*Inputs from the Ministry of Environment and Forests
The Wildlife Division, Forest Protection Division, Survey & Utilisation Division and National Afforestation Division protects, conserves and surveys the natural resources of the country including flora, fauna, forests and wildlife, afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas and ensuring the welfare of animals with sustainable development and enhancement of human wellbeing.
National Tiger Conservation Authority
Several milestone initiatives have been taken by the Government for protection of wildlife, particularly, tiger conservation and conservation of flora and fauna at large. Some of the important ones are-implementing the urgent recommendations of the Tiger Task Force to strengthen tiger conservation, amendment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, to provide a separate chapter for tiger conservation, constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, strengthening field protection by providing central assistance for deployment of ex-army personnel and local workforce, declaration of eight new tiger reserves, revision of Project Tiger Guidelines which interalia include enhancement of village relocation package.
For the first time all India tiger estimation and assessment of habitat status was done using a refined methodology, notification / identification of 31013.379. sq. km. of core / critical tiger habitat, MoU with States for better implementation of Project Tiger Scheme, bilateral arrangements with neighboring tiger range countries for fostering tiger conservation, taking initiatives in the CITES conference for restricting captive breeding of tigers in other countries to safeguard wild tiger in India, reintroduction of tigers in Sariska and taking steps for creating the Special Tiger Protection Force.
National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau with its five regional offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jabalpur, Chennai and three sub-regional offices at Guwahati, Cochin and Amritsar set up by the Ministry in June, 2007 has been strengthened and made operational. The Bureau is a multidisciplinary agency consisting of officials from forests, police and revenue (customs/excise). The main objective of the Bureau is to compliment the efforts of existing state machineries/enforcement agencies in dealing with wildlife related crimes having national and international ramifications.
Conservation and Management of Dugongs
An MoU for conservation and management of Dugongs (Dugong dugon) and their habitats under the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) was signed during May, 2008. The Agreement is designed to facilitate national level and transboundary actions to conserve dugong populations and their habitats of the Indian Ocean and South East Asia.
Initiatives in Vulture Conservation
In pursuance to the recommendations of the National Board for Wildlife, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) issued notification banning the drug Diclofenac for veterinary purposes. Further follow-up actions were taken for effective implementation of this ban in the interest of vulture conservation. The Government has set up in situ vulture conservation centres at Haryana, West Bengal and Assam and four Captive breeding centres for vulture conservation at zoos at Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Junagarh and Hyderabad.
Conservation of Flagship Species other than Tigers and Elephants
Necessary provisions have been made in the existing Centrally Sponsored Scheme, Assistance for the Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries (renamed as Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats), for providing focus on conservation of other terrestrial species like Great Indian Bustard, Snow Leopard, Kashmir Stag, etc. and marine species like Dugong, Turtles, etc. The scheme is at advanced stage of consideration under the Ministry.
Central Zoo Authority
The Central Zoo Authority during the 2007-2008 had initiated a plan for the conservation breeding of the 63 endangered wild animal species in Indian zoos. The conservation breeding centres for more than 20 species are being set up in the respective habitat zone of the species.
Forest Protection Division
Participation of local communities has been ensured in forest management through the process of Joint Forest Management. There are more than 106482 JFM committees actively involved in protection and management of forests. States have been provided assistance under Integrated Forest Protection Scheme to the extent of Rs.68 crore during last financial year to take up various projects with emphasis on use of new tools and technologies, such as digitization of maps, use of GPS, computerization of data base, improved communication etc.
The Forest Survey of India, Dehradun is also giving information about active forest fire locations to States through use of satellite data. The Ministry, through the Forest Survey of India, has brought out State of Forest Report 2005 giving details of forests and tree cover in the country. The total forests and tree cover in the country has been estimated to be 23.96% of the country’s geographical area. The scope of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme-Intensification of Forest Management will be enhanced by adding two new components, namely Conservation and Restoration of Unique Vegetation & Ecosystem, and Protection and Conservation of Sacred Groves besides Protection & Management of Forests.
Survey & Utilisation (SU) Division has streamlined Forest Certification of Timber and Non-Timber Forest Products, marketing and trade of timber. Forest Certification has emerged as a market driven mechanism in support of Sustainable Forest Management to safeguard the interest of exporters in the country. Three Committees have been constituted to prepare the road map and the necessary criteria and processes for the development of National Certification mechanism in the country.
The Ministry has constituted a ‘Sustainable Forest Management Cell’ in the SU Division for the development of National Programme aimed at Sustainable Utilization and conservation of forests maintaining their ecological balance.Four teams for preparation of criteria and indicator for plantations, NTFPs, pilot testing of National draft C&I developed for forests and Revision of Working Plan Code accordingly.India, having large areas of tropical forests, belongs to producer member group of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an inter-government commodity organization with its headquarters located at Yokohama, Japan. India is also one of the founding members of this Organization.
The Indian Delegation actively participated in the four rounds of negotiations and renegotiation with the ITTA to formulate new Agreement. This new Agreement is now open for ratification. This will help in India’s contribution to the International trade in tropical timber and will generate goodwill to the country and enhance the status of India on the World forestry map under the aegis of this UN Organization.
Besides, overseeing the functioning of all Forest Development Corporations, the division is actively involved with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Forest Plantation and Development Corporation Limited (ANIFPDCL), Port Blair. The Scientific Expert Committee has submitted its report “Status of Forests and other Allied Matters in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands”to the Ministry which will help in the restructuring of ANIFPDCL.
National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) is making long strides in achieving the afforestation goals of the nation through participatory process as enshrined in the National Forest Policy 1988.
Keeping pace with the democratic decentralization process, NAEB has facilitated implementation of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme, ‘National Afforestation Programme’ (NAP) through 28281 village level institutions to realize the dream of Joint Forest Management across the country. These institutions, commonly named Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs), are organized into district level federations named as Forest Development Agencies (FDA) which play the pivotal link between the Central Government and the JFMCs for natural resource management. This institutional framework encompasses all States and Union Territories of the country. The scheme has supported 782 FDA projects in all including 31 projects for special problem areas like ‘Jhum’/shifting cultivation.
National Afforestation Programme
National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is a flagship scheme of Ministry of Environment and Forests which aims at regeneration of degraded forests and adjoining areas, has treated over 1.41 million hectares of land at a cost of Rs. 1570 crores till last financial year. The programme is monitored and evaluated internally by the FDAs and also through concurrent, independent agencies including Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) Dehradun. The Forest Survey of India using state-of-the-art Remote Sensing and GIS technology does monitoring of area covered under plantation and survival rate of plants.
Greening India Scheme
Grants-in-Aid for Greening India Scheme is another endeavor to encourage participation of interested Non-Government-Organizations as well as Government Institutions in planting trees and creating mass awareness in their areas of interest. Fully appreciating/recognizing that economic gain is the major driving force in adopting tree plantation in private lands, this scheme is focused on raising good quality planting material in specially established high-tech nurseries, dissemination of the information thereof and providing support for carrying out plantation.
Eco-Development Force (EDF) Scheme of NAEB is playing the dual role of afforestation in remote and difficult areas on the one hand and rehabilitation of ex-servicemen of defense forces on the other. Presently there are as many as six battalions located at Kiarkuli (Uttrakhand), Bikaner (Rajasthan), Samba (J&K), Pithoragarh (Uttrakhand), Ballipara and Chirang (Assam) making significant contribution in increasing the green cover in their respective areas.
In view of the competing land uses, there are little chances of any significant increase in government forest land and hence it is necessary to carry tree planting beyond government forests, i.e. in available community, institutional as well as private lands. In order to facilitate this endeavor, a new scheme named Gram/Panchayat Van Yojana is in offing which is envisaged to be implemented through Panchayati Raj Institutions on a partnership basis between the Centre and the State governments.
Seven Regional Centers established in various premier institutes across the country are important nerve centers that provide valuable intellectual input in the form of replicable technologies, extension strategies, interdepartmental linkages and action research on cluster based forest micro-enterprise development at JFMC level.
The exceptional contribution in the field of afforestation and wasteland development made by individuals, government as well as non-government organizations are duly recognized at national level by Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award every year.
Focus on North-East
The problem of gregarious flowering of Bamboo in the North Eastern Region was addressed by the Ministry through a special scheme by releasing Rs. 23.00 crores during the last year to all the North Eastern States. The threats of rodent menace and consequent famine were effectively reduced and the flowered area are being regenerated.
For management of gregarious flowering of bamboos, an Action was approved by the steering committee set up by the Ministry with representatives from these states and concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies.