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Government Initiatives for Protection of Forests and Wetlands

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The government’s commitment to the preservation and protection of the environment is reflected in its policies, regulations, and programs focusing on the problem of environmental degradation. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change is an Indian government agency that focuses on planning, coordination, and implementation of forest policies and programs. It was established in the year 1985 (earlier known as the Department of Environment).

The main objectives of the ministry are:

  • Conservation of forests, wetlands, fauna, and flora
  • Afforestation
  • Prevention and control of pollution
  • Conservation of the environment

These are well supported by legislative measures and regulations undertaken by the MOEF with regard to the protection and conservation of the environment

Conservation of Forests and Wetlands

Forests

Forests are our lungs. They provide us with various resources and services. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen which is a life-supporting gas. They play a critical role in the rain cycle and global warming. Forests also provide a habitat for various animals and birds.

According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2017 our country’s total forest cover is approximately eight thousand two hundred and eighty-eight sq. kilometers which sums up to about 24.39% of the total area of India which includes rich forests like Himalayan temperate forests, tropical evergreen forests, etc.

India has developed a forest policy through many acts for the sustainable conservation of forests and maintaining ecological balance. Using legal institutions and through the participation of local communities, India has been able to maintain its forest cover. However, the forestry sector is facing many problems like forest fires, deforestation, illegal grazing, etc.

The need for the protection of the environment was first highlighted in the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1969-1974). Important acts passed by the government of India for the protection of forests are:

  • Forest Conservation ct, 1980
  • The Scheduled Tribe and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Act), 2006
  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016
  • Forest Conservation Act of 1980

The framers of the constitution were not aware that issues relating to the environment would rise. The need for forest conservation reforms was released in the late 1970s and article 51A was added which states that every citizen must protect the natural environment including forests. The forest conservation Act was introduced in 1980 with the main objective to maintain ecology and preserve natural forests. There are five sections and it came into force on October 25, 1980.

Objectives of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 are as follows:

  • To prevent the conversion of forest land into agricultural, business, or residential land
  • To protect forests, their flora, and fauna
  • To prevent deforestation as it leads to soil erosion and degradation of land
  • To prevent the loss of forest biodiversity

The act has restricted the state governments of the country from taking decisions on matters relating to cutting down forests and other lands without prior permission of the central government. The whole power rests with the central government of India. Any state government or other authorities violating the provisions of this act are subject to penalties. The central government can set up a committee for solving the problem of deforestation and for suggesting measures to conserve our forests. The Forest Conservation Act was passed to protect the forests by controlling deforestation. The judiciary also has played an important role in conserving forests by undertaking PILs filed under this act.

Compensatory Afforestation Bill, 2016

The CAMPA Act is an act that provides appropriate mechanisms to manage funds for compensatory afforestation. Compensatory Afforestation means that every time forest land is cut and used for commercial or other purposes, the user agency pays for the planting of trees on an equal amount of non-forest land. The funds collected can be used for forest management, treatment of catchment areas, wildlife protection, etc. The idea was that the destruction of such land needs to be made good by generating forests elsewhere on some other non-forest land.

A major portion of this fund is to be used to improve the quality of degraded forests which constitutes more than 40% of the total forest cover. The utilization of these funds will result in increased availability of forest goods and improve the lives of the people and communities who depend on them.

However, procuring lands for this compensatory afforestation is quite difficult as there is limited land available to do so. Also, forests take years to develop. Raising an artificially made forest somewhere else cannot have the same biodiversity value.

What is required is an approach that focuses on the negative effects of deforestation and also addresses biodiversity and poverty effectively.

Wetlands

Wetlands are defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems where the water is usually near the surface or when the land is covered by shallow water, the water is not flowing. These are lands that are saturated by water seasonally or sometimes permanently.

Wetlands play a very important role as they provide productive ecosystems. They also play an integral role in the watershed. They are an important source of groundwater

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Urbanization, conversion of wetlands into agricultural fields, pollution, and climate change, etc. pose a great threat to wetlands. Therefore, there have been global conservation efforts like the Ramsar Convention to preserve wetlands.

National Wetlands Atlas 2011 has recognized around 201503 wetlands in India

India too has introduced the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems which is a program for wetlands and lakes.

Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017

As per the Wetland Rules, 2017 there are provisions for setting up a State Wetland Authority in union territories and every state. This will be headed by the environment minister of respective states and will focus on sustainable use and management of wetlands. This act prohibits the dumping of solid wastes from industries and residential areas etc. and the conversion of wetlands for other uses.

Provisions:

  • Develop strategies for better use of wetlands.
  • Recommend measures for the conservation of wetlands and raising awareness
  • List of activities to be regulated, permitted, and prohibited within notified wetlands
  • Setting up of National Wetland Committee

The provisions of this act if violated are subjected to penalties as per the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

More than one billion people depend on wetlands and their ecological services for a living. They are a vital source of raw materials etc. and also help in controlling floods. Therefore, they need to be protected

National Wetland Committee

The National Wetland Committee was set up according to the provisions of the Wetlands Rules 2017. The main objectives of this committee are as follows:

  • Proper implementation of rules relating to the protection of wetlands
  • Suggesting policies and schemes for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands
  • Working along with international wetland conservation committees under Ramsar Convention.
  • Setting up a digital inventory for every state listing all wetlands in the country and this is to be updated every 10 years.

As stated earlier, wetlands are the most productive ecosystems but at the same time, they are also the most sensitive ecosystems threatened by climate change, pollution, deforestation, etc. World’s Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 to spread awareness about the conservation of wetlands.

New Initiatives by the Modi Government

Climate change is real. There is no denying that. Along with participation from the local people, initiatives taken by the government play a huge role in finding solutions to this problem.

From the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to the Green Skills Development Programme, the Modi government has taken steps towards a green India.

The Green Skill Development Programme was developed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in June 2017. ‘Green skills’ refers to those skills that contribute to the preservation and restoration of the environment. It is a new initiative to skill the youth of this country in the environment and forest.

The Modi-led government also introduced the CAMPA or the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act. Under this act, any organization or individual, using forested land for non-forest, commercial purposes will be charged. The funds generated are used for reviving forest cover and for wildlife protection. Notably, it was reported that India saw an increase in its total forest cover between 2015 and 2017

Conclusion

India has been participating in many international conferences particularly aimed at the sustainable conservation of forests and is an active participant in many international forest conservation organizations like the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), Asia Pacific Forestry Commission of FAO, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). India has contributed to the protection and conservation of forests and wetlands.

However, it is noted that government policies are taking a toll on India’s environment and forests. The rejection rate for projects under the Modi government has reduced compared to before.

Forests are irreplaceable. The indiscriminate loss of forests for economic purposes by giving clearance to such projects which carefully examine their impact on the environment will push the country into an environmental crisis.

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Government Initiatives for Protection of Forests and Wetlands. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/government-initiatives-for-protection-of-forests-and-wetlands/
“Government Initiatives for Protection of Forests and Wetlands.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/government-initiatives-for-protection-of-forests-and-wetlands/
Government Initiatives for Protection of Forests and Wetlands. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/government-initiatives-for-protection-of-forests-and-wetlands/> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Government Initiatives for Protection of Forests and Wetlands [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/government-initiatives-for-protection-of-forests-and-wetlands/
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