Forests provide the basic life support system to all the living entities of mother earth including mankind. Forest ecosystems provide fresh air, water resources, fertile soil and agriculture, bio-diversity and environment. Vast sections of rural society, including a majority of the tribal, are directly dependent on forests for their livelihood. Forest degradation will have adverse impact on these life supporting systems. The Government of Tamil Nadu recognizes the prospects of a balanced ecosystem in advancing the socio-economic development of the State. The pursuance of policy of environmental stability mandating afforestation and biodiversity conservation through people’s movement has led to Tamil Nadu registering an increase of 2501 sq.km of Forest Cover which is the maximum among all the States in the country for the period 2013-15 (Government of India, Forest Survey of India Report, 2015). The achievement is quite significant keeping in view the continuous challenge faced by the Forest department because of increasing population pressure on the forest resources.
Tamil Nadu has been a pioneer State in the Biodiversity conservation particularly in Protected Area management, including conservation and improvement of terrestrial/ marine flora and fauna. The State’s sincere efforts in establishing range of Tiger habitats in Western and Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu have resulted in the increase of tiger numbers from 163 in 2011 assessment to 229 in 2014 as per “Status of Tiger” report jointly published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India in 2015.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit adopted an action plan in 2015 for people, planet and prosperity and framed seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a UN Initiative and are universally acceptable goals that balance three dimensions of Sustainable Development, namely, Environmental, Social, and Economic.
The Government of Tamil Nadu continues to be equally concerned about vulnerability of natural resources on account of climate change and is committed to sustainably manage, enhance the forests and wildlife on scientific principles, while meeting the livelihood needs of the forest dependent communities.
VISION OF THE DEPARTMENT
The Twelfth Five Year Plan for the State of Tamil Nadu encompasses preservation of entire ecological footprint of human activity and includes increasing the forest cover, protection of wetlands, conserving groundwater, rivers and other water bodies, protection of the coastal zones including fragile ecosystems, conservation of the zoological and botanical diversity of the State. The initiatives of the Department are in line with the Late Hon’ble Chief Minister’s Vision Tamil Nadu 2023 to maintain the ecological balance across the State.
NATIONAL FOREST POLICY, 1988
In National Forest Policy, 1988, detailed guidelines have been framed for the preservation and management of forests in the country. The principal aim of this Policy is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium, which is vital for sustenance of all life forms, human, animals and plants.
OBJECTIVES OF FOREST MANAGEMENT
- Biodiversity and genetic resource conservation by protection of forests and wildlife.
- Augmentation of water resources in forest areas.
- Rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forests for improvement of forest cover.
- Enhancing tree cover outside forests for livelihood security and climate change mitigation.
- Welfare of tribal and forest fringe communities to ensure economic prosperity and ecological stability.
STATEMENT OF SERVICES PROVIDED
Forest department provides the services to support
- Afforestation, soil and water conservation, land use planning, wildlife preservation, tree cultivation in private lands, urban afforestation and forestry extension;
- Programmes, which attempt in arriving at appropriate solutions to environmental problems and to regenerate environmental natural resources;
- Research in the areas of sustainable management of forest eco-system and technology to mitigate problems arising from degradation of environment;
- Programmes for improving the quality of life of the people living below the poverty line;
- Tribal development; and
- Forest protection, forest consolidation and infrastructure development in forest areas.
LEGAL FRAME WORK
Some of the Acts and Rules that are enforced in the State for protection and management of forests are as follows:
- Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882
- Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act, 1949
- Tamil Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act, 1955
- Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- Forest Conservation Act, 1980
- Tamil Nadu Rosewood Trees (Conservation) Act, 1994
- Tamil Nadu Sandalwood Transit Rules, 1967
- Tamil Nadu Timber Transit Rules, 1968
- Tamil Nadu Sandalwood Possession Rules, 1970
- Tamil Nadu Maintenance of Accounts in respect of Scheduled Timber for Industrial or Commercial Purposes Rules, 1988
- Tamil Nadu Patta Sandalwood Rules, 2008
- Tamil Nadu Regulation of Wood Based Industries Rules, 2010
A SHORT NOTE ON SANDAL TREES IN TAMIL NADU
Naturally grown sandalwood trees are found in the Eastern Ghats of Vellore, Javvadhi hills of Tiruvannamalai, Chitteri hill areas in Dharmapuri, Shervaroy, Bhodamalai and Kolli hills of Salem district, Pachamalai hill areas in Trichy and forest areas of Erode district. At present, meagre number of matured trees is available for extraction in these areas and a few hundreds of naturally grown sandalwood trees are there in Amirdhi and Kavaloor in Javadhi hills. Action is being taken to protect these trees from destruction and saved as mother trees for collection of seeds.
Oil is available only in the sandalwood heartwood. Perfumeries, medicines, etc. are prepared from the sandalwood oil. Various types of beautiful artistic toys are manufactured from the heartwood. Further it has been utilized for devotional purpose.
As the price of sandalwood oil is on the increase in the international market, sandalwood trees of Tamil Nadu were virtually destroyed by smuggling the sandalwood to the neighbouring States for years together. At present, small size seedling and saplings are found in patches in the naturally grown sandalwood areas.There is a possibility of harvesting sandalwood trees after 20 or 30 years, if they protected well.
A SHORT NOTE ON TEAK TREES
In Tamil Nadu, naturally grown teak trees and teak plantations are found in Sathyamangalam, Salem, Erode, Dharmapuri, Hosur, Theni, Madurai, Dindigul, Kanyakumari and Nilgiri areas. Extraction of trees including teak is not permitted in National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. Felling of natural trees in RF has been banned to protect the environment and to cut teak for the supplying it to the temples for flag mast. Hence, teak plantations have been raised in the canal and river beds of Thanjavur district from the year 1956 and the trees aged over 30 years are being harvested every year as decided by the Government with a view to increase the revenue to the Government.
A SHORT NOTE ON RED SANDERS IN TAMILNADU
Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) are naturally grown trees and found in the forest areas of Kurnool, Cuddappah, Chittoor and Nellore districts and on the borders of Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, it is found mainly in pockets of Chengalpattu, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore and Dharmapuri districts. Heartwood of red sanders is red to yellow in colour or black in colour. The rate has been fixed based on its colour. As it is a durable timber, it is utilized in handicrafts, dyes of wood, musical instruments, household articles like table, chair and preparation of five medicines.
COLLECTION OF MINOR FOREST PRODUCE (MFP) BY TRIBALS
As per G.O.(Rt).No.79, E&F (FR-IV) department, dt. 29.4.2005, the yield of MFP such as tamarind, gallnut, nelli, lemon, ilavam, ilandai, eecham grass, curry leaves, wood apple, pungan, etc. are supplied to the tribal people at free of cost by forming Village Forest Committees. The tribal communities has been given the right to collect the MFP at free of cost with an objective to improve their income and livelihood options by forming VFCs under the concept Joint Forest Management. This will ensure the participation of tribals in protection and improvement of forests.
The members of the VFCs are allowed to collect the yield of MFP in the territorial forests. Only the residential tribals of the villages are allowed to collect the MFPs within the jurisdiction of the RFs. Non-tribals are not permitted to collect the MFPs.
CATTLE GRAZING IN THE RESERVED FOREST
Grazing continues to be the main reason for degradation of forests. Continuous cattle grazing in the degraded forests lead to destruction of forest ecology. Uncontrolled abundant grazing is not suitable for scientific forestry. The natural regeneration of tree species in the forest eco-system has been disturbed by grazing. More than 80% of forest fire is due to grazing of cattle like goat, buffalo, malaimadu, Ox, Bison. Incidences of grazing and forest fire occur in forest areas simultaneously. Most of the cattle grazers in the forest areas are carrying wood through head-loads, illicitly felling trees and collecting firewood. It is imminent prevalence of contagious animals' disease like Anthrax, rinderpest, etc. All those factors cause reduction in wildlife population. Bearing in mind all the above factors, grazing is allowed in the forest area subjected to conditions.
Before granting permission for grazing to the cattle Grazers/Owners, the Conservator of Forests /District Forest Officer should ensure that the instructions and Government orders issued are followed scrupulously.
PENNING THE CATTLE IN RESERVED FOREST
High Court of Judicature at Chennai has passed orders in Writ Appeal.No.315/95, dt. 17.07.1997 filed by Basamorivara Grazers Union, Manaval Post, Nilgiris District, by dismissing the case that no one can stake claim for penning the cattle in the Reserved Forest.
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