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National Forest Policy in India: Critique of Targets and Implementation


For any country, the forest policy is an important guideline to maintain forest resources and their interaction with other land uses. India devised its first National Forest Policy (NFP) back in 1894. There has been a paradigm shift from timber production to forest conservation followed by community-based agroforestry and social forestry bringing a change in perspective towards forest resources. This change has been socio-economic, cultural and ecological. Since the 1952 NFP, there has been an advocacy for 33% forest cover with a 60% forest cover in mountainous and hilly regions. This objective was reiterated in the NFP 1988 and also confirmed in the National Forestry Commission report in 2006. This paper reviews the probable reasons for these targets. This paper also analyzes forest cover trends at state level and assesses the likelihood of meeting the prescribed policy targets under present perspective of land use practices. Only three Indian states meet the prescribed policy, while three more have the potential to do so, if their state wasteland area is afforested. Among the rest, a few states may achieve the 33% goal provided land conversion to tree cover is not hindered, and adequate resources are available at state level. The Planning Commission (XI Five-year Plan, 2007–12) has emphasized inclusion of other natural ecosystems (including treeless areas and trees outside forests) to forest cover. The paper also examines the above prescribed targets in light of the Planning Commission recommendations. It is argued that that the NFP should be re-visited and revised to meet the targets, along with setting a more realistic and attainable target for Indian forest and tree cover.

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Correspondence to Pawan Kumar Joshi.

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Joshi, A.K., Pant, P., Kumar, P. et al. National Forest Policy in India: Critique of Targets and Implementation. Small-scale Forestry 10, 83–96 (2011).

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  • Forest cover
  • Forest definition
  • Five-year plan
  • Joint management