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Insights into Editorial: Protecting forest fringes

Insights into Editorial: Protecting forest fringes



Forestry in India is an important rural industry and major environmental resource.

Forests in India are source of wood, fuel, latex, gums, medicinal plants, essential oils, etc. It is a source of income for millions of populations, but its exploitation also becomes environmentally unsustainable.

Besides hunting, habitat destruction and fragmentation by deforestation and logging are other causes of defaunation in tropical landscapes.

It may also have profound ramifications for ecosystem functioning. It can also affect the livelihoods of wild-meat-dependent communities.


Forests spread in Urban areas:

India is among the fastest urbanising major countries and forest-rich nations of the world.

The current trend of fast-paced, spatial urban expansion is increasing the proximity between forests and the cities. In the next 10 years, this situation is likely to pose a severe sustainability challenge.

In major cities such as Gurugram, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Bengaluru, forests have already faced the brunt of encroachments, roads and highways, local extinction of wildlife, contamination of water bodies, and disturbances originating from the urban neighbourhoods.

Across India, many more critical wildlife habitats and biodiversity areas are going to face a direct impact from cities in the near term.


Planning of ongoing Urban Programmes in protecting Forest Fringes:

  • Despite this disconcerting pattern, neither the ongoing urban programmes such as ‘Smart Cities’, nor the draft of the new Forest Policy, 2018, look ready to tackle this challenge.
  • Urban planners and city administrators have ignored the fact that forests are natural shock-absorbers that provide green relief to our grey cities, shield them from the effects of climate change, and aid in urban issues such as air pollution, scarcity of drinking water, flood control and ‘heat islands’.
  • Draft National Forest Policy talks about a lot of new measures that the Government plans to take. But it is not easy to increase the already deteriorating forest cover of a good quality as getting a land for it is tough.
  • Forest Survey of India in its latest report also says that the quality of dense forests has dramatically gone down.


About Draft National Forest Policy, 2018: Need to promote Urban Forest Fringes:

  • The overall objective and goal of the present policy is to safeguard the ecological and livelihood security of people, of the present and future generations, based on sustainable management of the forests for the flow of ecosystem services.
  • In order to achieve the national goal for eco-security, the country should have a minimum of one-third of the total land area under forest and tree cover.
  • In the hills and mountainous regions, the aim will be to maintain two-third of the area under forest & tree cover in order to prevent soil erosion and land degradation and also to ensure the stability of the fragile eco-systems.
  • Recently notified eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around protected areas hold the key to the place and the process in this regard.
  • These zones are strips of land outside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries earmarked by the Ministry of Environment for sustainable management.
  • The ESZ committee and its plans fulfil basic conditions to facilitate inter-departmental collaboration of the forest departments, urban bodies and civil society.


India and China focussed on their Green Efforts:

A new satellite-based study shows that China and India are leading the increase in “greening efforts” across the world.

Published in Nature Sustainability, the study shows that the change driving these efforts emerges from China’s ambitious tree-planting programmes and intensive agriculture practised in both countries.

Data show that since Independence, a fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests. The Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Report 2017 had recorded that forest cover had increased by 6,600 sq km or 0.21% since 2015.

However, urbanisation close to forests often means that dense neighbourhoods expand up to the fringe of the forest, as has happened in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Bannerghatta in Bengaluru, and the Guindy National Park in Chennai.


Way Forward:

In the absence of physical buffers and hard fences, therefore, these forests will have to be soft-fenced from unscrupulous development.

To create a working ground for soft-fencing, urban masterplans must recognise land use at forest fringes, according to ESZ guidelines.

In addition, cities should secure wildlife corridors and ‘green belts’ that connect urban forests with a wider natural landscape.

Most importantly, urban residents need to create social fences by strongly advocating for forests in their cities.

The urban citizenry today aspires for a green, pollution-free and serene living environment.

Integrating forests with urban planning and governance provides an opportunity to shape cities that not only cater to citizens, but also have the citizens actively involved in shaping the city’s future.