It has been observed that deforestation, while changing a mountain belt from stable to unstable, creates a number of problems.
We can actually see the different stages of such a change—stability, vulnerability, fragility and finally instability (Messerli, 1985).
The term ‘stability’ implies the long- term sustainability in the use and exploitation of land and natural resources in each ecological belt, and also a sustained long – term interaction between the different belts. The term ‘vulnerability’ is used to characterize a system for which stability can be maintained only by careful management and by a high input of energy.
The term ‘fragile’ is used to imply that irreversible change or damage can be inflicted easily. Finally, the term ‘instability’ is used in situations where damage or change is occurring not only in terms of the resource and land use of each ecological belt, but also through the interaction between belts, or between highland and lowland systems. For example, soil erosion in one system produces destabilizing effect on adjacent ecosystems.
The process of destabilization of one ecological belt through spread of instability into a neighboring belt is especially dangerous in mountain regions because of the high energy environment or down slope effect that is characteristic of them (Messerli, 1985). Thus, deforestation affects not only the biota of the forests and neighboring ecosystems, but soil is eroded, land is degraded, ground water channels are altered and water becomes polluted and scarce.
Forestry and agriculture are two important land uses, the latter competing with the former under relentless pressure of an ever-increasing population. Human population has grown from 361 million in 1951 to 955 million in 1997. To meet the requirement of food production, the area under agriculture has increased from 118 million ha in 1951 to 142 million ha at present.
It is therefore unlikely that the agricultural land will be available for expansion of forest cover of the country. It is only the “culturable wastelands, covering about 14 million ha and part of the “fallow land and other than current fallows”, covering about 10 million ha, which seem to be potential areas for expanding forest cover through afforestation. In addition, efforts will have to be made to raise trees outside conventional forest areas through innovative agro – forestry programmes.
Joint Forest Management:
The National forest Policy, 1988 emphasizes on creating massive people’s movement through involvement of village communities living near the forest in protection and development of forests. Pursuant to this policy, the Government of India issued a notification in June 1990 requesting the State Governments to involve local communities in the conservation and management of forests. It is envisaged that the communities, in lieu of their participation in protection and development of forest areas, will be entitled to sharing of usufructs in a manner specified by the concerned State Forest Departments.
This has led to the development of Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme and many State Governments have issued resolutions in this regard. The State of M.P. accounts for more than 50% of the area under JFM. About 36, 130 forest Protection Committees, in which the participation of women is also ensured, are managing a total of 10.25 million ha of forest area in different parts of the country.
Other Suggestions to Increase Forests:
The National Forest Policy, 1988 has suggested a number of steps for forest management. Some of the steps are—regulated grazing, careful planning of forest based industries, forest extension programmes, forestry education and research, forest survey and database, legal and financial support for forestry. The role of tribal people and women in forest management is very important. Tribal people should be closely associated in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
One of the major causes for degradation of forest is illegal cutting and removal by contactors and their labour. The new policy suggests that in order to put an end to this practice, contractors should be replaced by institutions such as tribal cooperatives, labour cooperatives, and government corporations as early as possible.