CBSE NCERT Class X (10th) | Social Studies | Geography

Chapter – 2 Forest and Wild Life Resources

Flora and Fauna in India

Soil is an essential natural resource that supports a majority of plant and animal life on the earth. It is a renewable resource.
The loss of soil cover due to natural agents like wind and running water is called soil erosion. The roots of plants and trees keep the soil moist and hold the soil particles together. Humans destroy vegetation cover by deforestation, overgrazing, construction and mining activities.

Without vegetation cover, soil becomes dry and loose, and gets easily eroded. Defective farming methods, like ploughing up and down a slope, increase the speed of water flowing down the slope increase the rate of soil erosion.

Running water carves deep channels through clayey soils, called gully erosion, which converts the land into bad-land making it unsuitable for cultivation.

When flowing water washes away the entire sheet of top soil in a region, it is called sheet erosion. Wind erosion occurs generally in areas of little or no vegetation. It happens in places that receive scanty rainfall.

The prevention of soil erosion is called soil conservation and the ways can be:
·         Terrace farming is one way to do so and involves cutting terraces along a slope. These terraces reduce the speed of water flowing down the slope and help in soil conservation.
·         Contour ploughing is also beneficial in reducing the flow of water down the slope and involves ploughing at right angles to the natural slope of land.
·         Effective farming techniques further help in soil erosion. In plain areas, strip cropping can be used for soil conservation where strips of grass are allowed to stand between crops in large fields. These strips of grass reduce the force of wind and thus prevent soil erosion.

Planting rows of trees along farmland also help break the force of wind and help in soil conservation. Shelter belts of trees, when planted along sand dunes, help stabilise them and prevent the desert from extending into land available for cultivation.

Factors Responsible for the Depletion of Flora and Fauna

The Asiatic Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952. The Himalayan Yew, a medicinal plant found in Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The bark, needles and roots of this plant yield a substance used to treat several types of cancer. Today, over exploitation has endangered the species.

The main reason for the depletion of fauna is excessive hunting and poaching. Forests and wetlands are natural habitats of animals and the destruction of these has resulted in the depletion of our wildlife. Over-exploitation of forests has resulted in the depletion of flora. Deforestation is one of the main causes of the depletion of flora. In colonial India vast stretches of natural forests were destroyed for the expansion of railways, agriculture, commercial farming and mining.

The colonial practice continued even after independence. Large infrastructure projects, like multi-purpose dams, have also resulted in massive deforestation. Mining also contributes to deforestation. Poor cultivation methods like slash and burn agriculture, or Jhuming, practised by tribal people in north-eastern and central India, have also led to deforestation.

Overgrazing by cattle herds also leads to large-scale destruction of pastures and natural forests. Enrichment plantation is the practice of replacing different species of trees in an area by a single commercially valuable species. Teak plantations have damaged the natural forests in south India, while Chir Pine plantations in Himalayas have greatly reduced the natural oak and rhododendron forests. Factors like environmental pollution and forest fires lead to a depletion of both our flora and fauna. The environmental factors that lead to a decline in biodiversity are caused by inequitable consumption of resources and inequitable responsibility borne for the well-being of the environment.

Hunting and poaching, habitat destruction, deforestation, over-exploitation, enrichment plantations, environmental pollution and forest fires are factors responsible for the decrease in India’s biodiversity.

However, the responsibility for the protection and conservation of the environment is not shared by people in proportion with the resources that they consume. The depletion of flora and fauna has considerable impact on society, who are directly dependent on forests for resources and livelihood.

Women have to walk long distances to collect food and firewood which leads to neglect of their children and household. Natural calamities like droughts and floods are also a result of environmental degradation and the hardest hit by these are the poorest. The flora and fauna of India are under severe threat, and require immediate measures of conservation.

Conservation of Forests and Wildlife in India

Conservation of plants and animals ensures the quality of air, water and soil on which we depend for our survival. Conservation of plants species is essential to maintain their genetic diversity which is extremely beneficial for our agricultural produce.

Conservation of animal species is equally important for their breeding and maintenance of food chains.
Conservation efforts in India resulted in Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

The salient features of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972:
·         Making provisions for habitat protection,
·         Publishing a list of protected species,
·         Imposing legal restrictions on hunting, poaching and trade in wildlife, and
·         Setting up of national parks and sanctuaries in different parts of India by giving legal protection to the habitat.
·         Announcing conservation projects for some specific endangered animals

Conservation efforts in India are expanding their scope to include even insects and plants in the list of protected species along with large animals.

Hundreds of species of butterflies, moths, beetles and one species of dragonfly were included in the list of protected species through the Wildlife Act of 1980 and 1986. Six species of plants also found their way into this list in 1991.

One conservation project in India’s wildlife conservation effort is dedicated to the Royal Bengal Tiger called Project Tiger. India and Nepal are home to about two-thirds of the tiger population in the world.

The tiger population in India has decreased from 55,000 in 1900 to 1,827 in 1973. The main reason for such drastic decline in the tiger population is poaching for lucrative trade in tiger skin, claws and bones, and other body parts used in traditional medicines.

The results of Project Tiger have been mixed. There are 29 tiger reserves in India. Some of the main tiger reserves are:
·         The Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand,
·         The Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal,
·         The Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh,
·         The Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan,
·         The Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam and
·         The Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala.

Types and Distribution of Forests and Wildlife

Most of the forest and wildlife resources are owned by the Government of India, and managed through several departments like the Forest Department. Forests are divided into three types: Reserved Forests, Protected Forests and Unclassed Forests.

Over 50% of the forests in India have been declared reserved forests. The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra have a large percentage of their forests classified as reserved forests.

Around one-third of the forests in India are classified as protected forests. Most parts of the forests in Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan are classified as protected forests. Reserved and protected forests are together called permanent forest estates. Madhya Pradesh has the largest share of permanent forests in India, with almost 75% of its forests classified as permanent forests.

All the forests and wastelands other than the reserved and protected forests are considered unclassed forests. Most of the forests in the north-eastern states of India and Gujarat are unclassed forests. Religious faith has led to the conservation of certain specific types of trees in different parts of India. Parts of forests or complete forests are protected by communities since they are considered to be abodes of gods and goddesses. Such protected forest areas are called sacred groves.

Several animals are also considered sacred, and, therefore, not harmed. Another reason for community participation in conservation efforts is the concern for their own survival. Many tribal communities are actively helping government officials in their conservation efforts. Local villagers cited the Wildlife Protection Act to fight against the ongoing mining activity inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.

In Alwar district of Rajasthan, people from 5 villages have declared 1,200 hectares of forest as the Bhairodev Dakav Sanctuary with a set of regulations that forbid hunting and encroachments. The Chipko Movement started in 1970 in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand, where people, including women and children, hugged trees to prevent them from being cut. Farmers and citizen groups like Beej Bachao Andolan in Tehri, Uttarakhand and Navdanya are also aiming to conserve the environment by reviving traditional methods of farming.

Orissa made a pioneering effort in this direction by launching the Joint Forest Management or JFM program in 1988.  Under the Joint Forest Management program, local village communities participate in conservation efforts on degraded forestland. In return, the communities get the benefits of using the forest produce and a share in the timber harvested on the protected forest land.

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