Now-a-days there is a growing tendency of destructing the very ecosystem that sustains life. It leads to the decay and decline of our huge forest resources in the name of so-called civilization and the lust for senseless progress. There are various factors responsible for the shrinking of the forest area. After independence there has been a callous, commercial exploitation policy. It has spelt the irreparable loss of forest cover, so essential for our survival. The upkeep of our biodiversity, preservation of our wildlife, our rare medicinal plants and the natural check against the twin scourges of our country -- floods and drought.
It is approximately assumed that nearly 50 per cent of India’s present area of 328.7 million hectares was under forest cover when the population was a mere 238 million. By 1951 the forest cover came to an all time low of 75 million. According to the 1995 assessment of forest cover by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), there are about 64 million hectares of forest now; in other words, only 19.5 per cent of India’s land area is now under forest. It is feared that if no-planned and emergency steps are taken over the next few years and decades, even the remaining forests would be supplanted by wastelands. In the race for commercial exploitation of forests before and a few decades after Independence we have clearly ignored the close kinship of the plant kingdom, animal kingdom and human kingdom. The lifestyle of indigenous forest tribes and people of the northern and north-eastern hill regions and of the Western Ghats demonstrates the absolute dependence of man on forests. The opening of the forest areas has also led to large-scale hunting and killing of precious fauna and eruption of conflicts between local tribal’s and outsider’s who sought to exploit the forest land for purely commercial purpose.
The government too woke up to a rational thinking on forest conservation too late and by the time it realized its responsibilities and folly, enough damage had already been done. Both the forest policies (1954 and 1970’s) were ecologically unsound and reduced the natural forest cover. At long last a new forest policy emerged in 1988 laying greater emphasis on the conservation of soil and environment, balanced silvicultural practices through promotion of non-timber forest products and fulfillment of the basic needs of the people living in the forest regions. A lion’s credit for promoting the ecological awareness on forests should go to several people’s movements who crusaded against the despoliation of the forests by both government agencies and business and commercial interests. One of these movements, the Chipko Movement led by the environmentalist crusader, Sunderlal Bahuguna, became world famous. More NGOs and activists sprang into action in different parts of the country to protect the ecology of the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.