Nature has provided bountiful resources surrounding us for sustenance of a better life. Thus, any part of our natural environment such as land, water, air, minerals, forest, grassland, wildlife, fish or even human population that man can utilize to promote his welfare, may be considered as Natural Resources. These resources, along with human resources and capital, play a crucial role for expansion to national output which ultimately drives towards economic development.
Hence, the existence or the absence of favorable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of economic development.
Natural resources include land, forests, wildlife resources, fisheries, water resources, energy resources, marine resources, and mineral resources. These resources are usually known to man. But nature possesses more in its bosom which is still undiscovered. For example, the vast resources of solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy are yet to be fully discovered and utilized. Man is required to develop scientific techniques for their proper utilization.
Out of all those natural resources, some are exhaustible or nonrenewable type such as minerals and oils which can be used only one time. Once exhausted, they are depleted completely. But some others, like land, water, fisheries and forests are renewable or non-exhaustible in nature. If proper care is taken, they can be utilized endlessly.
Hence for sustainable development, careful use of the exhaustible resources and maintenance of the quality of renewable resources are needed. For that, certain objectives should be followed.
Objectives for Natural Resources Development
(i) Conversation of renewable resources and economic use of exhaustible resources for sustainable development.
(ii) Multipurpose use for resources,
(iii) Much emphasis should be given on development of non-conventional energy resources,
(iv) Economic use of resources to achieve minimum waste.
(v) Environmental impact assessment for new projects.
(vi) Nature of balance should not be disturbed through exploitation of natural resources.
(A) Land Resources
The total land area of India is of 32, 87,262 sq. kms. But statistical information is available for only 93 per cent of total area. Out of this the productive or cultivable land is only 47 per cent. Rest 19 per cent comes under forest, 9 per cent as fallow lands, 11 per cent as cultivable waste land and others. Figures of availability of arable land per capita reveal that India is not favorably placed in this respect.
When India accounts for 15 per cent of world population, it possesses only 2.4 per cent of the land surface of the world. Hence efforts should be taken to increase cultivable area. Now it is trying to add fallow lands and cultivable waste lands which account for 20 per cent to net area sown and to increase the area under double cropping using modern scientific techniques.
(B) Forest Resources
Forests are an important renewable natural resources that contribute substantially to economic development. They provide raw materials to a number of important industries, namely, matchboxes, paper, newsprint, rayon, furniture, construction, tanning etc.
Apart from timbers and woods, forests are rich sources of varieties of valuable plants for medicine, spices, dyes, bamboo, canes, grasses, lac, gums, tanning materials etc. From checking of wood and soil erosion to wild life protection, rainfall, human recreation, water sheds and balance of nature, forests play a major role in enhancing quality of environment.
The total area under forest is of 752.9 laky hectares which is 19 per cent of the total geographic are. This area is gradually decreasing year after year due to deforestation. On the basis of legal status forests are classified into (i) reserved (53%) (ii) protected (30%) and (iii) unclasped (17%) forests. Forest area is concentrated in few States like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and a few union territories, but it is deficient in northern India. There is a need to develop forest areas in the entire country.
(C) Forest Policy
The forest area is decreasing very fast day by day. Hence the Government of India declared its forest policy in 1952 to increase the forest areas. According to this policy, it was decided to raise steadily the forest area to 33 per cent for the country as a whole, 60 per cent area under the forests for hilly regions and for plains to bring this area to 20 per cent.
The 1952 forest policy was again revised in 1988 and the main objective of the revised forest policy of 1988 is. Protection, Conservation and Afforestation. It emphasizes on:
(i) Substantial increase in forest/tree cover through massive forestation and social forestry programmes.
(ii) Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance.
(iii) Conservation of natural heritage.
(iv) Check on soil erosion and denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
(v) Check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan.
(vi) Steps to meet requirements of fuel wood, fodder and minor forest produce of rural and tribal populations.
(vii) Increases in productivity of forests to meet national needs.
(viii) Steps to generate massive people's awareness to achieve objectives and minimise pressure on existing forests.
The Department of Forest, Government of India has given much emphasis on afforestation and development of waste lands, reforestation and plantation in the existing forest, prohibition of grazing and elimination of forest contractors.