Act and Rules
After 1800 A.D., the British laid the foundation of Scientific forest management in our country. Consolidation of forest areas, legal classification ad protection were accorded to forests which proved effective.
It is interesting to note that our forests were initially reserved from areas which were earlier classified as 'waste lands'. During such reservation, considerable amount of forest areas were left out for the use of people and these were placed under the Revenue Department.
Reservation was a very slow process and it took nearly 35 years ( 1865 to 1900) to constitute the reserved forests throughout the country.
The administration or our forests was codified for the first time in 1865, when the Indian Forest Act (VII of 1865) was placed on the statute book. Subsequently, this was replaced by the Indian Forest Act (VII of 1878) which was further amended in the year 1890, 1901, 1918, 1919 and 1927.
The forest Act of 1878 ensured that the reservation of forests did not affect the existing rights of individuals or communities.
During the initial stages, protection and consolidation was the primary task since the forests were considered as no man's area.
Legislations ensuring protection and restrictions on burning, cutting and grazing were imposed. In a reserved forest, everything was ' prohibited' unless 'permitted'. Whereas, in protected forest everything was ' permitted' unless 'prohibited'. Apart form these village forests and undemarcated forests were also recognized.
The Constitution of India makes specific references for preserving our environment. The following duties and responsibilities for the State and citizen are enshrined in the section on the Directive Principles of state Policy.
Article 48 - A.- "The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Article 51-A.- " It shall be the duty of every citizen of India
(g) to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures'.
The first policy was enunciated during the year 1894 and the second one in 1952. Over the years, due to various obvious reasons, the vegetal cover of the country has shrunk considerably. This changed situation has necessitated the review of the earlier policy apart from a concerted scheme of action for forest conservation.
The National Forest Policy of 1988 states that 'Conservation' includes preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration and enhancement of the natural environment.
The basic objectives indicated include maintenance of environmental stability preservation of natural forests, checking erosion, increasing substantially the forest cover, meeting the requirements of the rural and tribal populations, increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs, encouraging efficient utilization of forest produce and maximizing substitution of wood and creating a massive people's movement for achieving these objectives.
The new resolution emphasizes the fact that derivation of economic benefit must be subordinated to the principal aim of ensuring environmental stability.
Legislation for Wildlife
Conservation of wild fauna has been duly emphasized in our constitution.
Before the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, wildlife legislation consisted of various rules made under the Indian Forest Act and State Forest Acts. Some of the earlier Acts were : 'Elephants Preservation Act of 1879', Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act of 1912; 'Tamil Nadu Preservation of Wild Elephants Act of 1878' and the 'Bombay Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act of 1951'. The last one was more comprehensive and can be regarded as the forerunner of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
Creation of National Parks, Sanctuaries, regulations to conserve endangered animals, restriction to hunt and trade in wild animals are enshrined in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The Forest Conservation Act
Prior to 1976, the State Governments had full control over the management of forests and the Government of India's role was advisory in nature, since forest was a 'State subject' under our Constitution. Subsequently, forests and wildlife were brought under the 'concurrent list' following the 42nd Amendment, 1976.
The Govt. of India now exercises some control, thereby preventing the deforestation in different States. With the per capita forest coming to 0.11 hectare due to deforestation in the last three decades, the Govt. of India promulgated an Ordinance called the "Forest (Conservation) Ordinance, 1980" on the 25th October, 1980, followed by an Act called "The Forest Conservation Act, 1980". Various guidelines have been issued under this Act regarding the release of forest lands for non-forestry purposes. Steps to be taken for compensating the loss of forest lands are also indicated.