Chapter : 1. Forest Society and Colonialism

Development Of Forestry In India

The increasing British demand for wood and other forest products had to be fulfilled urgently. To meet this requirement the imperialist rulers of India devised a system by which it not only became easy but also legal to take away as much wood as possible from India. For this purpose they worked out a plan for streamlining the various activities linked with the forests and to conserve forest wealth which was under threat from the timber merchants and local inhabitants. By the end of the 19th century a small group of dedicated British and German forest officers recognized the value of the forests as indispensable assets. They were led by Sir Dietrich Brandis who also became the first Inspector General of Forests in India. An organization was set up in 1864 to look after all the above stated objectives and much more. This service is known as Indian forest services and is still functional. It took up the task of streamlining forestry in India which came to be known as ‘scientific forestry’. It involved planting of tree saplings along with cutting them down. This type of tree plantation involved a lot of planning and management. A lot of calculation went into the assessment of how many, what type and how much of the area was to be used for planting trees. There is a lot of dispute as to whether this type of forestry was at all scientific or not.
Another major achievement of the new system created by the British imperialists was the imposition of legal framework over the forests so that its use and misuse both became difficult. While the former was not in good taste and made life difficult for forest dwellers, the latter feat helped in a big way in forest protection. The Indian Forest Act was devised in 1865 and was subsequently amended in 1878 and 1927 to meet the changing needs of colonial demand. The main accomplishment of the Act of 1878 was to classify the forests into 3 groups according to their utility. These were, namely, reserved, protected and village forests.
The position now is that not even a single tree could be felled without prior approval by the concerned authorities, whether in rural or urban areas. The main reason being ecological and environmental rather than the utility of forest products as in the case of rural or village societies.
The Imperial Forest Research Institute was founded in 1906 at Dehradun. Its aim was to spread the notion of scientific forestry with a view to provide better communication between man and forest.
What are the features of scientific forestry :
In scientific forestry, natural forests which had lots of different types of trees were cut down. In their place, one type of tree was planted in straight rows. This is called a plantation. Forest officials surveyed the forests, estimated the area under different types of trees, and made working plans for forest management. They planned how much of the plantation area to cut every year. The area cut was then to be replanted so that it was ready to be cut again in some years.

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