All the plants that grow on Earth are a gift of nature and are called natural vegetation. The natural vegetation of a region is closely linked to its climate. In some areas trees, bushes and creepers grow very close to one another. Such areas are called forests.
Forests are very important and useful to us. They give us timber, fuel, pulp, resin, gum, cane, herbs and many other useful things. Timber is one of the most important products of the forest and is used for building houses, furniture, agricultural implement and tools.
Wood pulp is used in making paper. Forest protects the soil from being eroded. Forests keep the air clean. They keep the climate cool and pleasant. Forest provides shelter to the wild animals. Forest is also the home of many valuable and rare plants. India has a large variety of forest in India.
The type of forest depends upon the amount of rainfall. Forests can be classified into the following five types:
1. Evergreen Forests:
These forests, found in the hot and wet regions of our country, are very dense. The trees have hard wood, grow very close to each other and never shed their leaves fully, and so are always green. Evergreen Forests are found mostly in the Western Ghats and the north-eastern states of India. The main trees, which grow in the evergreen forests, are ebony, mahogany and rosewood.
2. Deciduous Forests:
These forests occur mostly in the Deccan Plateau and the foothills of the Himalayas. The trees in these forests shed their leaves at the beginning of the summer season. The main trees in these forests are teak, sal, and shisham. The wood of these trees is hard and expensive and is used for making furniture and as building material.
3. Coniferous Forests:
These are mostly found on the slopes of the Himalayas. Tall trees with needle-shaped leaves are found along the higher slopes of the mountains. Their wood is soft. The common coniferous trees are pine, deodar, spruce and fir.
4. Thorny Forests:
These are mostly found in the dry areas of the Indian desert and parts of the Deccan Plateau. The trees growing here have long roots and thorns and can live without water for a long time. The tree, which grows in these areas, is babul, kikar and wild palms.
5. Tidal Forests:
These are found in those areas where the land is flooded by sea-water. The main areas are the deltas of the Ganga and Brahmaputra in West Bengal. These Forests are called the Sunderbans.
Most of these forests are being cut down as the population of our country is increasing day by day. Because of this large-scale deforestation, only one-fourth of the country’s total land area is now under forests. This is not enough. We must have at least one-third of the land area under forests.
The governments in many states of India has passed laws for protection of trees, and has meanwhile taken steps to increase the forest areas. The common people have also become aware of the importance of saving the forests. In 1974, people of Garhwal, under the leadership of Sunderlal Bahuguna, started a movement in which volunteers put their arms around trees marked for felling to stop them from being cut down. This came to be known as the Chipko Movement.
All states celebrate Vanamahotsav and have active social forestry programmes, which encourage the planting of trees in villages, towns and also along roads, railway lines and canals. Vanamahotsav is celebrated in schools at the beginning of rainy season every year.
There is another programme is called For Every Child a Tree. This programme encourages children and their parents to plant trees and look after them. If we want to live happily on this planet, we must plant more trees and work together to save the forests.
Nature has provided us with a large variety of wildlife in the forest areas. In the forests of the north-east, there are elephant, rhinos, tigers and deer. The famous Royal Bengal tiger is found in the Sunderbans. Leopard, tiger, bear and wild boar and wild buffalo live in the deciduous forests. A large variety of fish, water-birds and reptiles abound in our rivers, lakes and marshes. The Gir forest in Gujarat is well-known as the last refuge of the Asiatic lion.
A few people hunt wild animals for pleasure and for commercial purposes. As a result, several species of wild animals have become extinct or are endangered. The endangered animals are those animals, the numbers of which have been reduced to such a low level that they are in danger of extinction. In order to preserve the wildlife, our government has developed a numbers of zoos, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. In the sanctuaries and national parks, nobody is allowed to cut down any tree or kill any animal.
Tourists from all over the world visit our country to see these animals and take photographs. Some of the well-known national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are the Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat and Periyar wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. Chilika in Orissa and Sariska in Rajasthan. Find the names of other national parks and sanctuaries in India. We must all help to save our forests and our wildlife. They are our most precious natural resource.