Green Mission and monoculture vision

Responding to each ecological landscape the people have evolved their own models of forestry.

With rising economic prosperity there is increasing demand for timber and forest products. The mismatch between demand and supply of forest products has led to increased pressure on the existing forest resources leading to overexploitation. While the national forest policy aims at enhancing the forest cover, in real terms the remaining natural forests are sacrificed at the altar of development.

Over the decades from 1952 to 1988 India’s forest policy has evolved from commercial to ecological orientation, responding pro actively to the demands of emerging peoples’ movements like Chipko and Appiko. It states, “While aiming at increasing forest cover, it should not entail clear felling of adequately stocked natural forests. Nor should exotic species be introduced, through public or private sources unless long term scientific trails are undertaken to prove the negative impact on natural vegetation and environment”.
Unfortunately, this rhetoric of conserving the natural growth forests and the precaution to be undertaken before planting vast degraded area with exotic species is blatantly violated by the same ministry that is supposed to protect the forests. In reality the exotic monoculture plantations are on the rise in India, expanding from nearly 6,000 sq km to 18,000 sq km per year.

Recent forest survey through satellite technology has shown that the efforts to enhance the green cover had positive impact. In some regions deforestation has been arrested and there is marginal increase in the green cover. The Ministry of Forests and Environment may be elated with these results; however the ground reality is entirely different. Instead of facilitating the process of natural regeneration of indigenous species, monoculture plantations of fast growing species is proliferating replacing the natural forests and grass lands.

Legal support

The legendary Forest Conservation Act (1980) was passed with the sole objective of providing legal support against felling of natural forests or diversion of forests for non forest purposes. Nevertheless 1.2 million hectares of forest land have been diverted for non forestry purposes.

While permitting for such diversion of forest land it is mandatory to deposit money for raising compensatory afforestation programmes. An amount of Rs 40,000 crore is sitting idle and only after the intervention of Supreme Court the government passed the Compensatory Afforestation Act. Under the Act CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority) was established.

Unfortunately, the forestry establishment in India has followed the capital intensive model of establishing fast growing mono culture plantations. Emphasis is on exotic species like eucalypts, popular, pine and acacia. They were supposed to produce more biomass in short time frame to meet the surging demand.

The forest dwelling communities in India have been witnessing the unprecedented growth of monoculture plantations since the colonial era. The post independence forestry operations accelerated this process as they clear felled bio diverse natural growth forests to be replaced by commercial species. Increased funding form World Bank and international agencies have been responsible in propagating this model.

This model has had drastic negative impact on water and soils, and disrupting the local ecosystems leading to negative impact on biodiversity.  Having experienced such negative impacts, people launched struggles against monoculture plantations. The effort to establish tropical pine in the central Indian region of Bastar was opposed by local communities. 

In contrast to this the second model is based on low capital inputs, with indigenous species that helps to secure multiple needs of forest dwelling communities. The Chipko women have regenerated hundreds of hectares of Oak forests in Himalayas. In Bastar and other parts of central India tribes have established sal forests.

Orissa has tradition of Community Forestry under which hundreds of villagers have established forests on barren land. Responding to each ecological landscape the people have evolved their own models of forestry that has enhanced the biodiversity and ecology of the region.

In order to support the second model of forestry, September 21 is designated as International Day against Monoculture tree Plantations. It seeks to defend the local traditional values of forest conservation and food, medicinal sovereignty. Unfortunately, the major international institutions like FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation), and the Climate Action protocols are heavily relying on the monoculture model of forestry to resolve the impending crisis of global warming.

It is high time the developed countries that give massive forestry funding for monoculture plantation under REED (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forests Degradation) realised dangers fraught with this model that destroys biodiversity and leads to ecocides the global south.

Comments (+)