A forest is an area with a high density of trees. There are many definitions of a forest, based on various criteria. These plant communities cover approximately 9.4 per cent of the Earth’s surface (or 30 per cent of total land area) and function as habitats for organisms, hydrologic flow modulators, and soil conservers, constituting one of the most important aspects of the Earth’s biosphere.
The emerging trends of deforestation, desertification and soil erosion are closely linked with societal basic needs, economic and population growth and energy consumption-making the entire issue very complex.
As increasing number of small farmers and rural poor are considered as destroyers of forests, and the solution lies in tackling the issues of poverty, landlessness and population pressure.
Majority of the Indian people, especially poor sections of the society depend on immediate surrounding forests to meet their basic needs. About 80 per cent of the women are directly dependent on forest, crop and common land as managers of local resources base.
As the forest coverage decreases, the quality of life declines accordingly. Subsequently, the flora and fauna are vanishing and the question of biodiversity is looming ahead. The earnings of the rural poor from forests have substantially declined due to shrinkage of common land.
Rural energy crisis has also been accelerated because of deforestation and degradation. Apart from rural communities, the urban communities consume 14.2 million tonnes of firewood annually. About 50 per cent of the arable land of the world is unproductive, of which about 175 million ha. Lies in India.
A massive reclamation programme is being done in India in order to improve the soil fertility and meeting the basic requirements of food, fodder, fuel and timber. Earlier, forest legislation was the beginning of the dispossession of the rights of local people. Even biomass production under the afforestation programme had commercialese and forests became suppliers of wood rather than source of fuel and fodder.