- January 18, 2022
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject – Environment
Context – Forest report’s conclusion of increase in cover should not lead to complacency. Loss of natural forests is worrying
- At present, in India, there is no clear nationally-accepted definition of ‘forest’.
- States are responsible for determining their definition of forests.
- The prerogative of the states to define forests stems from a 1996 Supreme Court order called the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs the Union of India judgment.
- SC had opined that all-encompassing definition of forest wasn’t possible for India because the country has 16 different kinds of forest and a tract of grassland in one State might qualify in one region as forest but not in another.
- In the judgement, the Supreme Court interpreted that the word “forest” must be understood according to its “dictionary meaning”.
- This description covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise.
- The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) now has clarified that the States need not take the Centre’s approval to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest.
- India’s forests are currently governed by the National Forest Policy, 1988 which has environmental balance and livelihood at its centre.
FAO’s definition of Forest
- In 2017, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) slotted all plantations, other than oil palm trees, in its definition of forests.
- Plantations are typically composed of even-aged trees of the same species. Such monocultures do have economic value and limited utility as carbon sinks.
- But they cannot be compared to natural forests in harbouring biodiversity or aiding pollination or as sources of water bodies.