in enhancing the quantity of rainfall.

So, it becomes quite evident that forests play an important role in the life of a nation. They make a great contribution in the creation of economic structure of a country. It is, therefore, no exaggerating the fact, that if we say that the forests are the national wealth.

More important is that their part in sustaining the environmental stability and in maintaining the ecological balance which are quite vital for all forms of life.

Humans and their activities have adversely affected the biosphere and led to the depletion of the flora and fauna in a number of ways:

1. Humans have cleared the jungles for their own living and the livings of their animals as well as for the construction of their houses. Too much destruction of trees has distributed the ecosystem and created various health problems for themselves.
2. The agriculture expansion during the colonial rule and even after independence proved one of the major causes of the depletion of the flora and fauna.
3. The great demand of sleeper for the expansion of railways and ship-building during the colonial rule also inflicted great damage to the Indian forests.
4. As a result of the removal of the original plant cover and its replacement by a single crop, the biological diversity has been reduced and a single crop has become vulnerable to pests and diseases.
5. As has been said above, the burning of fossil fuel in large quantities, automobile exhausts gaseous effluents from factories have led to the pollution of air and water.
6. As a result of the pollution of air and water, various species of plants have become extinct because pollution of air and water adversely affects plants.
7. Man is omnivorous because he feeds both on plant and animal life. As a result of his blind and continuous hunting some species of birds and animals have become extinct and others are leading towards extinction.

The methods of forest conservation.are:

1. Firstly, the cutting of trees in the forests must be stopped at all costs. Our Government has taken various steps in this direction.

2. The people on their part also cooperate to check the felling of trees. Fortunately, some people have come forward in this direction. They have started movements, like the Chipko Movement to check the careless felling of trees in the forests.

3. If trees are to be cut for wood or for building purposes or for industrial raw material, this work should be done in a planted manner. Where the trees have been cut, new trees should be planted then and there so that deforestation does not take place and there is no loss to ecological balance.
4. Functions like VANAMAHOTSAVAS should be celebrated everywhere and at every time so that new trees are planted in large numbers.
5. Mass media like newspapers, radio, television and cinema can help a lot in this direction.
6. We should brig more and more areas under forests for the banalced development of our country.

There is no denying the fact that the government has taken many steps for the conservation and protection of forests and wildlife. But the work done in this direction by many communities of India is also commendable in more than one way.

1. In Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan people fought against the mining activity which was doing havoc with the forest reserves.
2. Likewise the residents of about five villages in Rajasthan without taking the government help are themselves declared 1,200 hectares of land as the Bhairodev Dakar Somchuri.

By making their own rules and regulations, they do not allow hunting thereby protecting the wildlife against any outside encroachment.

3. Some people, especially, the tribal people, regard many trees sacred and they do not allow any body cut these trees. Some such trees are mahua trees, kadamba trees, tamarind trees, mango trees over and above the peepal and the banyan trees which are venerated by most of the Hindus.
4. Likewise, certain animals like monkeys, langoors, black buck (chinkara ) nilgai, peacocks are held sacred and are not harmed by anybody. Such a practice is very common in and around Bishnoi village in Rajasthan.
5. The Chipko Movement in the Himalayas, as described above, has successfully resisted deforestation.
6. The joint forest program has involved the local communities, especially in orissa in the management and restoration of degraded forests. Such a practice has proved environment friendly and economically rewarding.

. India is rich in flora as it possesses about 47,000 different species of plants. About 5,000 of them are found exclusively in India. Natural vegetation depends very much on climatic conditions and soils. The large variety of flora depends on the varied land forms, terrain, soils, range of daily and annual types such as laterite soils, black soils, alluvial soils, etc. India also possesses various types of climate. There are certain regions which have equable and moderate climate. Certain areas have extreme weather in winter and summer. Certain regions in India get a rainfall of 200 cm and above annually. Certain areas get moderate rainfall while certain regions in India get a rainfall of 200 cm and above annually. Certain areas get moderate rainfall while certain regions receive low or scanty rainfall. The range of daily and annual temperature in India also varies from region to region. All these factors result in various types of flora in India such as different types of forests, grasses, shrubs etc. India is rich in flowering and non-flowering plants. Flora in India ranges from the one found in the Tropical Zone to that of the Arctic Zone.

Our wildlife or the so called fauna is very rich and varied. It consists of fish, birds and animals including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, small insects and worms. There are about 89,000 species of fauna.

The mammas include elephants ( Assam, Kerala, Karnataka ) camels and wild asses ( arid areas of Rajasthan and Rann of Kutch ), rhinoceroses ( Assam, N.W. Bengal ), Indian bisons, buffaloes, Nilgiri, chousingha, gazel, deer,etc. Among the animals of prey are included lions ( Gujarat ), tigers ( Sunderbans in Bengal ) and leopards of various types found in the Himalayan region. The Himalayan ranges are the home of several interesting animals such as wild sheep, mountain goats, the ibex (wild goat ), the shrew
( a small animal like mouse ) and the tapir( a hoofed animal like a rhinocereos) snow leopard etc.

India also has several species of monkeys such as the langur, the lion-tailed macque etc. There are also variety of birds found I different parts of India. The chief among them are peacocks, goose, pheasants, ducks, mynahs, pigeons, parrots, cranes, hornbills and sunbirds etc. They belong to both forests and wet lands.

India also possesses 2500 species of fish which dwell in lakes, rivers, seas and oceans.

Remember our national animal is tiger ad our national bird is peacock.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of wild animals and birds in their natural habitat, you can do the same by visiting the different bird sanctuaries, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and biosphere reserves.

Bird Sanctuaries – Bharatpur in Rajasthan, Rangnathaittoo in Karnataka and vedanthangal in Tamil Nadu are the most important.

National Park – There are about 89 National Park in the country. The most important are Corbett ( for Tiger Protection ) in Uttarakhand and Dudwa ( Monkey ) in U.P., Gir ( Lion ) in Gujarat, Shivpuri ( Wolf) and Kanha Kisli ( Deer, Antelope ) in Madhya Pradesh, Rajdewra ( Monkey ) in Jharkhand, Simplipal ( tiger ) in Orrisa, Kanheri (Deer ) and Todaba ( Bison ) in Maharashtra.

Wild Life Sanctuaries – There are about 490 Wild Life Sanctuaries in the country. However, the following are the most important : Dachigam ( Jammu and Kashmir ): Rajaji and Banbasa in Uttarakhand and Assam; Ranthambhor and Sariska in Rajasthan; kawal in Maharashtra, Chandaka in Orissa, Pocharam and Etumagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Bandipur in Karnataka, Guindy and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu, and Periyar in Kerala.

Biosphere Reserves – There are 13 biosphere reserves are multipurpose protected areas. Some of the most important are: Nilgiri ( Karnataka ) ; Nandadevi (Uttarakhand), Nokrek ( Meghalaya ) , Andaman Nicobar Islands, Sundarbans ( West Bengal) etc.

To conserve the endangered species of wildlife, various steps have been taken by the Government. The chief among them are, however, the following:

Firstly, various national parks, sanctuaries and biosphere reserves have been set up in various parats of India where wild animals and birds are kept in their natural habitat. Nilgiri at the junction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and Nanda Devi in Uttar Pradesh are some such biosphere reserves. India has 89 national parks, 490 wild life sanctuaries, 13 biosphere reserves to protect wildlife.

Secondly, periodic censuses are being taken to find out the latest position of some rare species so that they can be preserved for our future generations. Tigers and Rhinocereoses are some endangered species of wild life in India, so for them special projects have been prepared. Tiger Project have proved very successful. After 20 tiger reserves have been set up in different parts of India. Likewise Rhino Project is also being implemented in the Kaziranga bird – reserve of Assam.

Thirdly, the killing of wildlife has been banned by the Government. Special Forest Officers have been appointed to catch unlawful animal hunters.

Fourthly, besides the government, it is also our duty to preserve the wild life. We should avoid reckless hunting of wild animals and birds. Likewise indiscriminate felling of trees and clearing of forests, which maintain wild animals and birds, should also be avoided. We must take all positive measures to protect our wild life which is our national wealth.


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