India - Forestry

The major forestlands lie in the foothills of the Himalayas, the hills of Assam state, the northern highlands of the Deccan, the Western Ghats, and the Andaman Islands. Other forestlands are generally scrub and poor secondary growth of restricted commercial potential. India's forests are mostly broad-leaved; the most important commercial species are sal (10.9% of forest trees), mixed conifers (8.1%), teak (6.8%), fir (3.2%), chir-pine (2.4%), and upland hardwood (2.4%). In 2000 there were 64,113,000 hectares (158,423,000 acres) of forestland, according to a satellite survey. About 40% of the forest area is highly degraded and devoid of wood producing trees.

India's forests have historically suffered tremendous pressure from its large human and animal populations as a source of fuel wood, fodder, and timber. In recent decades, harvesting and encroachment resulted in a 2.3% reduction of forest land each year. According to the government's national forest policy, 33% of the land area should be covered by forest, but actual forest coverage is just 21.6%. About 138,000 hectares (341,000 acres) were planted annually during the 1980s under afforestation programs. During 1990–2000, the forested area grew by an annual average of 38,000 ha (94,000 acres). Most forests (98%) are owned by state governments and are reserved or protected for the maintenance of permanent timber and water supplies. The government has prohibited commercial harvesting of trees on public land, except for mature, fallen, or sick trees. In order to help meet the fuel needs of much of the population, harvesting dead and fallen branches is permitted is government forests, but this policy is widely violated. About 93% of the total timber cut in 2000 was burned as fuel.

The total timber cut in 2000 was 319.5 million cu m (11.3 billion cu ft). Production that year included (in million of cubic meters): sawn wood, 7.9; paper and paperboard, 3.8; wood-based panels, 0.4; and wood pulp, 1.6. Other forestry products include bamboos, canes, fibers, flosses, gums and resins, medicinal herbs, tanning barks, and lac. Imports of forest products nearly totaled $1,028 million in 2000, and mainly consisted of newsprint ($176.1 million), printing and writing paper ($104.8 million), and recovered paper products ($96.7 million).

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