close this bookEcology and The Politics of Survival:Conflicts Over Natural Resources in India
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close this folderPart One: Forest Conflicts
View the documentChapter 1:Forest ecology and forest conflicts
View the documentChapter 2:The survival economy and forest conflicts
View the documentChapter 3:The chipko movement
View the documentChapter 4:Afforestation programmes an d lan d use con flicts
View the documentChapter 5:Wasteland development and conflict over commons

Part One: Forest Conflicts

Chapter 1:Forest ecology and forest conflicts

Part I Forest Conflicts

2 Forest ecology and forest conflicts

The crisis in tropical forest resources is today recognised as the world's most severe ecological and economic crisis. This is primarily because of the linkages between the genetic resources and diversity of tropical forests and food security of the entire world, and the linkages between the ecological stability of tropical forests and the economic well-being of the majority of the world's people who live in the tropics, in what is called the Third World. These Third World countries, the erstwhile colonies of the industrialized coun tries, provided natural resources on which the industrialization of the latter was based. Both industrialisation and economic growth in the colonial and post-colonial periods have been based on the reckless exploitation of tropical forests. Today, the cumulative impact of this over-exploitation has led to critical and almost irreversible ecological degradation. The famine in Africa and other arid regions has shifted the world's attention to the high ecological and social costs of tropical deforestation. It has become the central concern of governments, development agencies and ecology movements. Yet the focus on tropical deforestation and its reversal is not automatically translated into the protection of tropical forests and those who depend on them for survival. As long as misconceptions about the nature of tropical forest ecosystems prevail, as long as conflicting demands are ignored and as long as the causes of tropical deforestation are inaccurately located, this degradation cannot be arrested. As a result, tropical ecosystems will continue to be degraded, the survival of people of the Third World will continue to be threatened, and forest conflicts will continue to grow.

Normally, forests are identified only with the economy associated with the commercial-industrial use of forests. lowever, the crisis of tropical forestry needs to be understood in the light of the conflicting demands for forest biomass, by the three fundamental economies associated with forests:

  1. Nature's economy of essential ecological processes.
  2. The survival economy of basic needs satisfaction of the people.
  3. The market economy of industrial-commercial demands.

Nature's economy of essential ecological processes generates a demand on the products of the forest in terms of the maintenance of the stability of soil systems and the hydrological balance of the forest ecosystems. In ecologically sensitive ecosystems like upland watersheds, this economy becomes the most crucial one and should be given the necessary attention in forest management. Neglecting this economy in upland watersheds will imply tremendous negative externalities to the national exchequer as relief for regular floods and drought, which are easily described as loss due to nature's fury.

The survival economy of basic needs satisfaction reflects the requirement of forest biomass of the people living in and in the vicinity of forests in terms of fuelwood, fodder, fruits, nuts, green manure, small timber, etc. In forest areas where human settlements have either existed or are in the vicinity, the requirements of the survival economy have been satisfied all along without any major ecological damage. However, under certain situations, the pressure of the survival economy can be substantial and its neglect can lead to the unexpected and rapid degradation of forest resources.'

The market economy of industrial-commercial demands coastitutes the forest biomass demand of the total market system in the formal market economy. It includes the demand for pulpwood. plywood. furniture, house construction, etc., as well as fuelwood for the urban market. The demand for biomass from the urban industrial sector as well as the survival requirements of people have increased dramatically in the last century in India. There are many examples which illustrate that the growth of forest based industries is disproportionately beyond the ecological limit of the renewable productivity of nature. under the present system of management. The growth in population adds another significant demand for biomass for domestic purposes. It has, however, not been recognised, quantified and internalized in formal forest management. In the perspective of the increasing demand from survival and market economies, the biomass requirement for nature's economy are systematically sacrificed and nature's needs remain totally unfulfilled. In due course, this leads to the ecological destabilisation of the forest ecosystems. Again, the conflict between survival and market economies assumes large proportions when most of the biomass produced is cornered by the economically powerful groups through the formal official mechanisms while the basic needs of fuel, fodder and small timber of the economically weak remain unsatisfied due to their weak political and economic status. Obviously, these three diverse economies push for the satisfaction of their demands either silently or loudly, resulting in both overt and covert conflicts over forest resources. The tacit and invisible nature of these conflicts combined with a mistaken or incomplete understanding of these diverse economies can result in the lack of perception of conflicts between them. The failure to perceive conflicts in forest use can only aggravate the forestry crisis. It is thus absolutely essential to understand and perceive the covert as well as explicit demands on forest resources to evolve a forest policy that is ecologically sensitive and socially just, so that our forest and land resources can be used for the overall satisfaction of the needs of the nation and the people in an equitable and sustainable manner. The conceptual framework based on the three economies adopted here differs from the conventional categories related to forest resources. We do not use the dichotomy between quantity/quality as categories of forest use that Hallsworth, for example, has used. According to him,

Human demands on the forest fall into two categories. First a demand for forest quantities; for the actual things a forest can produce: for timber, for food and for space for cultivation or for grazing; secondly, a demand for forest qualities; for the effects that forests have on the environment of man-to protect supplies of water, provide havens for wild-life and maintain the pool of genetic resources, to protect the soil against erosion, and to provide space for recreations

The dichotomy between quantity and quality, as between tangible and intangible, fails to capture the reality of those village women in Garhwal who launched the Chipko movement because for them water from the forest is a more significant product than wood and timber. For them water is not an 'intangible' produce or a mere quality. It is more tangible and basic in their sustenance economy than the commercial wood extracted and exported from their forests.

For similar reasons we have not adopted the local-national dichotomy between local and national interests to understand conflicts over natural resources, because the local subsumes the national interest. The national interest is or should be the integration of all local interests, not just another interest acting over and against local interests. The demands of nature's economy and survival economy are national demands, seen throughout the country, and are not peculiar to a particular region. What has usually passed as the 'national interest' are the large scale demands of the commercial industrial sector, operating through the government. The emergence of ecology movements at the.national level are indicative of the fact that these are demands of a socially narrow sector which come into conflict with socially broader sets of demands that are more appropriately termed the national interest.

We have also avoided the categories of private versus public demands because they fail to show adequately that what are called individual or private needs at the local level are located in the public context of a village community, and what usually passes as public policy in forestry is a government policy which is totally subservient to commercial/industrial interests. The 'privatisation' inherent in a commercially-oriented forest policy is What has been challenged by movements like Chipko which demand a more effective social and public control over forest resources. The official management of forest resources in the name of 'national' or 'public' interest has, in reality, privatised people's 'common resources. This privatization trend which was rooted in the colonial period has survived to the present day. As Chhattarpati Singh observes, 'The class or "public" which more often than not benefits from such acquisitions is the rich. This is patently true in the acquisition of common land, especially forests. The public of the "public purpose" for which forests have been acquired constitutes all but the forest dwellers.

We have therefore preferred to distinguish human demands on the basis of use for survival and use for commerce and industry, and have included nature's demands to avoid an anthropocentric bias as well as to have a context to locate forest movements like Chipko which struggle for forest conservation to respect nature's rights, and not just to assert their own rights to forest resources.

Nature's Economy and Forest Conflicts

An ecosystem is characterised by a set of essential ecological processes on the functioning of which depends the stability of the ecosystem. Forest ecosystems are characterised by essential eco logical processes related to the hydrological and nutrient cycles, on which depends the nature of water output of forest catchments and the sustainability of biomass production of the forest ecosystem.

The Hydrological Cycle or the Water Economy

Forest ecosystems require water which is the most important input for their survival. in particular, under tropical monsoon climatic conditions, forest ecosystems play a vital role in moderating the impact of rainfall and controlling the instant run-off of water.

The impact of forest ecosystems on rainfall has been a topic of popular debate. Meher-Homji (1986) has pointed out that forest ecosystems play an important role in pre- and post-monsoon rain fall. This may not alter the amount of total rainfall significantly, but by providing protective soil moisturisation during a period significant for plant and growth, it plays a very crucial economic role.

The hydrological cycle describes the ecological processes involved after a drop of water has entered the forest ecosystem as rainfall or dew or even snow. In the meteorological conditions prevailing in the forests of India, except parts of Western Himalayas, the most significant form of water input to forest ecosystems is through rainfall. The hydrological cycle represents mainly the physical aspect s of essential ecological processes of a forest ecosystem.

The hydrological cycle (Figure 2.1) is an instrument for a fundamental understanding of forest ecology. On its stability depends the stability of the forest ecosystem. The source of all water required for the survival of plants, birds, animals and human population is precipitation (P) from the atmosphere. Once precipitation takes place, as rain, dew, snow, etc., water enters the forest ecosystem and is first intercepted by the forest canopy. Some amount of the incoming water evaporates back to the atmosphere in the process and does not touch the soil. This is known as interception loss. Some amount of water falling on the canopy flows down to the top soil as stemflow and some falls directly as throughfall. Some amount of water drips down after a delay period and is known as drip.

Of the total amount of water reaching the top soil, some flows out of the forest ecosystem as run-off (R) and is lost to the plant. The rest infiltrates to the soil and percolates to the underground aquifers to recharge the springs (1). Infiltration is encouraged in forest soils with a good cover of litter and a low density spongy humus. Compaction of the top soil by cattle or human intervention greatly enhances run-off and reduces infiltration.

The infiltrating water is first absorbed by the soil which holds moisture (M) in small pores through capillary action, and this capacity of the soil to hohl water against gravity is known as field capacity. When water availability exceeds field capacity it flows down under gravity and reaches the rock system to recharge the underground aquifers. The aquifers recharge the outflows through springs, and on forest slopes saturated soils give rise to seepage streams, which together with the surface run-offs join to form rivers. The moisture retained in the soil goes back to the atmosphere either as direct evaporation or as transpiration through green plants (ETR). Thus, the hydrological cycle leads to the water balance equation:

Figure 2.1 Hydrological Cycle Associated with Trees

P = R + I + M + ETR

Where, P = Precipitation, R = Run-off, I = Infiltration Percolation, M-Soil Moisture Change, ETR = Evapotranspiration.

The relative amounts of.water flowing through the various routes in the cycle are influenced by the state of the canopy, the state of the ground cover and humus, type of soil, etc. The management of forest ecosystems will thus depend on the main economic objectives that the water output of forests are to satisfy. In the temperate regions of the world where precipitation is well distributed and in many parts the ground is covered by snow for a few months in a year and slopes are gentle, complete denudation of the catchment forests is recommended as a method of maximising water yield. On the contrary, in tropical and monsoon climate, forest ecosystems play a vital role in reducing run-off and encouraging infiltration through leaf litter and humus formation, thus ensuring a stable water yield. The management objective of a forest ecosystem will thus depend on the meteorological conditions and the manner in which the water economy is to be developed because under certain conditions water and not biomass is the most important economic output of forests.

The Nutrient Cycle and the Soil Economy

The flow of water in the forest ecosystem plays the vital role of carrying the nutrients required for plant growth from the soil and controls the rate of uptake of nutrients. The nutrient cycle thus represents the chemical aspects of ecological processes of a forest ecosystem (Figure 2.2). In economic terms, the nutrient cycle describes the economy of the soil, describing and quantifying the nutrient uptake from and the soil on which the forest grows.

The botanical process of plant growth requires a large number of elements like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, macro-nutrients like Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Nitrogen, Sulphur and

Figure 2.2 Nutrient Cycle Associated with Soil-Vegetation System

Phosphorus, and micro-nutrients like Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Molybdenum. Elements like CH and O are available from water and Carbondioxide from the atmosphere. These nutrients with the exception of N are available from the weathering of rock mineral and Nitrogen is available from the atmosphere. Apart from the biomass exported out of the forest ecosystem, these nutrients eventually return to the soil surface through deadwood and litter fall as well as washing of foliage by rain water. On the soil surface a variety of forest floor fauna including micro-organisms and bacteria transform the biomass through decomposition and release nutrients for further plant nutrition.

The uptake and return of nutrients in the forest ecosystem is well studied in the temperate regions of Europe or the USA. Unfortunately, the soil economy associated with indigenous tree species in tropical countries like India is least understood. This obviously leads to wide gaps in knowledge for the proper choice of species and their management in afforestation programmes.

In every forest ecosystem the nutrients that are used by the trees are normally returned to the soil completely. When forest biomass is extracted and transported for the satisfaction of sustenance needs or industrial/commercial demands, substantial amounts of nutrients go out of the forest ecosystem, and for intensive forest exploitation artificial fertilisation of the forest soil becomes essential.

Nutrients are supplied to the forest trees both from the atmosphere and the soil. Nitrogen is available from the atmosphere directly, as dissolved nutrients in the rain water and as particulate deposition which gets washed down to the forest floor through rainfall. Rain and wind erosion transport the nutrients from the parent rocks to the soil and the moisture in the soil dissolves them and transfers them to the body of the trees.

The nutrients are returned to the soil through the litter which contains organic remains of plants, like leaves, barks and twigs in exploited forests and organic remains of animals on the soil surface or in the top soil layer. In tropical rain forests leaf litter is about 10 tons per ha while in the open conifer forests it may be only I ton per ha. One part of green plants combine with the litter as animal waste through the consumption of green matter by the herbivores.

The accumulated leaf fall and other forms of litter then begin to decompose on the forest floor through the action of micro-organisms present in the soil. In tropical conditions where soil biotic activity is encouraged by relatively higher temperatures, the rate of decomposition is quite rapid. Due to the content of the leaves and the soil chemistry, the rate of decomposition of litter in rapidly growing tropical forests is several times greater than in the conifer forests in the temperate regions.

The soil organisms that decompose the litter are mainly bacteria and they multiply in soil with earthworms. The soft parts of the plant are normally decomposed by micro-organisms alone but woody biomass are broken. down by a complex interaction, thus the return of the nutrients back to the soil is an intricate process involving many actors. As decomposition proceeds, the nutrients are released in the form of soluble ions that can be directly absorbed by the root system and the cycle starts once again.

The nutrient cycle is disturbed by the destabilisationof the hydrological cycle. With the opening up of the forest canopy and instant surface run-off increasing, the leaching of the nutrients increases and the nutrients available for new plant growth become less, thus setting in motion a process of decay in the forest ecosystem. In extreme cases of nutrient loss and continued exploitation of the forest biomass, the vegetational evolution is reversed and a full canopy forest gets degraded to scrub forest or grasslands.

Both the water economy and nutrient economy constitute nature's economy in forest ecosystems. They need to be stable in order to sustain the productivity of forest ecosystems. The two other economies, i.e., the survival economy of the basic needs satisfaction of the people and the market economy of forest product demand of the industrial/commercial sector compete for the same resource base, forest biomass and generate conflicts over forest resources between the needs of nature and the people on the one hand; and between the needs of nature as well as people and market demand, on the other.

In the context of the forests of India, nature's economy and survival economy have always been overlapping and were simultaneously functioning without major conflicts as the small survival needs of the people were satisfied through a conservation-oriented utilisation managed by an informal but strict code of conduct towards forests. It is thus reasonable to assume in the context of forest resource utilisation in the precolonial periods, that the satisfaction of survival needs was an intrinsic part of the functioning of forest ecosystems. This was particularly so because human settlements in India grew as an integral part of the forest ecosystem and not at the cost of it as was the case in industrialized countries in the last few centuries.

With the introduction of large-scale commercial exploitation of forests by the British this situation underwent a drastic change. A schematic picture of the three competing biomass requirements of the three economies is presented in Figure 2.3. The horizontal axis represents the distance (D) from the core of the forest ecosystem while the vertical axis represents the quantity (Q) of biomass required by the three competing economies. Nature's requirement (ON) is spread throughout the forest ecosystem while the survival requirement (QS) is divided between inside and outside the forest ecosystem. It should be noted that the spread is not too far away

'from the forest ecosystem's boundary since only the local population can collect the' forest biomass. The requirement of the market economy (QM) is high as well as spread over long distances far away from the forest ecosystem, since it can be transported over long distances. This indicates a continuous long distance transfer of large quantities of forest biomass outside the forest ecosystem. All forest related conflicts are thus based on conflicts between the above mentioned requirements-ON, QS, and QM. The objectives of forest management decide as to what should be the actual biomass quantities allocated to these diverse requirements.

Figure 2.3 Schematic Description of the Economies Associated with Forests

When forests are viewed as a complete ecosystem and not as a mechanical collection of wood producing trees, the management strategy of forests has to evolve along the ecosystems concept. The ecosystems approach has the objective of ensuring sustainable production of an optimum biomass mix so as to satisfy the demands of nature's economy and survival needs and produce biomass for commercial/industrial purposes to the extent possible. Accordingly, such an approach should

  1. Lead to a harmonious utilisation of resources not resulting in external diseconomies (exploitation of forests for timber should not lead to floods and silting).
  2. Provide for the equitable returns to various sections of society depending on the same resource system (exploitation of forests for timber should not conflict with the domestic requirements of fodder or wood as long as alternatives are not made available at a low cost).
  3. Wherever externalities cannot be eliminated, the logic of costs and returns needs to be worked out for proper methods of compensation to those who bear the costs generated by activities that benefit others.



Chapter 2:The survival economy and forest conflicts

The survival economy and forest conflicts

Indigenous Management for satisfaction of Basic Needs

Indian civilisation is distinctive in the sense that it evolved in the forests, not in the city. According to Tagore, 'Forests have nurtured India's mind and India's civilization. 'Intellectual growth in India did not take place in enclosures made of brick, wood and mortar, but was inspired by the life of the forests in which nature's living forces express themselves in daily variation, creating a diversity of life and sounds, providing the context for the understanding of nature and man. Human understanding in such a context, could not be restricted to perceiving nature as inert, as an accumulation of dead resources waiting for exploitation. Nature provides light, air, food and water through living processes of creative renewal. This awareness of life in nature as a precondition for man's survival led to the worship of light. air. food and water and they were considered sacred. Indian culture has been cradled by the culture of the forest first in the Vedic period and later during the times of Buddha and Mahavir.

Thus, forests in India had remained central to its civilisational evolution. The forest teased 'ashramas' (settlements) produced the best scientific research and cultural writings and India thus came to be known as an 'Aranya Samskriti' or a forest culture Human understanding of the fundamental ecological utility of forest ecosystems and their economic importance led to veneration of trees. This basic dependence on the existence of forests for human survival was the material basis underlying the worship of trees in almost all human societies. In the Rig Veda, forests are described as Aranyani or mother goddess who takes care of wildlife and ensures the availability of food to man. These ashramas and forests, not urban settlements, were recognised as the highest form of cultural evolution providing society with both intellectual guidance and material sustenance.

This civilisational principle became the foundation of forest conservation as a social ethic through millenia. Its erosion began with the spread of colonial methods of management of forests in India. Teak from the forests of the Western Ghats, sal from Central and Northern India and conifers from the Himalayas were felled to meet the timber needs of the British empire. The result was not merely the destruction of forests but the destruction of a culture that conserved forests.

India's forest wealth is characterised by richness of diversity which is related to the diversity of soil types and climate. Moist tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests are characteristic of the Western Ghats and the northeastern region. Tropical dry deciduous forests are seen in the north and the south with sal and teak being the dominant species, respectively. The Hirnalayan region has a diversity of moist and dry temperate forests changing into alpine vegetation at the highest altitudes. Each region of India had paid special attention to the growth of village forests with multipurpose tree species providing, fuel, fodder, fruits, fibre, green manure, etc. The ecological role of forests in soil and water conservation was widely recognised and social control over the felling of trees in ecologically sensitive areas like river banks was strictly exercised.

The protection and propagation of forests as a deeply ingrained civilisational characteristic in the South Asian region is evident from the existence of sacred groves in river catchments and fore shores of tanks, and from village woodlots. These practices were of critical value both ecologically and economically. Ecologically, indigenous and naturalised vegetation has provided essential life support by stabilising the soil and water systems. Economically, trees have been a source of small timber, fodder, fuel, fibre, medicines, oils, dyes, etc. Indigenous medicines use more than 2,000 species of plants, both wild and cultivated. The centrality of trees to survival and economic well-being created the need for their conservation which was achieved through the concept of sacredness. In the archaeological remains of the Harappan culture, it is clear that even in the third or fourth mitenia BC trees were held in high esteem and were worshipped.

The planting of trees, either for their fruit or for the purpose of obtaining shade, was an act which was held in high esteem in oriental countries, and especially in India, since ancient times. The oriental appreciation of the luxury of shade led to the plantation of trees along canals and highways. In the Sunnud (Royal Order) of Emperor Akbar, it is directed that on both sides of the carnal down to Hissar, trees of every description, both for shade and blossom, be planted, so as to make it like the canal under the tree in paradise; and that the sweet flavour of the rare fruits may reach the mouth of everyone. During the reign of Emperor Sher Shah a 2,000 km long Grand Trunk Road, connecting Punjab and Bengal, was planted with shade-giving trees on both sides.

In Mysore state, roadside plantations of trees- constituted another vital source of tree wealth, not only providing ample shade to the traveller but also ensuring a steady flow of supplies of timber, fuel, fruits, green manure and animal feed. The access roads to the villages from the main highways were known for their leafy cover, generally of honge, neem and tamarind, and maintained by the village organisations themselves; and the avenues along the highways were covered by species such as ala, bage, neem, tamarind and jamun, and were managed by the services of the state administration.

The importance attached to village forests and roadside plantations by the state administration a century ago is reflected in an explicit statement in the report on forest area of the princely State of Mysore: In 188-81 village forests numbered 16,293 standing on a total area of 14,376 acres and containing 8,11,308 trees while 3,750 miles of public roads had been planted with trees on both sides, at distances varying from twelve to sixty feet.'

Plants (oshadhis) and trees (vanaspatis) are personified as goddesses and deities and collectively invoked as the jungle goddess, 'Aranyani', in the Vedas.

All religions and cultures of the South Asian region are rooted in forests, not out of fear and ignorance but due to ecological insights. This is true of all forest cultures in the tropics. As Myers observes,

In contrast to the folklore of temperate zones, which often regard forests as dark places of danger, traditional perceptions of forests in the humid tropics convey a sense of intimate harmony, with people and forests equal occupants of a communal habitat. A primary source of congruity between man and natures

Conflicts over forest resources in India can be demarcated into four phases. The first phase began when the British 'reserved' large tracts of forests for commercial exploitation to meet the military and other needs of the British empire. These conflicts led to forest struggles and forest satyagrahas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The second phase was the post-colonial phase when the 1952 forest policy led to the rapid expansion of forest based industry, large-scale clear felling of natural forests, and their conversion to monocultures of commercial species. Conflicts generated by this intensification of forest use led to movements like Chipko. In the third phase, spurred partly as a response to growing public criticism of the commercial exploitation of forests, and partly as a response to the crisis in the supply of raw materials for wood based industry, industrial plantations expanded on farm lands and village commons under 'Social Forestry' and 'Wasteland Development Programmes'. These afforestation programmes have become a new source of conflicts during the eighties. The fourth phase is expected to emerge in the future as international finance, changes in biotechnologies and biomass conversion into chemical and energy substitutes for petroleum based products, supported by major investments in forestry, are expected to lead to a new level of transnationalisation of forest use and forest conflicts.

Colonial Forestry: Commercialisation Against Survival

Colonial rule introduced dramatic breaks in the way in which forests in india were perceived and used. The perception of forest ecosystems as having multiple functions for satisfying diverse and vital human needs for air, water and food was superseded by the growth of one-dimensional scientific forestry during the colonial period which had as its only objective the maximization of the production of commercially valuable timber and wood while ignoring the other ecological and economic objectives for the utilisation of forest resources.

In India, forests play three major economic roles. In order of their significance for economic development in a democratic society like ours they may be classified as contributions to:

  1. Nature's economy through regulating the supply of water to the nation's water resources and conserving soil to support the viability of this vital economic function.
  2. Survival economy by providing the supply of basic domestic biomass needs of fodder, fuel, fertiliser, etc., to three fourths of the population.
  3. Market economy by providing the supply of wood for satisfying industrial and commercial demands.

Obviously, the first contribution of forests to the national economy through maintenance of nature's economy is the defense against the threat to our survival from floods, droughts and soil erosion. Commonly this is characterised as conservation. Lack of recognition of this vital contribution led to the downfall of the Roman, Mayan, Harappan and Mesopotamian civilisations. The second contribution is the sustenance of nearly three-fourths of the people who depend on the free productivity of nature for the satisfaction of basic biomass needs. The third and last contribution is mainly for the process of growth of wood based industries which obviously comes after survival and sustenance is ensured, and not before it.

Conflicts over forests emerged when colonial rule ignored nature's economy and the survival economy through indifference to the conservation and basic needs role of forestry, and developed forestry only along the one dimensional criterion of commercial/ industrial requirements.

Forest resources, like other resources needed for survival, have traditionally been common resources, collectively managed and utilised by village communities. They could not consistently with the principle of Hindu law and the customs of the country belong to any individual. To transform these common forest resources into commodities from which revenues and profits could be derived. it was therefore necessary to change property relationships. Through the Indian Forest Acts of 1865 and 1878, the British acquired a monopoly right over all valuable tracts of forests by converting them into reserved forests'. The traditional free access to forests of the forest communities was therefore curtailed. British forest legislation aroused resistance from village communities which were thus deprived. Local revolts broke out in all forest regions of the country.

Forest struggles have been a sustained response to commercial forestry introduced by the British. The earliest records of commercial exploitation are of a syndicate formed in 1796 by Mr. Mackonchie of the Medical Service for the extraction of teak in Malabar to meet the demand for shipbuilding and military purposes. In 1806, a police officer, Captain Watson was appointed the first Conservator of Forests in India incharge of Malabar and Travancore. to extract teak for the King's navy, indicating that policing not science, was needed in the colonial forestry of that period. Indigenous trade was sealed and peasants were denied rights.

By 1823 the growing discontent of the forest proprietors and timber merchants, chafing under the restrictions of the timber monopoly, and the outcry of the peasants. indignant at the fuel cutting restrictions, came to a head. On the recommendation of the Governor of Madras, Sir Thomas Munro, and with the consent of the Supreme Government, the conservator ship, on which Captain Watson had been followed by several successors during the seventeen years of its existence, was abolished.

The Forest Act of 1927 aroused a new response against the denial of traditional rights of local people. During 1933-31 forest satyagrahas were organised throughout India as a protest against the reservation of forests for exclusive exploitation by British commercial interests and the transformation of a common resource into a commodity. Villagers ceremonially collected forest produce from the reserved forests to assert their right to satisfy their basic needs of forest products. The forest satyagrahas were particularly successful in regions where survival of the local population was intimately linked with the access to forests as in the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and Central India. These non-violent protests were suppressed by the armed intervention of the British rulers. In Central India, Gond tribals were shot down for participating in the satyagraha. On 30 May 1930 several unarmed villagers were killed and hundreds injured in Tilari village of Tehri Garhwal when they gathered to protest against the reservation of forests. Following the loss of many lives, the satyagrahas were finally successful in reviving some of the traditional rights of the village communities to forest produce as recognized privileges.

The forest satyagrahas, like the Salt Satyagraha, were generally protests against legislation introduced by the British administration which transformed vital common resources into resources reserved for revenue and profit generation through the establishment of monopoly rights and control. These satyagrahas were a response to conflicts which were based on the exclusion of the competing demand on the resources for survival needs.

The imperative for increasing revenue and profits in a growth economy, however, drives resource utilisation patterns in directions which maximise production of the commercially valuable components of the ecosystem at the cost of destruction of those components which are commercially valueless but essential to survival.

Thus, in the case of forest resources it was not enough to manipulate policy and legislation to exclude the local communities from free access to forests. It also became imperative to manipulate nature to increase the production of biomass for commerce at the cost of decreasing and destroying biomass for survival. Systems of science and technology thus combined with systems of policy and legislation in becoming essential tools for the appropriation of vital common resources for commerce, revenue and profits. Scientific and technical aspects of forestry determine prescriptions for the functioning of forests which maximise immediate production of wood of commercial value through the destruction of other biomass forms that have lower commercial value but may have very high use value. Silvicultural systems of modern forestry are prescriptions for destruction of non-commercial biomass for the increased production of commercial biomass. Ultimately this increase in commercial production is achieved by mining the ecological capital of the forest ecosystem and disrupting the essential hydrological and nutrient cycles of nature which make plant, animal and human life possible.

The growth of commercial economic activity through the manipulation of nature generates second order conflicts over natural resources which arise not merely from issues of how a particular resource is distributed, but also how it is utilised and how it affects related resources. Thus, in the case of forest resources, contemporary conflicts are being generated by silvicultural systems aimed at maximising the production of commercially and industrially valuable species like eucalyptus, pine and teak, through the destruction of natural indigenous mixed forests which have a high use value for basic needs and for ecological stability. In Bihar, the conversion of sat forests into teak plantations has been resisted by the tribals. In 1980, a violent confrontation between tribals and the forest officials and police in Gua resulted in the death of thirteen tribals and three policemen. This clash was the outcome of the conflict between two types of silviculture, one based on trees for.the people and the other based on trees for commerce. Movements arising from conflicts over natural resources at this level are ecologically rooted since they do not merely emerge from an unfair distribution of a single resource, but from the unjust and unsustainable use of an ecosystem as a complex of interrelated resources. In ecologically sensitive regions, the destruction of forest ecosystems has in turn threatened the survival of the forest dwelling communities. The people's response to this deepening ecological and economic crisis induced by the commercial exploitation of resources has been the emergence of movements for the conservation of forest resources throughout the country. The most well known and successful among these is non-violent Gandhian movement called the Chipko (hug the tree) movement. Beginning in the early seventies in the Garkwal region of Uttar Pradesh, the methodology and philosophy of Chipko has now spread to Himachal in the north, Karnataka in the south, Rajasthan in the west and Bihar in the east. Chipko as a national campaign for forest conservation is a response to the multidimensional conflicts over forest resources at the scientific, technical, ecological and economic levels.

The arrival of the British and their exploitation of India's forest resources marked a new phase in the use of forest produce in ludia. The British were hardpressed for hardwood since their own oak forests were destroyed and rendered unproductive in the second half of the eighteenth century through unscientific management. Stebbing has recorded the situation in India after the arrival of the British:

The new Administration possessed no knowledge of tropical forestry, nor, indeed, of European forestry, since British forestry had almost ceased to be understood as a commercial enterprise in Great Britain. With the realization of the value of teak the British Admiralty were soon engaged in enquiries with the object of replacing (local) oak timber by teak from India for use in the construction of the Fleet. For the supplies of first class oak timber were falling short in England owing to the cessation of the planting, which had fallen off to a great extent early in the later part of the eighteenth century

In 1805 a despatch was received from the court of Directors enquiring to what extent the King's navy might, in view of the growing shortage of oak in England, depend on a permanent supply of teak timber from Malabar. This despatch led to the immediate formation of a forest committee charged with a comprehensive programme of enquiry both into the capacity of the forests themselves,` and the status of proprietary rights on them. Thus the first real interest expressed in the forests of India and the subsequent study of those accessible at the time originated from England, and the reason was the same which had kept forestry in the forefront in England for a period of three centuries-the safety of the empire, which depended upon its 'wooden walls'. The planting of oak owing to the supineness of successive governments had fallen into abeyance for nearly a century, and the country was faced with a shortage in timber supplies which, in view of the bid of the French for sea supremacy, might well spell the doom of England. When the British started exploiting Indian timber for military purposes, they did it rapaciously, because the great continent appeared to hold inexhaustible tracts covered with dense jungles, but there was no apparent necessity for their detailed exploration even had this been a possibility. In the early years of our occupation the botany of the forests, the species of trees they contained and their respective values was an unopened book.

As far as the government and its officials were concerned, the important role played by forests in nature and the tremendous influence they had on the physical well-being of a country went unnoticed, neither were they able to appreciate their importance to the people nor their revenue producing potential. In view of the tremendous forest wealth that existed, for some years the government obtained its full requirements without any difficulty and the people also managed to get all they wanted. The early administrators appear to have been convinced that this state of affairs could continue for an unlimited period of time; and that in many localities forests were an obstruction to agriculture and, therefore, a limiting factor to the prosperity of the country. The overall policy was to expand agriculture and the watchword of the time was to destroy forests with this end in view.

The requirement of the military for Indian teak led to an immediate proclamation declaring that the royalty right in teak trees claimed by the former government in the south of the continent was vested in the East India Company. Under increased pressure from the Home government to ensure the maintenance of the future strength of the King's navy, the decision was taken to appoint a special officer to superintend the forest work; someone who was conversant with the language and habits of the people in addition to having a knowledge of forests. His duties were to preserve and improve the production of teak and other timber suitable for shipbuilding. A police officer, Captain Watson was appointed the first Conservator of Forests in India on 1() November 1806 Under the proclamation of April 1807, he wielded great powers, which unfortunately were somewhat vague in both scope and in the extent of interference he was permitted in the established order.

Forest Conflicts in the Himalaya

In the Garhwal Himalayas. an Englishman, Mr. Wilson' obtained a lease in 1850 to exploit all the forests of the Bhagirathi Valley for a low annual rental of Rs. 400. Under his axe several valuable Deodar and Chir forests were clear felled and completely destroyed." In 1864 inspired by Mr. Wilson's flourishing timber bussiness the British rulers of the Northwestern provinces obtained a lease for twenty years and engaged Wilson to exploit these forests for them. European settlements, such as Mussoorie, created new pressures for the cultivation of food crops, leading to largescale felling of oak forests. The conservation of forests was not considered. In his report on the forests of the state, E.A. Courthope; IFS, remarked: 'It seems possible that it was not mainly with the idea of preserving the forests that government entered into this contract'.'' Inspired by the economic success of Mr. Wilson and the government, in 1895 the Tehri state took over the management of forests. Between 1897 and 1899 forest areas were reserved and restrictions were imposed on village use. These restrictions were resented and completely disregarded by the villagers, and led to incidents of organised resistance against the authorities.'' On 31 March 1905 a Durbar Circular (No. 11) from the Tehri King announced modifications to these restrictions in response to the resistance.

These modifications, however, failed to diffuse the tension. Struggles took place throughout the kingdom, but the most significant one occurred in 1907 when a forest officer, Sadanand Gairola, was manhandled in Khandogi. When King Kirti Shah heard about the revolt he rushed to the spot to pacify the citizen

The Doon Valley in the Garhwal Himalayas is an example of how colonial forest policy eroded the traditional management systems for forest use for basic needs and made commercial forestry the dominant pattern of use.

Earlier settlements of Dehradun were located in the slopes of the Himalayan belt and the triangular plateau in the valley defined by the rivers Tons and Rispana. These settlements were of the agro-pastoral type and their requirements of forest resources were non-commercial in nature-fodder, fuel, structural timber for housing and agricultural implements. The exploitation of forests for the satisfaction of these needs was controlled by the social organization of these villages. Clusters of several villages were called taluks. Each village was the property of a community of cultivating owners, managed by a headman or sayana who, as representative of the community, held his village in subordination to the sayana of the whole taluk. The bond that held together the villages in a taluk was the community ownership and management of grazing and forest lands. The forests used by villages were traditionally under the ownership and management of an entire community and not of a private individual. It had also been re ported in a letter to the Secretary of the Board of Revenue, which states that forests and wastelands: could not consistently with the principles of the Hindu law and the customs of the country belong to any individual and must ascertain to the state as public property.... By Hindu law a piece of land, sufficient for the pasturage of cattle was directed to be left uncultivated around each town or village, between it and the fields under cultivation.'

Besides the social control built into the management of forests as commons, people also had their indigenous conservation strategies. As Pant reports, in the hill regions

A natural system of conservancy was in vogue, almost every hill top is dedicated to some local deity and the trees on or about the spot are regarded with great respect so that nobody dare touch them. There is also a general impression among the people that every one cutting a tree should plant another in its place

That this system of management of resource: ensured the sustainable utilization of forests is reflected by the fact that while this tenure system continued. village forests around taluks like Dwara and Malkot were in a very good condition as reported in accounts of the last century. The sustainable utilization of forests near the villages ensured their health and limited the exploitation of forests in the rest of the valley, which remained virgin till the British entry in 1914.

The British rule introduced drastic changes in the pattern of forest produce utilization. First, a new pressure was put on the virgin sal forests by linking them with far-reaching commercial demands outside the valley. Second, the British administration changed the ancient tenure pattern, overtly and covertly, by introducing the zamindari system which destroyed the community organization. Third, the large-scale colonization of the valley through liberal land grants to Europeans converted large forest tracts into agricultural or plantation areas. The use of virgin forests as mines for sal (Shorea Robusta), sissoo (Dalbergia Sissoo) and tun (Tuna Siliata) timber under the free felling system led to rapid and severe degradation. The free felling system allowed uncontrolled extraction of timber in exchange for revenues on the produce. As William writes in his memoirs:

Reckless waste was inevitable and the fine sal forests began to disappear rapidly. The absence of conservancy was absolute. The district still abounded in fine trees 100 to 200 years old and upwards. All these fell before the axe. And probably the rest would have gone with them had the roads been a little better. The consequences of this bad system are most perceptible in Western Dun.

Initially, the forests were leased against fixed revenues to individuals who farmed the dues from the actual extractors. For the period 1819-21 the average revenue for Dehradun was Rs. 4,000. In 1839 the forests were leased for Rs. 6,500 a year. However, when Mr. Vansitartt, the Superintendent of Dehradun, discovered that the actual amount collected was Rs. 80,000 a year, he discontinued the lease and took charge of the collection. Subsequently, the Forest Department was established in 1855. As the 1911 Gazetteer reports:

The forest department instituted in 1855 concentrated its energies on the collection of revenue without making any attempt at systematic conservancy. It was in fact nothing but a forest revenue collecting agency. The effect of this neglect became apparent in 1867 when the revenue reached the low figure of Rs 23.333.

The new inequalities imposed on the region by the British administration through the introduction of the zamindari system became a source of degradation of village forests, which under community control had been maintained on a sustainable basis. In this process village forests were declared to be the property of zamindars of the villages to which they appertained. These zamindars, as new centres of economic and political power, completely destroyed the community organization its control over village forests. Thus, 'in Malkot iliqua (region) containing 31 villages the cultivating proprietors had lost their power.... a disability due to the aggression of the superior sayana, Surjan Negi, a man of capital and influence'. Surjan Negi's capital and influence was, in turn, derived from the fact that in 1822 forests in the valley were farmed to him. This economic power of a contractor coupled with the power of a zamindar completely destroyed the role and responsibility of the sayanas in the management of common resources for common use. As the control of the community was substituted by the control of the zamindars, the zamindars were only 'too anxious to make money as fast as possible out of their new acquisitions. In pursuance of this policy they prohibited the tenants from grazing and cutting wood in the village forests and sold the latter-to charcoal burners who completely denuded the hillsides'.

To encourage colonization of the valley, in 1838 the British government offered grants on very liberal terms to Europeans. The Gazetteer of 1911 records that: the grantees were bound to clear the whole of their grants within 20 years with the exception of the irremediably barren land. The land was to be subject to a progressive rental until the tenth year when it reached its maximum of 12 annas with which may be compared the universal rate of 14 annas proposed by Maj Young in his settlements

These grants covered large areas with the original nine grants amounting to nearly 200 sq km. The best sites among these had been appropriated by the officers of the district or persons associated with them. The extent of clear felling of forests through a single administrative decision was the most significant factor contributing to the depletion of forest cover in the Doon Valley. This deforestation altered the face of the valley and reduced the stability of the river banks. Indicating this impact the Gazetteer of 1911 reported that 'near Debra Dun the scenery has been somewhat spoilt by the rapid spread of cultivation and the cutting down of the sal trees that used to lie in the high banks of the numerous ravines in the neighborhood'.

Large-scale clear felling of forests for agricultural land use was a typical colonial phenomenon which was the outcome of the colonial view of agricultural surplus as an important source of revenue. As the eighth settlement report admitted:

Perhaps no mistake was more common in the early days of British rule than to suppose that the extension of the cultivation wherever culturable land could be found and the clearing of forest and jungle to extend cultivation, must necessarily benefit the country and the government, and should be encouraged and pushed as much as possible. It is now fully recognised that every country requires to have a certain proportion of its area under forests, and that in a tropical country like India, where the heat is so intense, and the very existence and well being of the people depend on a regular and sufficient rainfall, this proportion should be even larger than in European countries.

These ecological considerations were not, however, the central objectives of the reservation of forests through the notification of the Forest Act of 1878. The reservation of forests was guided largely by the fact that: 'Forests in themselves constituted a property of great value and might be made to yield an annual revenue equally with cultivation'.

The reserved forests managed by the forest department continued to be guided by the objective of revenue maximization through commercial exploitation of forests. The only difference between the earlier free felling system and the present system of scientific management through the working plans was that the same objective was achieved in a more systematic and regular manner. This conservancy was thus made an equivalent to maintaining revenues. Neither ecological considerations nor considerations of the basic needs of villagers were an intrinsic part of this scientific management. Forest reservation denied the local people access to the free use of forests. Village forests which were not reserved were declared to be the property of zamindars to which they pertained. While villagers thus lost their traditional resource bases, their requirements were not systematically included in the management of reserved forests. According to the 1911 Gazetteer:

During the earlier years of conservancy the forest department denied that the villagers possessed any rights of any description. The government, however, called for a report from the superintendent Mr. H.G. Ross who took a very different view of the matter. He described the most extensive prescriptive 'right' in grazing as having existed from time immemorial and he produced much evidence in support of his contention. The forest department, however, preferred to call the grazing facilities enjoyed by the people 'privileges'.,.

When Mr. Ross's report became the basis of notification No. 7()2 of 1880, specifying the list of villages entitled to special grazing facilities, the forest department was successful in the battle of words, so that 'rights' were not admitted, but villages included in Mr. Ross's list were permitted to exercise certain privileges. A systematic management for satisfying the basic needs of the local population thus never became an intrinsic part of the management of reserved forests. The direction in which the systematic approach did evolve was largely in the area of quantifying growing stock to guide felling to ensure steady revenue returns.

Subsequent to notification No. 702 of 1880 based on Ross's report of the villagers' rights to forest produce, notification No. 889F of 1893 very clearly spelt out the management framework for meeting local needs of grazing, fodder, fuelwood. poles and thatching grass for housing. According to this notification, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) was to prepare an annual list of forest areas which would be open to grazing. The list would specify which areas, in which block of the forest, would be open for grazing in that year. The grazing of cattle in the said reserve blocks was to he regulated in either of the following ways:

  1. By arrangement to a fixed settlement every three years based on an enumeration of cattle they desired to graze.
  2. By a yearly pass obtainable from tint. DFO.

On the basis of a list prepared in this manner the.DFO was to issue herdsmen badges specifying the number of permitted cattle, the names of villagers owning the cattle and the names of the herdsmen. Only those cattle under the charge of a herdsman and certified by the number on his badge were permitted to graze.

Village communities enjoying these grazing facilities: were also to be permitted to collect and remove headloads of fodder grass as well as fallen and dry fuel free of charge. Although operationalising this management scheme was the most important precondition for satisfying basic needs as well as protecting the reserved forests from degradation, they do not appear to have been enforced in the working plans.

Conflicts over forests emerged because colonial rule ignored the demands of nature's economy and the survival economy through indifference to the conservation and basic needs role of forestry, and developed forestry only along the one dimensional criterion of commercial/industrial requirements.

In the Kumaon region there is evidence that the needs of the empire and not of the local people led to rapid forest denudation. According to Atkinson's Gazetteer, the forests were denuded of good trees in all places. The destruction of trees of all species appears to have continued steadily and reached its climax between 1855 and 1861 when the demands of the Railway authorities induced numerous speculators to enter into contracts for sleepers, and these men were allowed, unchecked, to cut down old trees far in excess of what they could possibly export, so that for some years after the regular forest operations commenced, the department was chiefly busy cutting up and bringing to the depot the timber left behind by the contractors.

While the local people were denied their traditional rights to forest resources, and while the colonial forest policy became a 'policy for deforestation', the local people were often blamed for the devastation of forests. As Pant observes:

The.tale about the denudation of forests by the hillman was repeated ad nauseum in season and out of season by those in power so much so that it came to be regarded as an article of faith.... By way of vindication of the forest policy it is claimed by its advocates that in the pre-British days the people had neither any rights in the soil nor in the forests.

The violation of people's ancient rights to forest resources through the colonial forest policy led to popular opposition to the forest policy. Their resentment was first manifested in 1906 in the state of Tehri Garhwal. On 27 December 1906, the forest surrounding the Chandrabadin temple about 14 miles from Tehri town was earmarked for reservation. The next day 200 villagers gathered to protest against state interference in their forests over which they claimed full and extensive rights.

In 1907, a mass meeting was held in Almora to protest against the forest policy which authorised the government to declare all forests and 'wastelands' ('benap'or unmeasured land) as reserved forests. As people's agitation increased because they were unable to get a response, they set fire to government forests and resin depots in 1916. The Kumaon Association was also established in that year to look into the forest problems of Kumaon, with G.B. Pant as its general secretary. Increasing people's protests forced the government to set up a 'Forest Grievances Corranittee' to enquire into forest protests in Kumaon and Garhwal. Though the committee reclassified forests to pacify the villagers, yet people's rights were not protected. As Pant concluded in The Forest Problem in Kumaon,

The policy of the Forest Department can be summed up in two words, namely, encroachment and exploitation. The Government has gone on pushing forward, extending its own sphere and scope and simultaneously narrowing down the orbit of the rights of the people.... The memory of the 'San assi' boundaries (1880 predemarcation) is green and fresh in the mind of every villager and he cherishes it with a feeling bordering on reverence; he is simply unable to see his way to accepting the claim of the Government to the benap lands comprised within his village boundaries and regards every advance in that line as nothing short of encroachment and intrusion. Let the san assi boundaries be vested with their real character instead of being looked upon as merely nominal, and, to remove misgivings, let the areas enclosed within these boundaries be declared as the property of the villagers and all the benap lands included within these areas be restored to the village community, subject to such conditions to impartibility, etc., as may be desirable in the public interest. It is a matter of common knowledge that a large number of memorials were sent by the villagers at their own instance, about the year 1906, asking the Government to restore the areas within the san assi boundaries to them: the unsophisticated villager spontaneously reiterates the same demand today. This is the minimum demand of the people and there seems to be no other rational and final solution. The simple fact should not be forgotten that man is more precious in this earth than everything else, the forests not excepted, and, also, that coercion is no substitute for reason, and, however stringent and rigid the laws may be, the forests cannot be preserved in the midst of seething discontent against the unanimous wishes and sentiments of the people.... The collective intelligence of a people cannot be treated with contempt, and even if it be erratic, it can come round only by being allowed an opportunity of realising its mistake. If the village areas are restored to the villagers, the causes of conflict and antagonism between the forest policy and the villagers will take the place of the present distrust, and the villager will begin to protect the forests even if such protection involves some sacrifice or physical discomfort.

The contradictions between people's basic needs and the state's revenue requirements, however, remained unresolved, and in due course these contradictions intensified. In 1930 the people of Garhwal launched the non cooperation movement to draw attention to the issue of forest resources. Forest satyagrahas to resist the new oppressive forest laws were most intense in the Rawain region The King of Tehri was in Europe at that time. In his absence, Dewan Chakradhar Jayal resorted to armed intervention to crush a peaceful satyagraha at Tilari. A large number of unarmed satyagrahis were killed and wounded, while others lost their lives in a desperate attempt to cross the rapids of the Yamuna river. Years later, the martyrs of the Tilari massacre provided inspiration for the Chipko movement when people pledged themselves to protect their forests.




The tilari declaration of the people of tehri-garhwal 30 May 1968

From ancient times forests have been the foundation of our cultural and material life. We reaffirm our birthright to crow susterence and livelihoods from forests while protecting them.

Frorn time to fume, our forest rights have been violated through brute force leading to a disintegration of our cultural and economic life. Sometimes the mirage of petty reforms and privileges hove been put before us. But only a few vested interests hove gained from changes in forest management. Governments will come and will go. But it is our firm belief that our happiness and prosperity are based on a harmonious relation between our forests and ourselves. This relationship must be allowed to continue forever.

Today, we remember the martyrs of Tilari and offer homage to them. Their peaceful and non-violent movement and sacrifices give us a timeless inspiration to protect our forests and forest rights. We, therefore. declare today as Forest Day and renew this pledge

Forest Conflicts in the Western Ghatts

The pattern of colonial control and exploitation and the ensuing conflicts were not peculiar to the Himalayan region. In the Westem Ghats in South India, people were denied their traditional rights, and forest resources were exploited largely to serve the military and commercial needs of the British empire.

The district of Uttara Kannada is situated in the hilly tracts of the Western Ghats. As early as the beginning of the Christian era, Arabs and Europeans travelled to the coast of Uttara Kannada to trade in spices. The region was known for its high quality pepper and foreigners had named the area 'Pepper Queen'. In addition to spices, the rich forests provided raw material for shipbuilding industry.

The hills were covered with evergreen forests. These tropical evergreen forests provided the micro-climatic conditions for the growth of spices. The famous 'black pepper' grew wild in these forests. Pepper vines climbed high trees and the dense forests provided shade. The tropical weather provided the humid conditions essential for the growth of pepper vine. The whole region was under the rule of Vijayanagar till 1565. After the downfall of Vijayanagar kingdom, local chieftains ruled the area till 1763. Thereafter, the region was under Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan till 1799. The British had already established their base in the coastal areas of Karwar and Honavar in 1638 and 1675, respectively. Though they came to trade, the natural resources and the fluid political situation gave them an opportunity to conquer it by defeating Tippu Sultan in 1779.

In 1801 Dr. Francis Buchanan was deputed to travel through this country and report on it 'for the express purpose of investigating the state of agriculture, arts, commerce; the religion, manners and customs...'. While studying the condition of forests Buchanan noted that the forests are the property of the gods of villages in which they are situated, and the trees ought not to be cut without having obtained leave from Gauda, or the headman of the village, whose office is hereditary, and who here also is priest (Pujari) to the temple of the village god. The idol receives nothing for granting this permission, but the neglect of the ceremony of asking his leave brings his vengeance on the guilty person.'

This observation highlights the concept of community ownership over natural resources, like forests, mediated through worship and the concept of sacredness.

From pepper queen to timber mine

By the beginning of 1800, Bombay was fast becoming the centre of British commercial activity. The colonial powers wanted to exploit the natural resources of the Western Ghats to build ships for the British Navy. However. the community ownership of natural resources proved a hurdle. Hence in 183(), the British decided to assume Ownership of forests in Uttara Kannada, then North Canara. At that time the region was under Madras Presidency. Their efforts to assume control of community owned forests led to passive resistance popularly known as'Raita Koota' (farmers or peasants meet) which continued from 1831 to 1837. Eventually this opposition was crushed with the help of the army. Realising the problem of administering this part of the country from Madras, Canara was transferred to Bombay Presidency in 1865.

Increasing urbanization and industrialization created the demand for fuelwood and timber. As the Marathas and British had already stripped Konkan and Ratnagiri of their timber wealth, they moved towards North Canara. This part of the country, rich in forest wealth, proved to be a good hinterland to meet the demands of Bombay.

In 1967, Forest Laws were passed for the reservation of forest tracts the commercialization of forest use had begun. The century old sustained self-reliant economy came under threat. Forests were viewed as a source of raw material to provide timber to centres like Bombay and London. During the five years ending in 1882, the average yearly felling of wood in the district was 320,105 cubic feet, of which 218,861 cubic feet were for export, and 101,244 cubic feet were for local use. Working plans were formulated to 'improve' the 'jungles' to produce maximum revenue. Management practices also focused on clearing of 'weeds' including bamboo because it was perceived as obstructing the growth of teak. Clear felling of mixed forests and raising monocultures of teak plantations was also initiated. Controls on local use were tightened, cutting into the customary privileges enjoyed by the local people. This was reflected by the fact that the area under reserved forests was increased rapidly from 604 square miles (1,565 sq km) in 1890 to 3,015 square miles (7,81 I sq km) in 1910 in Uttara Kannada. This accounted for nearly 90 per cent of the total forests.

This encroachment conflicted seriously with local interests. Reserved forests extended right up to the doorstep in many settlements; the forest department jealously guarded its own rights in these forests and from 1902 to 1904 the local people were prohibited from collecting even dry leaves from these forests for manured The supply of green manure and fodder became scarce for agriculture as this supply was dependent on a free access to forests.

Though the government had opened fuel depots in towns and villages, there was a ban on the collection of fuelwood from forests in areas served by these depots. This increased the hardship of the rural poor who now had to pay for fuelwood which they collected free of cost earlier.

All this led to a decline in agriculture, as stated in the representations made by the local agriculturists associations to the governmental On the basis of the figures quoted in these representations (which in turn were based on official statistics) net cultivated area appears to have declined in Uttara Kannada from 240,000 acres in l890 91 to 211,000 acres in 1914-15. The area under rice declined from 196,000 acres to 173,000 acres during the same period, and further to 154,000 acres in 1933-34. Garden land declined from 23.3 to 20.7 and further to 173,000 acres during the same period. The population in the forest declined as a result of the violation of rights.

Table 3.1

Growth of Population 1901-41 in Uttara Kannada

Year(hundredthousand) Population Growth
1901 4.54  
1911 4.31 -5.27
1921 4.02 -6.69
1931 4.18 4.01
1941 4.41 5.58

A sense of alienation and grievance was seen among all sections of the local population since 18(00, the forest issue rallied majority of the people on a sustained and organised basis. Among the earliest organized expressions of grievance about forest administration was the,convening of the Kanada Vanadukha Nivarini Sabha (Kanara Conference on Forest Grievances) in 1X84 and 1887 in Sirsi. In 1885 the farmers of Sirsi and Yellapur taluks appealed to the Governor. Bombay Presidency, emphasising the justification for the ancient rights of the people to collect forest produce like fuel, fodder and dry leaves for agricultural acitivities.

There is a record of such conferences on forest grievances being held again in 1916 and 1917 at Bilgi in Uttara Kannada. A letter from the Commissioner of the Southern Division to the Collector of Karwar, dated 7 January 1922 states, '... If Civil Disobedience is started anywhere in the Southern Division? it will be in Kanara... a probable form of it would be the incitement of lower castes to break the Forest Laws'.

People's struggles continued till 1942, when Collins, the then Settlement Officer, submitted a report. Accordingly, each spice garden of 1 acre was allotted 9 acres of forest land to meet the demand of dry leaves, green leaves and fuelwood while the forest department remained the legal owner of this land. This specific concession is known as 'betta' facility in Uttara Kannada. This was indeed a very clever move on the part of the British to give a sort of concession to pacify local farmers. In fact this concession of betta imposed a restriction on the utilisation of forest produce, which was otherwise unrestricted according to the earlier practice. British forest policy created minor forests for the use of local people, but a major part was declared as reserve forests for the extraction of timber. This categorization completely overlooked the deep interlinkages between forests and the people. Cattle was prohibited from entering the reserve forests area. British commercial interest having gained an upper hand over the survival interest of the local people, the latter suffered most due to this classification. The conflict simmered for several years and a forest committee was appointed in 1925 to look into forest grievances, which failed to satisfy the village communities. The conflict finally led to a revolt by the local people. 'Jungle Satyagraha' was launched on 4 August 1930 in a broad section of villages in Sirsi, Siddapur and Yellapur taluks. The demand of the people was 'forestry in support of agriculture'. This movement gained momentum and ultimately merged with the broader struggle for independence.

Halappa reports that

As the procession went on, people in hundreds came from the villages and joined it, so that when it reached the forest, there was a multitude which staggered the authorities who had gone to put down the satyagraha.... Every village in the taluks of Sirsi and Siddapur followed this example. The government began to arrest the satyagrahis who had come from outside and a few important local leaders. The latter awakened the women to action.... The jungle satyagraha could not be put down by force, for the people of whole villages would move out in thousands and would vie with one another in getting arrested."

Colonial conflicts over forest resources, whether in the Western Ghats or in the Himalayas, were primarily conflicts between the survival economy associated with local management of forest resources and the market economy associated with non-local management by the British government. In the post-colonial period, with the collapse of foreign rule, these conflicts were expected to be more effectively resolved. However, state planned industrialisation created more intensive and extensive demands for raw materials for forest based industry. These new demands posed a new threat to the survival of local village communities through ecological destabilization. A new level of conflict thus arose between the demands of nature's economy as the basis of the survival economy and the demands for raw materials for the commercial/industrial economy. As the manipulation of forest ecosystems intensified to suit the needs of forest based industry, the ecological impact of forest exploitation on the lives of people increased. The post-colonial period has thus been associated with a new kind of forest struggle based on conservation rather than consumption of forest resources.

Ecological Conflicts Over forest Resources: The Post-Colonial Phase

Post-colonial forest policy further aggravated these conflicts and forest degradation which had begun in the colonial period. The 1952 forest policy gave a new thrust to the commercialization of forestry and the growth of forest based industry. The concept of 'sustained yield' was replaced by 'progressively increasing yields'. Mixed natural forests were clear felled and replaced by monocultures of industrial species. international agencies like the FAO played a special role in the increased industrial orientation of forestry. In one of the reports to the Government of India prepared by the F/\.O under the Extended Technical Assistance Programme, the main prescriptions for enhancing wood production were: (a) planting 1.5 million acres in ten years with fast growing species, and (b) improving accessibility of hill forests to permit better exploitation. Conflicts between industrial demands and conservation and survival needs thus deepened.

These radical shifts towards increased exploitation of forests for industrial wood, are clearly illustrated by changes in the forest working plans for Doon Valley. The first working plan for the Dehradun forest division was drawn up in 1887 by Mr. Fernandez of the Forest School for a period of fifteen years. This was mainly a report on the evaluation of forest stock and a prescription for removing unsound and damaged trees. The principle of controlled and selective felling continued to operate as the only strategy for improving forest stocks till 1933, when large-scale afforestation through plantation was introduced for the first time. The trend continued even after independence. In the working plan (1941-50) prepared by Sen a special plantation working circle was introduced. The system adopted was clear felling with artificial regeneration. Important plywood species like semal and tun supplemented by khair and sisoo were to be raised. The plantation of various species was suggested as there was a keen demand for timber suitable for the manufacture of plywood and matches.'! However, the thrust in species underwent a change in 1962 when increases in the demand of pulp based industries led to the encouragement of species like Eucalyptus. During 1966 77, the production of pulpwood increased by 400 per cent, and the raw material needs for this rapid expansion were satisfied by changes in site selection and species choice for afforestation. Labour-intensive methods of plantation like the Taungva system gave way to mechanised ones 'to simplify management and to reduce exploitation costs especially in the case of species on short rotation suitable for paper pulp like Eucalyptus'.

Thus, as the pulp industry became more powerful than the match and plywood industry there was a shift in the choice of species. The selection of area for artificial regeneration was not guided by ecological considerations but purely by market demand. Initially, open patches in the sal areas were planted with trials of various species chiefly sal, teak and some bamboo. Later from 1963 onwards the open miscellaneous forests were selected for plantation involving limited felling of standing trees. Finally, even better stocked forests were clear felled to replace 'uneconomic' species with 'economic' ones. Historically, therefore, modern scientific management of forests concerned itself primarily with increasing the yield of species with high market value and demand, completely ignoring their ecological value. Thus. it neither addressed itself to an assessment of basic needs of the local population nor the ecological needs of the local environment. It therefore, failed to generate the scientific basis or a management framework to achieve these ecological and basic needs objectives through forestry. The lack of systematic management for the satisfaction of basic needs of forest produce through the insignificant quantity of free or concessional items meant for local village use is presented in Table 3.2. These quantities contrast significantly with the quantities of forest produce extracted for commercial purposes. While both the commercial demands of urban industrial areas and the local needs of the villages bordering the forests have been increasing over time, the management of reserved forests includes mechanisms which respond only to the former demands and not the latter. In fact, the declining figures for the absolute exploitation of forest produce by the villagers suggests that even the weak mechanisms that may have existed at some time, have now collapsed. In South India, the industrial and commercial demand for forest resources for plywood and pulp and paper mills increased after independence. The Mysore Paper Mills was set up in Bhadravati in 1939 and the West Coast Paper Mills was set up at Dandeliin 1955. Harihar Polyfibres was set up in 1972. At the time of their establishment, these industries entered into an agreement with the forest department for the supply of raw material for periods ranging from five to thirty years. Thus bamboo, which had been declared a weed in the early colonial period when teak was the most favoured species, became an important raw material for the pulp and paper industry. It was believed that bamboo was available in unlimited supply and was offered practically free of cost at low rates like Re. l.OO per tonne to the industry. However, the projected yields never materialized. Thus the West Coast Paper Mills in Karnataka was expected to harvest 150,000 tonnes a year from its concessional area in North Karnataka. However, the realised harvest has averaged only 40,000 per annum from this area, and the mill has had to obtain its raw material requirements from places as distant as Arunachal Pradesh.34

Table 3.2 Extraction of Forrest Produce in Dehrandun (in cu. m)

Year Commercial
Free and ConecssionalFirewood Wood Firewood
1959 60 26698 9515 6 4376
1960-61 20654 29181 13 2532
1961-62 19514 56056 52 3414
1962-63 13111 62564 150 3166
1963-64 15456 51326 135 3232
1964-65 34772 63490 111 3155
1965-66 37359 62782 0 983
1966 67 32788 76067 2 28
1967 68 26926 54303 N.A. N.A.
1968-69 41864 187493 115 166
1969-70 41864 411380 125 693
1970-71 45620 176002 175 8
1971-72 51855 125025 129 378
1972-73 34043 115746 108 142
1973-74 31023 91556 35 97
1974-75 31342 83434 126 84
1975-76 40777 89706 50 530
1976-77 34053 85089 85 173
1977-78 39737 N.A. 108 563

As natural forest resources dwindled, large tracts of natural forests were clear felled to plant Eucalyptus monocultures to feed the pulp and paper industry. The spread of Eucalyptus plantations in the sixties was linked with the destruction of conventional raw materials like bamboo stocks. The pulpwood famine led to the need for a quick growing pulpwood species. To bridge this gap, rich tropical forests of the Western Ghats were clear felled to plant Eucalyptus. The destruction of highly productive natural forests was justified on the grounds of improving the productivity of the site. The increase in productivity was,,however, considered only from the perspective of pulpwood production. Kaikini, the Chief Conservator of Forests in the erstwhile State of Mysore, clearly accepted this bias towards pulpwood in his statement made at the Eleventh Silvicultural Conference:

The whole question of fast growth has come to light only because of the pulp industry gaining importance. How to get adequate pulp quickly was our problem.... It is with this reference that we had to try various species not only indigenous, but also exotics. While trying the exotic. we found the Eucalyptus quite useful. i;

The forest cover in Uttara Kannada decreased from Xl per cent in 1952 to 20 per cent in 1982-83, with large tracts lost to dams and

Table 3.3
Forest Area Lost Since 1956 in Karnataka (Purpose- wise)

Area Lost inLost Per cent to Total Area
1. Hydroelectric projects (Kali,
Chakra, Varahi, Gangavati and
Bedthi Phase 1)
41068 18.4
2. Direct submersion 35840 16.1
3. Rehabilitation of the displaced 25820 11.6
4. power lines 1688 0.8
5.Colony, roads and townships 2121 0.9
6.Mining 42676 19.2
7.Other non-agricultural use 6297 2.8
3.Extension of cultivation 67217 30.2
Total 222727 100

Source Suryanath Kamath (Ed.), Karnataka State Gazetteer, Part 1. Government of Karnataka. 1982 p. 130 mines. The conversion of the shrinking natural forests to pulpwood plantations led to further erosion of biomass needed for fuel, fodder, fertiliser, etc. Monoculture plantations of species like Eucalyptus and pine also severely undermined the essential ecological processes in mountain catchments like the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, destabilising the hydrological balance of streams and rivers. The ecological impact of deforestation, and the conversion of natural forests to industrial plantations generated a new level of conflict between the industrial and commercial economy and nature's economy of essential ecological processes. The emergence of movements like Chipko was rooted in this conflict.



Chapter 3:The chipko movement

3 The chipko movement

The chipko movement is historically, philosophically and organi sationally an extension of the traditional Gandhian satyagraha. Its special significance lies in the fact that it took place in post independent India. The continuity between the pre-independence and post-independence forms of this satyagraha has beer provided by Gandhians, including Sri Dev Suman, Mira Behn and Sarala Behn. Sri Dev Suman was initiated into Gandhian satyagraha at the time of the Salt Satyagraha. He died as a martyr for the cause of the Garhwali people's right to survive with dignity and freedom. Both Mira Behn and Sarala Behn were close associates of Gandhiji. They settled in the interior of the Himalayas and established ashrams. Sarala Behn settled in Kumaon, and Mira Behn lived in Garhwal till the time she left for Vienna due to ill health. Equipped with the Gandhian world view of development based on justice and ecological stability, they contributed silently to the growth of women power and ecological conscciousness in the hill areas o Uttar Pradesh. The influence of these two European disciples of Gandhiji on the heritage of struggle for social justice and ecological stability in the hills of Uttar Pradesh has been immense and they generated a new brand of Gandhian activists who provided the foundation for the Chipko movement. Sundarlal Bahuguna is prominent among the new generation of workers deeply inspired by these Gandhians. Influenced by Sri Dev Suman, he joined the independence movement at the age of 13. Later, he worked with Mira Behn in Bhilangana Valley and was trained in her ecological vision. In an article written in 1952, Mira Behn had stated that there was 'Something Wrong in the Himalaya.

Year after year the floods in the North of India seem to be getting worse, and this year they have been absolutely devastating. This means that there is something radically wrong in the Himalayas, and that 'something' is, without doubt, connected with the forests. It is not, I believe, just a matter of deforestation as some people think, but largely a matter of change of species.

Living in the Himalayas as I have been continuously now for several years, I have become painfully aware of a vital change in species of trees which is creeping up and up the southern slopes-those very slopes which let down the flood waters on to the plains below. This deadly changeover is from Banj (Himalayan Oak) to Chir pine. It is going on at an alarming speed, and because it is not a matter of deforestation, but of change from one kind of forest to another, it is not taken sufficiently seriously. In fact the quasi-commercial Forest Department is inclined to shut its eyes to the phenomenon, because the Banj brings them in no cash for the coffers, whereas the Chir pine is very profitable, yielding as it does both timber and resins

Mira Behn had thus identified not merely deforestation but change in species suitable to commercial forestry as the reason for ecological degradation in the Himalayas. She recognised that the leaf litter of oak forests was the primary mechanism for water conservation in the Himalayan mountain watersheds.

The Banj leaves, falling as they do, year by year, create a rich black mould in which develops a thick tangled mass of undergrowth (bushes, creepers, and grasses), which in their turn add to the leaf-mould deposit and the final result is a forest in which almost all the rain water becomes absorbed. Some of it evaporates back into the air and the rest percolates slowly down, to the lower altitudes, giving out here and there beautiful sweet and cool springs. It would be difficult to imagine a more ideal shock absorber for the monsoon rains than a Banj forest.

The Chir pine produces just the opposite effect. It creates with its pine needles a smooth, dry carpet, which absorbs nothing and which at the same time prevents the development of any undergrowth worth the name. In fact, often the ground in a Chir pine forest is as bare as a desert. When the torrential rains of the monsoon beat down on these southern slopes of the Himalayas, much of the pine-needle carpet gets washed away with the water and erosion invariably takes place, because these needles, being non-absorbent, create no leaf-mould, but only a little very inferior soil, which is easily washed out from the rocks and stones.

Inheriting these early lessons in ecology, Bahuguna was later able to transfer this ecological perspective to Chipko. The rapid spread of resistance in the hills of Uttar Pradesh and its success in enforcing changes in forest management was also largely due to the awareness created by folk poets like Ghanshyam Raturi, and grassroots organisational efforts of a number of people including Man Singh Rawat, Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Dhoom Singh Negi. Bhatt, who later became well known for his work, became an activist at the behest of Bahuguna in 1959 when they met at a bus station in Gopeshwar where Bhatt was working as a booking clerk and Bahuguna, along with Rawat and Raturi, was waiting for a bus during an organisational trip through Gopeshwar. Having found Bhatt a promising activist, Bahuguna invited him to join them.

The Chipko movement is the contemporary expression of a continuing heritage of peaceful resistance by the people of Uttarakhand. In the post-independence period, under the coordination of Sarala Behn, the Gandhians organised themselves into the Uttarakhand Sarvodaya Mandal in 1961. The Sarvodaya movement in the sixties was organised around four major issues:

  1. The organisation of women.
  2. Fight against alcohol consumption.
  3. Fight for forest rights.
  4. The establishment of local, forest based small industries.

While the fight against alcohol consumption provided the platform for the organisation of women, the increasing conflict over forest produce between the local and non-local industries provided the rallying point for popular protest during the sixties. In 1968 the people of Garhwal renewed their resolve to fight for their forests in a memorial meeting held at Tilari on 30 May.

The platform for the organisation of women was thus ready by the seventies and this decade saw the beginning of more frequent and more vocal popular protests on the rights of the people to protect and utilise local forests. In 1971 Swami Chidanandji of Rishikesh undertook a month-long march to bless the people in their struggle. The year 1972 witnessed the most widespread organised protests against commercial exploitation of Himalayan forests by outside contractors in Uttarkashi on 12 December, and in Gopeshwar on 15 December. It was during these two protest meetings that Raturi composed his famous poem describing the method of embracing the trees to save them from felling:

Embrace the trees and
Save them from being felled;
The property of our hills,
Save them from being looted.

While the concept of saving trees from felling by embracing them is old in Indian culture, as was the case of Bishnois, in the context of the current phase of the movement for forest rights in Uttarakhand this popular poem written in 1972 is the earliest source of the now famous name 'Chipko'. In 1973 the tempo of the movement in the two centres-Uttarkashi and Gopeshwar-reached new heights. Raturi and Bhatt were the main organisers in these two places. While a meeting of the Sarvodaya Mandal was in progress in Gopeshwar in April 1973, the first popular action to chase contractors away erupted spontaneously in the region, when the villagers demonstrated against the felling of ash trees in Mandal forest. Bahuguna immediately asked his colleagues to proceed on a foot march in Chamoli district following the axemen and encouraging people to oppose them wherever they went. Later in December 1973, there was a militant non-violent demonstration in Uttarkashi in which thousands of people participated. In March 1974, twenty-seven women under the leadership of Goura Devi saved a large number of trees from a contractor's axe in Reni. Following this, the government was forced to abolish the private contract system of felling and in 1975 the Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation was set up to perform this function. This was the first major achievement of the movement and marks the end of a phase in itself.

Bureaucratisation, however, cannot replace a civilisational response to the forest crisis. The ecological limits of forest extraction was hardly recognised and estimated. Ecological problems were accentuated leading to increased suffering of women who were responsible for bringing water, collecting fodder, etc. During the next five years Chipko resistance for forest protection spread to various parts of the Garhwal Himalayas. It is important to note that it was no longer the old demand for a supply of forest products for local small industries but the new demand for ecological control on forest resource extraction to ensure a supply of water and fodder that was being aired. In May 1977 Chipko activists in Henwal Valley organised themselves for future action. In June of the same year, Sarala Behn organised a meeting of all the activists in the hill areas of Uttar Pradesh which further strengthened the movement and consolidated the resistance to commercial fellings as well as excessive tapping of resin from the Chir pine trees. In Gotars forests in the Tehri range the forest ranger was transferred because of his inability to curb illegal over-tapping of resin. Consciousness was so high that in the Jogidanda area of the Saklana range, the public sector corporation, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, was asked to regulate its resin-tapping activity.

Among the numerous instances of Chipko's successes throughout the Garhwal Himalayas in the years to follow, are those in Adwani, Amarsar and Badiyargarh. The auction of Adwani forests took place in October 1977 in Narendernagar, the district headquarters. Bahuguna undertook a fast against the auction and appealed to the forest contractors as well as the district authorities to refrain from auctioning the forests. The auction was undertaken despite the expression of popular discontent. In the first week of December 1977, the Adwani forests were scheduled to be felled. Large groups of women led by Bachhni Devi came forward to save the forests. Interestingly, Bachhni Devi was the wife of the local village head, who was himself a contractor. Chicks activist Dhoom Singh Negi supported the women s struggle by undertaking a fast in the forest itself. Women tied sacred threads to the trees as a symbol of a vow of protection. Between 13 and 20 December a large number of women from fifteen villages guarded the forests while discourses on the role of forests in Indian life from ancient texts continued non-stop. It was here in Adwani that the ecological slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Soil, water and pure air' was born.

The axemen withdrew only to return on 1 February 1978 with two truckloads of armed police. The plan was to encircle the forests with the help of the police in order to keep the people away during the felling operation. Even before the police could reach the area volunteers of the movement entered the forests and explained their case to the forest labourers who had been brought in from distant places. By the time the contractors arrived with the police each tree was being guarded by three volunteers who embraced the trees. The police, having been defeated in their own plan and seeing the level of awareness among the people, hastily withdrew before nightfall.

In March 1978 a new auction was planned in Narendranagar. A large popular demonstration was organised against it and the police arrested twenty-three Chipko volunteers, including women. In December 1978 a massive felling programme was planned by the public sector Uttar Pradesh Forest Development Corporation in the Badiyargarh region. 'the local people instantly informed Bahuguna who started a fast unto death at the felling site, on 9 January 1979. On the eleventh day of his fast Bahuguna was arrested in the middle of the night. This act only served to further strengthen the commitment of the people. Folk poet Ghanashyam Raturi and priest Khima Shastri led the movement as thousands of men and women from the neighbouring villages joined them in the Badiyargarh forests. The people remained in the forests and guarded the trees for eleven days, when the contractors finally withdrew. Bahuguna was released from jail on 31 January 1979.

The cumulative impact of the sustained grassroots struggles to protect forests was a re-thinking of the forest management strategy in the hill areas. The Chipko demand for the declaration of the Himalayan forests as protection forests instead of production forests for commercial exploitation was recognised at the highest policy-making level.The late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, after a meeting with Bahuguna, recommended a fifteen year ban on commercial green felling in the Himalayan forests of Uttar Pradesh.

The moratorium on green felling gave the Chipko movement breathing time to expand the base of the movement and Bahuguna undertook a 4,780 km long arduous Chipko foot march from Kashmir to Kohima to contact villagers in the long Himalayan range and to spread the message of Chipko. At the same time, activists found it opportune to spread the movement to other mountain regions of the country.

Ecological Foundation of the Chipho Movement

Both the earlier forest satyagrahas and their contemporary form, the chipko movement, are rooted in conflicts over forest resources and are similar cultural responses to forest destruction. What differentiates Chipko from the earlier struggles is its ecological basis. The new concern to save and protect forests through Chipko satyagraha did not arise from a resentment against further encroachment on people's access to forest resources. It was a response to the alarming signals of rapid ecological destabilization in the hills. Villages that were once self-sufficient in food were forced to import food as a result of declining food productivity. This, in turn, was related to the decrease in soil fertility in the forests. Water sources began to dry up as forests disappeared. The so-called Natural disasters', such as floods and landslides, began to occur in river systems which had hitherto been stable. The Alaknanda disaster of July 1970 inundated 1,000 km of land in the hills and washed away many bridges and roads. In 1977 the Tawaghat tragedy took an even heavier toll. In 1978 the Bhagirathi blockade resulting from a big landslide above Uttarkashi led to massive floods across the entire Gangetic plains.

The over-exploitation of forest resources and the resulting threat to communities living in the forests have thus evolved from concerns for distribution of material benefits to concerns for distribution of ecologically generated material costs. During the first stage, the growth of commercial interests resulted in efforts to exclude competing demands. The beginning of large-scale commercial exploitation of India's forest resources led to the need for a forest legislation which denied village communities' access to forest resources. The forest satyagrahas of the thirties were an outcome of the Forest Act of 1927 which denied people access to biomass for survival while increasing biomass production for industrial and commercial growth. The growth imperative, however, drove production for commercial purposes into the second stage of conflict which is at the ecological level. Scientific and technical knowledge of forestry included in the existing model of forest management, is limited to viewing forests only as sources of commercial timber. This gives rise to prescriptions for forest management which are basically manipulations to maximise immediate growth of commercial wood. This is achieved initially by the destruction of other biomass forms that have lower commercial value but may be very important to the people, or have tremendous ecological significance. The silvicultural system of modern forestry includes prescriptions for the destruction of noncommercial biomass forms to ensure the increased production of commercial biomass forms. The encouragement to substitute ecologically valuable oak forests by commercially valuable conifers is an example of this shift. Ultimately, this increase in production may be described as mining of the ecological capital of forest ecosystems which have evolved over thousands of years.

The contemporary Chipko movement, which has become a national campaign, is the result of these multidimensional conflicts over forest resources at the scientific, technical, economic and ecological levels. It is not merely a conflict confined to local or non-local distribution of forest resources, such as timber and resin. The Chipko demand, at one stage was for a larger share for the local people in the immediate commercial benefits of an ecologically destructive pattern of forest resource exploitation. It has now evolved to the demand for ecological rehabilitation. Since the Chipko movement is based upon the perception of forests in their ecological context, it exposes the social and ecological costs of short-term growth-oriented forest management. This is clearly seen in the slogan of the Chipko movement which claims that the main products of the forests are not timber or resin, but soil, water and oxygen. With proper social control the basic biomass needs of food, fuel, fodder, small timber, and fertiliser can, in the Chipko vision and the Garhwal practice, be satisfied as positive externalities of biomass production primarily aimed at soil and water conservation to stabilise the local agro-pastoral economy.

The Chipko movement has been successful in forcing a fifteen year ban on commercial green felling in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, in stopping clear felling in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas, and in generating pressure for a national forest policy which is more sensitive to people's needs and to the ecological development of the country. Unfortunately, the Chipko movement has often been presented by vested interests as a reflection of a conflict between 'development' and 'ecological concern', implying that 'development' relates to material and objective bases of life whereas 'ecology' is concerned with non-material and subjective factors, such as scenic beauty. The deliberate introduction of this false and dangerous dichotomy between 'development' and 'ecology' disguises the real dichotomy between ecologically sound development and unsustainable and ecologically destructive economic growth. The latter is always achieved through the destruction of life-support systems and material deprivation of marginal communities. Genuine development can only be based on ecological stability which ensures sustainable supplies of vital resources. Gandhi and later his disciples, Mira Behn and Sarala Behn, clearly described how and why development is not necessarily contradictory to ecological stability. The conflict between exploitative economic growth and ecological development implies that, by questioning the destructive process of growth, ecological movements like Chipko are not an obstacle to the process of providing material welfare. On the contrary, by constantly keeping ecological stability in focus, they provide the best guarantee for ensuring a stable material basis for life.

Paradigm Conflicts

In the final analysis, the dichotomy between 'development' and environment can be reduced to what is 'development' and how scientific knowledge is generated and used to achieve it. This dichotomy is clearly enunciated in the two slogans on the utility of the Himalayan forests-one emanating from the ecological concepts of Garhwali women, the other from the sectoral concepts of those associated with trade in forest products. When the Chipko movement evolved into an ecological movement in Adwani in 1977, the spirit of public interest ecological science was captured in the slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Soil water and pure air'. This was a response to the commonly accepted, partisan science based slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Profit on resin and timber'.

Figure 4.1 : The Evolution of the Chipko Mouvement -Part I

Figure 4.2 : The Evolution of the Chipko Mouvement -Part II

The insight in these slogans symbolised a cognitive shift in the evolution of Chipko. The movement underwent a qualitative transformation from being based merely on conflicts over resources to conflicts over scientific perceptions and philosophical approaches to nature. This transformation also led to that element of scientific knowledge which has allowed Chipko to reproduce itself in different ecological and cultural contexts. The slogan has become the scientific and philosophical message of the movement, and has laid the foundations of an alternative forestry science which is ecological in nature and oriented towards public interest. The commercial interest has the primary objective of maximising exchange value through the extraction of commercially valuable species. Forest ecosystems are therefore reduced to timber mines of commercially valuable species. 'Scientific forestry' in its present form is a reductionist system of knowledge which ignores the complex relationships within the forest community and between plant life and other resources like soil and water. Its pattern of resource utilisation is based on increasing 'productivity' on these reductionist lines. By ignoring the systems linkages within the forest ecosystem, this pattern of resource use generates instabilities in the ecosystem and leads to a counter-productive use of natural resources at the ecosystem level. The destruction of the forest ecosystem and the multiple functions of forest resources adversely affects the economic interests of those groups of society which depend on the diverse resource functions of forests for their survival. These include soil and water stabilization and the provision of food, fodder, fuel, fertiliser, etc. Forest movements like Chipko are simultaneously a critique of reductionist 'scientific' forestry and an articulation of a framework for an alternative forestry science which is ecological and can safeguard public interest. In this alternative forestry science, forest resources are not viewed as isolated from other resources of the ecosystem. Nor is the economic value of forests reduced to the commercial value of timber. 'Productivity', 'yield' and 'economic value' are defined for the integrated ecosystem and for multipurpose utilization. Their meaning and measure is therefore entirely different from the meaning and measure adopted in reductionist forestry. Just as in the shift from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics, the meaning of 'mass' changed from a velocity independent to a velocity dependent term, in the shift from reductionist forestry to ecological forestry, all scientific terms change from ecosystem independent to ecosystem dependent ones. Thus, for tribals and other forest communities a complex ecosystem is productive in terms of herbs, tubers, fibre, the gene pool, etc., whereas for the forester these components of the forest ecosystem are useless, unproductive and dispensable. Two economic perspectives lead to two notions of 'productivity' and 'value'. As far as overall productivity is concerned, the natural tropical forest is a highly productive ecosystem. Examining the forests of the humid tropics from the ecological perspective, Golley has noted: 'A large biomass is generally characteristic of tropical forests. The quantities of wood especially are large in tropical forests and average about 300 tons per ha compared with about 150 tons per ha for temperate forests. However, in partisan forestry, overall productivity is not important. It looks only for the industrially useful species and measures productivity in terms of industrial biomass. As Bethel states, referring to the large biomass typical of forests of the humid tropics,

It must be said that from a standpoint of industrial material supply, this is relatively unimportant. The important question is how much of this biomass represents trees and parts of trees of l preferred species that can be manufactured into products that can be profitably marketed.... By today's utilisation standards, most of the trees, in these humid tropical forests are, from an industrial materials standpoint, clearly weeds.

With these assumptions of partisan forestry science wedded to forest industry, large tracts of natural tropical forests are being destroyed across the Third World. Though the justification given is increased 'productivity' yet productivity increase is only in one dimension. There is an overall decrease in productivity. The substitution of natural forests in India by Eucalyptus plantations has been justified on the grounds of improving the productivity of the site. However. it has been a partisan view of productivity in the context of pulpwood alone that has been projected as a universally applicable measure of productivity. What has been termed the 'Eucalyptus controversy' is in reality a paradigmatic conflict between an ecological public interest forestry and a reductionist partisan forestry which only responds to industrial requirements. While natural forests and many indigenous tree species are more productive than Eucalyptus in the public interest paradigm, the opposite is true in the partisan paradigm of forestry. The scientific conflict is actually an economic conflict over which needs and whose needs are more important. In such paradigmatic conflicts, dominant scientific assumptions change not by consensus but by replacement. Which paradigm will win and become dominant is determined by the political strength backing the paradigms. The utilisation of natural resources, is part of planned development, has been classically guided in India by the concept of maximization of growth in the short run. This maximisation is based on increasing the productivity of labour alone. Gandhi critically articulated the fallacy of increasing labour productivity independent of the social and material context. Gandhi's followers in the Chipko movement continue to critically evaluate restricted notions of productivity. It is this concern with resources and human needs which is symbolised in Bahuguna's well-known slogan-'ecology is permanent economy'.

These conceptual issues assume tremendous importance in view of the fact that we are entering into an era in which large amounts of financial resources are being handed over to Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who are rapidly becoming the new managers of old development projects. The self-reliance, decentralisation and sacrifice intrinsic to voluntary action is being threatened by treating NGOs as the new delivery system. It is in this context that the debate on these two philosophies of nature and political action becomes central to the debate on development. The urgency of establishing a new economy of permanence, based on ecological principles, is felt with each new environmental disaster in the Himalayan region which spells destruction for the Gangetic basin. Chipko's search for a strategy for survival has global implications. Chipko's demand is conservation of not merely local forest resources but the entire life-support system, and with it the option for human survival. Gandhi's mobilisation for a new society in which neither man nor nature is exploited and destroyed, marked the beginning of this civilisational response to the threat to human survival. Chipko's agenda includes carrying that vision against the heavier odds of contemporary crises. Its contemporary relevance as well as its significance for the future world, is clearly indicated in the rapid spread of the ecological world view throughout the vast stretch of the Himalayan region, following the historical 5,000 km trans-Himalaya Chipko foot march led by Bahuguna, and subsequently through other vulnerable mountain systems such as the Western Ghats, Central India and the Aravallis.

The history of Uttara Kannada has been the history of people's struggle against commercial forest policy. The destruction of tropical natural forests and the raising of monoculture plantations of teak and Eucalyptus caused irreversible changes in the forest ecosystem. The destruction of mixed species denied people access to biomass for fodder, fertiliser, etc. The clear felling of natural forests has led to severe soil erosion and drying up of perennial water resources. Moved by the destruction of essential ecological processes, the youth of Salkani village in Sirsi launched a Chipko movement which was locally known as 'Appiko Chaluvali'. They embraced the trees to be felled by contractors of the forest department. The protest within the forest continued for thirty eight days and finally the felling orders were withdrawn. The success of this agitation spread to other places and the movement has now been launched in eight areas covering the entire Sirsi forest division in Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts. These areas included Mathghatta, Salkani, Balegadde, Husei, Nedgod, Kelgin Jaddi, Vanalli and Andagi, The rapid spread of the movement was based on evidence provided by villagers that the forest department was over-exploiting the forests. Villagers' complaints were later confirmed by official visits by scientists and politicians. In the forest of Kalase, with an area of 151.75 hectares earmarked for selection-cum-improvement felling for the year 198 3 84, a total of 590 trees above the girth limit of 2 metres was earmarked for felling. The Indian Plywood Mills had extracted a total of 125 trees belonging to eight species in the 1982-83 season. Thus a total of 715 trees spread over 151.75 hectares, or 4.05 trees per hectare were to be extracted. With an additional 5 per cent added for damage, the total number expected to be felled was 4.25 trees per hectare.

Representatives of the Lalkhminarasimba Yuvak Mandali who launched the Appiko movement in September 1983 maintained that (a) there was an excessive concentration of trees earmarked for felling in easily accessible areas, and (b) there was excessive damage to trees during the course of felling. In 1 hectare plot sampled it was found that eleven trees had been marked for cutting, out of which eight had been felled. In the process of felling these eight trees, as many as five trees had been damaged. This rapacious destruction of forest resources was undermining the ecological survival of local communities, who finally stopped felling through non-violent direct action- as seen in the case of Chipko.

The objective of the Appiko movement is three-fold. To protect the existing forest cover, to regenerate trees in denuded lands and, last but not least, to utilise forest wealth with due consideration to conservation. All these objectives are implemented through locally established Parisara Samrakshna Kendras (environmental conservation centres).

The Appiko movement has created awareness among villagers throughout the Western Ghats about the ecological destruction of their forest wealth. People now closely monitor the exploitation of forests by the forest department, and have been able to show the discrepancy between professed and actual practice of forest management. In December 1984, villagers of Gerasoppo range of Honavar forest division were able to record the felling practices and damage to forests due to timber exploitation. Their observations were as follows:

Forest Rule

  1. No tree will be felled on slopes and catchment areas of rivers (protection forests).
  2. In evergreen forest areas only two trees per acre will be felled.
  3. Minimum girth of trees felled should be 2.5 metres.
  4. The distance to be maintained from one tree to another tree to be felled should be 5() metros.
  5. Trees to be felled shall be lopped of their branches to reduce damage.
  6. No tree either dead, diseased or green should be felled near streams or the water line.
  7. Dragging of logs is not allowed.

Actual Practice

Trees are felled in catchment areas of Sharavati river (Honavar forest division on steep slopes).

In evergreen forest areas seven trees were felled in one acre (Marked). Two marked trees (Nos. 542 and 111) felled had a girth of 1.80 metres and 1.50 metres, respectively. Thirty seven trees, with a girth of over 50 ems, and thirty-two trees, with a girth of over 10 cms were damaged.

The distance from tree No. 75 to tree No. 90 which had to he felled was only 4.60 metros.

No lopping was done while felling trees.

Eight trees felled on an 80 degree slope, seven trees felled on a 75 degree slope, and ten trees were felled on the water line.

Dragging of logs was done extensively all over the place.

The top soil up to six inches was ripped off totally by dragging logs. This soil will be carried to the Sharavati river, raise its bed and the water level, and cause floods in an area which receives 250 inches of rainfall every year. Besides destabilising the catchment area, commercial exploitation has also deprived people of their use of forest biomass for basic needs. An 80-year old man, Rama Naik of Mattingadde village, narrated his experience. 'We had enough of medicinal trees. There was enough bamboo and cane for us. But after independence the felling of trees began and now everything is gone. There is no cane left. People's greed to make fast money has ruined us.'

In the context of this conflict between commercial demands and the demands for ecological stability and survival, the Appiko activists believe in the Chipko philosophy that The basic products of the forests in the Western Ghats are soil, water and pure air' which form the basis of life in the Deccan Plateau. They are not fuelwood and timber which are regarded as ultimate products from these forests in the market economy.

Table 4.1 History of Chipko (Appiko Chaluvali) Movement in South India

Date Details Purpose of
Local Problerns Type of Forest Distance from
Salkani (km)
8 September 1983 150 women and 30 women from
Salkani, Balegadde, Monondoor.
etc. walked five miles to Kalase-
Kudergod forest.They hugged trees and stopped the axemen. who were felling trees under the orders of the forest department.
For commercial
purposes, to ob-
tain timber.
The only patch
of forest left nearthese villages to obtain fuelwood
and fodder,
honey, etc.,—
forest invaded byepitorium weed.
Mixed tropical
Forest growth in
midst of big
8 Chipko spreads to South India.
Demand of people:otal ban on fellingof green trees.People ready tosacrifice their lives
22 September Forest officials and experts visit the area and spot.   People's senti-
meets ignored
Forest growth in
midst of big
Promise of people 's involvement in felling decisions          
29 September FeIling starts again in this forest.
The people launch the movement
and hug trees.
People's support total. Laterite soil.
14 Octomber
The tabourers of' forest contractors
leave the felling sites.
For timber. People are tri-
teals dependent
on the forest for
survival: dis-
appearance of
bamboo.Wild pigs destroy the crop. Drying up of water resources.
Mixed tropical
Hilly slopes.
Canopy opened.
40 Movement in
second place
began on its own!
16 Octomber
Movement started by people in
Bengaon forest It was launched by
the people spontaneously! Sixty
people most of them tribals hugged
the trees to save them.
18 Octomber 'The movement in Bengaon gains
momentum. 150 people gather to
support the movement.
Very sparse
habitat and gathering of 150 people is a great achievement.
23 Octomber The movement begins in Husri
forest. 100 men and women join
hands and stop felling through
For timber. Deciduous forest.village. Deciduous forest. 36 Appiko initiates people to launch the movement.
III Chipko. For fuelwood
needs of Sirsi town.Clear felling to plant commercial species.
Monoculture of teak and eucalyptus has affect ted agricultural yield.Wild pigs haveincreased innumber.Fuelwoodshortage.Wood for agricultural implements no available.People arc
mostly labourers.
Mixed varieties.
Useful to farmers.
From Sirsi
6 km.
24 October DFO Range Officer visit the forest.
He asks people to abandon the
movement and allow felling.
People protect trees in front of him
by hugging them. They are least
affected by the DFO.
People carry on Chipko in front of the DFO.
11 November The movement starts in Nidgod
(Siddapur taluk). 300 people parti-
cipate and stop felling.
Fuelwood for
Siddapur town.
The only patch of mixed forest left near the vilrage. Deciduous.
Laterite soil.
Slope more than 45°.
Movement spreads to adjacent taluk.
Initiative by Appiko organisers.
IV Clear felling of
10 acres to plant monoculture.
Surrounded by eucalyptus plan-

Forest growth in stone.
12 November Kelagin Jaddi forest movement
launched (Siddapur taluk).
Plywood raw
Obtaining fuel-wood, green manure, fodder,etc., from this forest. Most deciduous.
Near slopes.
60 Movement
launched sponta
neously by thelocal people.
V The plywood company damaged 542
trees in the process of felling 51
marked trees.
    40 km from
25 November Movement started in Parsi forest.
300 people stop felling.
Industrial timber.
cover left.
Meagre forest Deciduous forest. 52 Spontaneous
Vl 30 km from Sirsi.
11 December Movement launched in Bilgal forest.
201) people (100 women) stop
Clear felling to plans commercial
Fuelwood for Sirsi.
The only mixed forest left in the area. Deciduous 12
18 km from Sirsi.
The original seed of Chipko was
from this place.





Chapter 4:Afforestation programmes an d lan d use con flicts

4. Afforestation programmes and land use conflicts

Social forestry in Karnataka

Conventionae forest management strategies have proved inadequate in the task of protecting, regenerating the forest cover of the country and satisfying the people's basic needs for forest products. As a result, the situation is extremely disturbing in almost all parts of the country. The situation has now become desperate with the increasing diversion of available biomass to commercial channels, which takes this biomass immediately beyond the limited purchasing power of the rural poor.

Under this combined crises of unsatisfied basic needs and ecological destabilization of rural agro-ecosystems, the regeneration of forest cover outside the demarcated reserved forests has evolved as a new national programme called 'social forestry'. This programme has, as its primary aim, the development of local biomass resources for the satisfaction of the local people's biomass needs. Consequently, the programme envisaged large-scale tree planting on common lands and open government lands by village communities for the satisfaction of their own requirements.

The supply of fuelwood and fodder is an essential, not isolated, input to agriculture in India. The fuelwood crisis is not an isolated problem since it diverts agricultural waste and dung from its use as organic manure for fuel for cooking, thus sabotaging sustainable agricultural activity. It also undermines agricultural activity by diverting some 20 per cent of available manpower from productive farm work to fuelwood gathering. It is estimated that 18 per cent of the human labour devoted to domestic work is accounted by the collection of firewood. In several parts of India, two man-days of labour are spent per family, simply collecting enough firewood for the week.

In many parts of the country, tree fodder plays a very important role in keeping animals alive to provide draught power for agriculture and transport. In other parts of the country where indigenous varieties of high fodder producing crops are being replaced by 'high yielding' varieties, the fodder situation is becoming desperate. The nature of the fodder deficit in Karnataka is clearly highlighted in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1 Fodder Situation in Karnataka (1979)

Feed; Requirements Supply(million tows) Deficit or Surplus
Straw 190 130 - 60 mt
Green fodder 289 111 - 178 mt
Concentrates 40 11 -29 ml
Grazing 453 527 +74 mt

Source: Government of Karnataka, 1980 p. 9.

The third task to which social forestry is committed is the rebuilding of exhausted resources for rural housing needs. No viable alternative to timber (in material and economic teens) is available to the lowest income groups. Some attempts to introduce cheap and appropriate rural housing with new materials have been made. But the diffusion and transfer of these new technologies does not seem possible in the near future. The before. if the basic need of shelter is to be satisfied, dependence on forest resources for housing cannot be avoided.

Where social forestry differs most radically from past forestry programmes is in the recognition that the rebuilding of India's forest wealth cannot be undertaken without the participation of the local community. As Eckholm points out:

Community forestry cannot be imposed from above and carried out in the face of a hostile population. New forms of land use impinge upon, and are influenced by, the daily activities of everyone. When the local people are not active participants and supporters of a project, saplings have a way of disappearing overnight. With fodder usually as scarce as firewood, uncontrolled goats or cattle can quickly ruin a new plantation even when disgruntled peasants facing the alternative of a lengthy hike to collect fuel do not covertly cut the saplings themselves.... Community involvement, then, is not just an ideologically appealing goal; it is a practical necessity if rural forest needs are to be met.

Enthusiastic Support

According to the national commission of agriculture (government of india, 1976), the scope of social forestry should include 'farm forestry, extension forestry, reforestation in degraded forests and recreation forestry.' Farm forestry in particular was defined by the Commission as '(the) practice of forestry in all its aspects on farms or village lands, generally integrated with other farm operation.' The same policy was reiterated in the Recommendations of the Second Forestry Conference held in 1980. The Conference stated that:

Social forestry programmes should be given prime importance all over the country with the objective of growing trees on farmlands, community wastelands, road, canal and railway sides and any other land set aside for similar purposes, either singly or in groups, in strips or in blocks.

Thus, in theory, social forestry offers a programme for building forest stocks in two ways. First, it is expected to provide resources to satisfy the basic needs of the population through the creation and regeneration of tree wealth within human settlements. Second, by satisfying these needs locally, social forestry is seen as a mechanism for reducing pressures which are at present destroying the reserved forests. Above all, social forestry provides a means of reversing the earlier trend of converting forests into agricultural land and human settlements. In view of the availability of denuded civil forests and degraded village commons, the reverse phenomenon of generating new forests within human settlements through community participation is a promising one.

Attracted by this promise both the central and the state governments, as well as a host of voluntary groups, international aid agencies have focused attention on this programme. many of the voluntary activist groups this was a new support for a programme they were already engaged in, both formally and informally as an integral part of their routine activity. However, though these voluntary efforts, led by highly dedicated individuals imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and social uplift, were successful in the greening of small areas in almost all parts of the country, they were not quantitatively significant to become a national programme. Furthermore, the type of leadership that is needed was not easily available everywhere.

With the government taking up afforestation outside the demarcated areas, and with liberal international aid pouring in for the purpose, planting of trees became an official activity from a voluntary one. Social forestry projects with foreign assistance in various states of India are listed in Table 5.2. The formal and written objectives of such official programmes with international aid are laudable and promise a permanent solution to the fodder and fuel crisis of the average Indian villager.

(The purpose of social forestry) is the creation of forests for the benefit of the community through active involvement and the participation of the community. In the process, the rural environment will improve, rural migration will reduce, rural unemployment substantially cease... The overall concept of social forestry aims at making the villages self-sufficient and self-reliant in regard to their forest material needs."

Table 5.2 Social Forestry Projects with Foreign Assistance in 1981 (Rs. crores)

State Cost Estimate,
of Project
Uttar Pradesh 36.0 23.00 World Bank
Gujarat 60.8 29.6 World Bank
West Bengal 34.0 23.0 World Bank
Madhya Pradesh 40.0 20.0 USAID
Tamil Nadu 45.0 31.0 SIDA
Maharashtra 40.0 20.0 USAID
Orissa 22.5 To be worked out SIDA
Karnataka 60.0 To be worked out World Bank
Andhra Pradesh 56.0 To be worked out CIDA
Haryana 32.0 To be worked out World Bank
Jammu & Kashmir 24.0 To be worked out World Bank
Bihar 40.0 To be worked out SIDA
India 2000.0    
India 100.0    

Source: Himalaya Man and Nature, Special Issues on Forestry, 1981.

Disheartening Results for the Poor?

In the perspective of the hopes raised and enormous international finance available, how has social forestry fared so far? To what extent has it been able to involve society in raising trees on village commons? What contribution has it made to enhance the much needed biomass supply for the rural poor? Has it improved the ecology of agro-ecosystems? These are some of the many questions being raised about social forestry programmes.

While aid giving bodies differ from state to state and, accordingly, some finer adjustments are made in the programmes, the general characteristics of social forestry programmes are almost similar throughout the country. Social forestry programme in the State of Karnataka is possibly the most suitable case for such an analysis since the amount of systematic information on the programme is significant and is available for periods prior to the introduction of the World Bank aided official programme of social forestry. In particular, the district of Kolar in Karnataka, identified as a success district for the official social forestry programme, can be selected for an indepth impact assessment of social forestry.

Impact of Social Forestry in Kolar

The first systematic study of the impact of the official social forestry programme was undertaken by Shiva e' al. in 1981. Social forestry had been undertaken by the Karnataka Forest Department since 1975-76 much before the World Bank aided programme was launched. The official social forestry programme had gained considerable momentum by 1979-80, when the evaluation was undertaken. This is apparent from the growth of the project during that year:

Distribution of free seedlings 300 million
Plantations along roads 185 km
Plantations on land owned by public institutions 100 ha
Plantations along canal banks 20 km
Plantation on revenue lands 100 ha

In the entire range of various types of plantations in the social forestry programme, the programme of plantations on village commons is the one in which direct involvement of the village community is possible and the community can expect to receive benefits directly. In the case of plantations on private farm lands, though the benefits to the landowner are ensured, the community as a whole becomes redundant. In other types of plantations, due to various reasons like unclear modes of benefit sharing and geographical isolation from the village, the possibility of community participation is extremely low. As is seen from the above distribution, the most successful and predominant element of social forestry has been based on individual farmers planting seedlings which were distributed free of cost. Salient features of the study by Shiva and associates are presented here.

The response to the social forestry programme in Karnataka has been most significant in the districts of Kolar and Bangalore. This led to the selection of one of these districts, i.e., Kolar, for the study. Kolar was selected in preference to Bangalore to reduce the impact of the pressure of the metropolitan city of Bangalore. Within Kolar, one taluk, Bagepalli, was chosen to provide information on the land use pattern when the impact of urban centres like Bangalore could be expected to be marginal. The other three taluks chosen-Kolar, Bangarpet and Malur-were bordering the district of Bangalore and were expected to be partly affected by their proximity to Bangalore City. The location of these taluks in the district of Kolar is presented in Figure 5.1. Within these four taluks, villages wete randomly chosen-both remote and near the taluk headquarters, as well as those which were near metalled highways and those at a distance from them. The relative distance of the villages from the nearest town, usually the taluk headquarters, along with other relevant information is given in Tables 5.3 to 5.6 and locations are shown in Figures 5.2 to S.5. The households surveyed were randomly selected from all economic classes with the help of village accountants. The distribution of households in terms of family size and land holdings is presented in Tables 5.7 and 5.8.

Information from individual households was collected with the help of a questionnaire. The important information sought through the questionnaire was related to the socio-economic background of the household, landownership status, land use pattern, domestic energy consumption, future land use programrnes, etc. Besides the data collected through the questionnaire, oral historical information on the type of land use in the past few decades, types of species of trees people need, the relationship of the village organisation with the forest department, etc., was also collected. The fieldwork for the study was carried out between December 1980-February 1981. This information was used to analyse the impact of social forestry in more efficient land utilisation from the point of view of satisfying the basic requirements of the village communities for forest products and the increased stabilisation of the village ecology and life-support systems. The study made certain observations that led to a national debate on the social desirability of the official social forestry programmes as practiced in Kolar. It was observed that official funds were being used by the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the market forces. Thus, the World Bank aided social forestry programme had clearly nothing to do with society right from the start.

Figure 5.1 Karnataka and Kolar District

Figure 5.2 Malur Taluk

Figure 5.3 Baghepalh Taluk

Figure 5.4 Kolar Taluk

5.5 Baghepalh Taluk

Table - 5.5 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Bagepalli Taluk

Total Population
Area for
to the
Tanda 1422 141 744 478 36
Natlacheruve 1006 98 526 273 22
Somanathpur 2678 235 1312 808 27
Sugnarampalli 3461 228 118 852 27
Pichalvarapalli 1 272 80 436 341 27
Yellampalli 3091 384 2082 1396 8

Table 5.4 Bask Information about the Samlped - Villages - Bangarpet
Village Total Total Population Rainfed Distance
Area Households Area for to the
(acres) Cultivation Nearest
(acres) Town
Balamande 3277 208 1263 916 19
Buchepalli 648 58 319 232 8
Gorvanahalli 217 11 79 206 4
Kadrenahalli 447 45 216 174 21
Nallur 445 82 522 248 14
Palmadgu 1526 187 746 438 22
Sunderpalya 683 242 1393 293 22

Table 5.5 Basic Information about the Sample Villages - Kolar Taluk

Total Population
Area for
to the
Abbani 964 128 348 205 13
Bennagur 1196 60 511 471 18
Chikkanahalli 547 65 237 103 10
Doddahasala 802 97 609 427 3
Doddahollibi 768 97 552 203 18
Modderi 1037 110 724 404 22
Mangasandra 1075 88 567 207 6
Muduvadi 1385 142 716 434 13
Seepur 791 149 763 418 5
Yelawara 1523 107 632 585 5

Table 5.6 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Taluk

Total Total
Population Rainfed
Area for
to the
Arnigatta 472 48 339 453 10
Appiana Agrahara 254 52 270 165 16
Harimakinhalli 998 79 425 557 22
Jayamangala 690 157 784 350 11
Kadedanhalli 434 94 564 228 2
Kuraridahalli 411 43 244 289 3
Seethahalli 423 100 620 87 16
Thimmanakanahalli 253 18 81 156 14
Thippasandra 350 35 189 190 13
Yeshavantpura 803 191 1112 341 5
Pannamakanahalli 418 44 263 264 13

Table 5.7 Distribution of Family Size in the Four Taluks Studied

Number of Households in
Family Size Bagepalli Bangarpet Kolar Malur Total
0-3 13 7 15 14 49
4-5 23 33 35 36 127
6-8 23 63 59 75 220
9-10 8 19 19 26 72
11-12 9 9 14 20 52
13-14 2 2 5 8 17
15-20 6 11 24 13 54
>21 1 3 6 7 17
Total 85 147 177 199 608

The socio-economic critique of Shiva et al. was subsequently confirmed by official evaluations of the social forestry project by the Government of Karnataka (1984). This study observed that in the two 'success' districts, Kolar and Bangalore, agricultural households who have taken up farm forestry, have converted 44 per cent and 51 per cent of land respectively to plantations of either Eucalyptus or Casurina. In many cases the farmers have used almost all their landholdings for farm forestry. The results of the Government of Karnataka study are presented in Table 5.9.




Table 5.8 Distribution of Landholdings in the Four Taluks Studied

Land Size 2 3 4 5 6
Landless 9 28 14 4 55
.01-.99 3 6 2 2 13
1-1.99 14 16 34 27 91
2-2.99 14 28 38 43 124
3-3.99 18 19 17 27 81
4-4.99 6 16 18 27 67
5-6.99 14 16 25 35 90
7-9.99 3 5 13 14 35
10-15 4 10 7 10 31
15 5 3 9 10 27
Total 90 147 177 199 614

Table 5.9 Type of Land Used for Farm Forestry in Kolar and Bangdore Districts (area in hectares)

Type of Land Used
for Raising Farm
Raising Farm
Kolar District Bangalore District
Area % to Total
Area Under
Area % to Total
Area Under
Agricultural land .64.7 63.3 69.5
Barren land - - 10.1 7.3
Fallow land 7.4 7.3 4.5 3.2
Current fallow 0.6 0.6 5.7 4.0
Cultivable waste 28.4 27.9 32.9 22.8
Encroached land 1.0 0.9 18.4 13.1
Total 102.1 100.0 141.1 100.0

The evaluation of the highly skewed pattern of utilisation of the prime product of social forestry, Eucalyptus wood, was indicated in the Kolar study by Shiva et al. This was subsequently confinned by the study conducted by the Government of Karnataka which noted that 95 per cent of the Eucalyptus wood produced under the farm forestry programme is consumed by pulp industries and only 5 per cent is consumed locally as fuel. The marketing of Eucalyptus wood is streamlined and farmers have no problem in seeing their stock. A network of private agents functions in all parts of the state which acts as an instrument for the collection of pulpwood. These private agents pay advances to individual farmers, who, through the social forestry programme, are provided with Eucalyptus seedlings free of cost. When the plants are ready for harvest as per the requirements of pulp industries, the agents transport them to these industries through their own transport network.

The World Bank aided social forestry programme which began with the declared objectives of providing biomass for the survival of the common people, has conveniently been transformed into a pulpwood producing programme for industries, ignoring the requirements of both the survival economy and nature's economy.

The Driving Force for Eucalyptus

The reason for the successful propagation of eucalyptus, among others, is the market provided by the industrial and commercial sector. At times one wonders at the market force arguments of the World Bank and questions why, it is called a development project for rural people and the burden of massive international loans thrown on their head!

Eucalyptus cultivation has opened a way for farmers to make profits from land without a corresponding dependence on the community. That detachment from the community has, in tum, led to insurmountable problems in generating community participation for the raising of village woodlots. When richer farmers can make large profits by planting Eucalyptus on their own land and simultaneously reduce their dependence on poorer people and local resources, it is utopian to expect them to be involved in parallel community efforts to raise village woodlots on the commons. Eucalyptus cultivation has thus become a new source of conflicts over land use in rural India.

Eucalyptus has existed in India as an ornamental tree since the days of Tippu Sultan. The first plantation of the species was seen in the water rich Nilgiris in the 1850s to fill the gap in the fuelwood supply to European settlements.

As reported by Troupe in The Indian Forest Records:

The first European settlements in the Nilgiris date from about 1820. Their establishment, with the consequent demand for fuel was followed some years later by the destruction of most of the natural evergreen forests, one of the most beautiful features of the Nilgiri plateau... By the early fifties, after the destruction of many of the natural forests and the consequent restriction on fellings, fuel was so scarce and expensive that there was virtually a fuel famine in Otakamand and the other Nilgiri stations.

In response to this fuel famine large-scale plantations of Eucalyptus globulus or Blue-gum were encouraged in the Nilgiris in 1856.

The second wave of Eucalyptus plantation was seen a century later in the sixties when the rapid expansion of pulp based industries in India led to the destruction of conventional raw materials like bamboo stocks. The pulpwood famine created the need for a quick growing pulpwood species. To bridge the gap, rich tropical forests of the Western Ghats were clear felled to plant Eucalyptus. The destruction of highly productive natural forests was justified on the grounds of improving the 'productivity' of the site. The increase in productivity was, however, considered only from the perspective of pulpwood production. Kaikini, the Chief Conservator of Forests in the erstwhile State of Mysore, clearly accepted this bias towards pulpwood in his statement at the Eleventh Silvicultural Conference.

Pryor, the Australian expert on Eucalyptus, has also stated that 'the biggest single urge to plant Eucalyptus currently in large scale plantations is provided by the demand for wood fibre for the industry. The main species planted for pulpwood production in India is Eucalyptus tereticornis, also known as Eucalyptus hybrid. In spite of the fact that Eucalyptus is fast growing and productive only in the narrow context of wood fibre production, it was prescribed as a universal means for achieving increased productivity of biomass for the satisfaction of diverse needs. Afforestation programmes for diverse objectives of conservation of soil and water, satisfaction of basic biomass needs and production of industrial wood, thus, became uniformly dependent on the planting of Eucalyptus. Large scale plantations were established in ecologically vulnerable areas like the Western Ghats, the Himalayan foothills and farm lands in arid zones without prior tests of suitability and adaptability of the species in different ecozones and for different plantation objectives.

The fact that Eucalyptus did not exhibit wide adaptability under Indian conditions became apparent when nearly 40,000 hectares of Eucalyptus plantation established by clear felling tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats were destroyed by the pink disease caused by the fungus Cortecium salmonicolor. In the absence of prior adaptability trials, this large-scale destruction of highly productive natural tropical forests was the cost paid to realise that in high rainfall and low altitude zones Eucalyptus is vulnerable to disease and pest attack. The large-scale failure of Eucalyptus in high rainfall ecozones which were preferred during the first phase of its expansion, led to the second pulpwood famine. The second wave of Eucalyptus expansion avoided high rainfall regions and identified the 'preferred zone'-arid regions with an annual rainfall between 700 and 1,259 mm.

The second pulpwood famine caused by the failure of Eucalyptus plantations in the Western Ghatscoincided with the growing awareness that deforestation had led to severe instabilities in agricultural ecosystems and massive reforestation was an imperative for ecological and economic stability. Eucalyptus plantations rapidly spread in arid zone farm lands under the wave of enthusiasm for social forestry and providing the much needed 'green cover'. However, there was no theoretical or experimental justification to support Eucalyptus based afforestation as a strategy for ecological and economic rehabilitation. On the contrary, scientific evidence indicates that Eucalyptus planting is not the best way to solve India's biomass problems because it generates ecological costs which will have to be borne by the community at large or future generations, and will thus be a source of intense and deepening conflicts.

Ecological Audit of Eucalyptus Cultivation: Is Eucalyptus Quick Growing?

It is for this reason together with the large-scale use of eucalyptus in social forestry, that the ecological audit of Eucalyptus culti vation becomes important. The most powerful argument in favour of the expansion of Eucalyptus is that it is fast growing and there is no suitable alternative to it. Growth and productivity of trees, however, are not absolute and are influenced by factors like rainfall and soil conditions. The claim of high productivity is not clearly established for ecozones where Eucalyptus has recorded no pro ductivity due to pest damage. High productivity is also not true for zones with poor soils and poor water endowment, as is clear from reports on yields. Even where biotic and climatic factors are conducive to good growth, biomass productivity of Eucalyptus is observed to be less than that of a number of indigenous fast growing species. When tall scientific claims about the growth rate of Eucalyptus were being made to convert rich natural forests to Eucalyptus monoculture plantations, on the grounds of the im provement of the productivity of the site, the Central Silviculturist and Director of Forestry Research of the FRI had categorically stated that 'some indigenous species are as fast growing as, and in some cases even more than the much coveted Eucalyptus'.- To justify his claims, he provided a long list of indigenous fast growing species which had growth rates exceeding that of Eucalyptus which under the best conditions, is about 10 CuM per ha per year, and on an average is about 5 CuM per ha per year (Table 5.10). These indigenous trees, as cited are those trees which are native to the Indian soil or are exotics that have been naturalised over thousands of years.

Table 5.10 Some Indigenous Species which are Compartively Fast Growing

Name of Species Age
Duabanga sonneratioides 47 1 9
Alnus hepalensis 22 1 6
Terminalia myriocarpa 8 1 5
Evodia meliafolia I I I 0
Michelin champaka 8 1 8
Lophopetalum fibriatum 17 1 5
Casurina equisetifolia 5 1 5
Shorea robusta 30 1 1
Tooan ciliate 5 19    
Trevia nudiflora 13 1 3
Artocarpus chaplasha 10 1 6
Dalbergia sissoo 11 3 4
Gmelina arborea 3 2 2
Tectona grandis 12 1 2
Michelia oblongs 14 1 8
Bischofia javanica 7 1 3
Broussonatia papyrifera 10 2 5
Booklandia populnia 15 9  
Terminalia tomentosa 4 1 0
Kydia calycina 10 11  

This data based on forest plantations does not include fast growing farm tree species, such as pongamia pinnate and grewia optiva, which have been cultivated for agricultural inputs of farms but have not been of interest in commercial forestry. In spite of the fact that the list of fast growing indigenous trees is incomplete, forest plantation data on yields adequately reveals that Eucalyptus is among the slower growing species even for woody biomass production. Eucalyptus hybrid, the most dominantly planted

Table 5.1 Yields for Eucalyptus Hybrid

Current Al
Good 3 R. I -
4 11.3 10.6
5 13.5 22.3
6 14.4 18.7
7 13.9 1 1.3
8 13.5 10.6
9 12.9 8.0
10 12.3 6.7
11 11.6 5.2
12 11.0 3.5
13 10.4 3.6
14 9.9 3.7
15 9.4 1.9
Poor 3 0.1  
4 0.4 1.4
5 0.7 1.7
6 0.8 1.7
7 0.9 1.2
8 1.0 1.4
9 1.0 1.0
10 1.0 1.3
11 1.0 1.1
12 1.2 7.7
13 1.0 0.8
14 0.9 0.8

Eucalyptus species, has different growth rates at different ages and on different sites as shown in Table 5.11.

The points that emerge from the table are:

  1. In terms of yield measured as mean annual increment (MAI) Eucalyptus is a slow producer of woody biomass even under excellent soil conditions and water availability.
  2. When the site is of poor quality such as eroded soils or barren land, Eucalyptus yields are insignificant.
  3. The growth rate of Eucalyptus under the best conditions is not uniform for different age groups. It falls very drastically after five or six years.

The scientific evidence on biomass productivity does not support the claim that Eucalyptus is faster growing than other available alternative species or that it grows well.even on degraded lands. It must, however, be mentioned here that Eucalyptus demands less attention for the first few years and greatly reduces labour costs.

Conflicting Perceptions of Biomass Productivity

Human needs for biomass are, however, not restricted to the consumption and use of woody biomass. The maintenance of life support systems is a function performed mainly by the crown biomass of trees. It is this component of trees that can contribute positively towards the maintenance of the hydrological and nutrient cycles. It is also the most important source for the production of biomass for consumption as fuel, fodder, manure, fruits, etc. Social forestry as distinct from commercial forestry, in that it is supposed to be a corrective, is in principle aimed at the maximisation of the production of all types of useful,biomass which improve ecological stability and satisfy the diverse and basic biomass needs of the people. The appropriate unit of assessment of growth and yields of different tree species for social forestry programmes cannot be restricted to woody biomass production for commercial use. It must, instead, be specific to the end use of biomass. Evidently, the crisis in biomass for mulching or animal feed cannot be resolved by planting trees that are fast growing from the perspective of the pulp industry, but are absolutely unproductive as far as fodder requirements are concerned. The assessment of yields in social forestry must include diverse types of biomass which provide inputs to agro ecosystems. When the objective of tree planting is the production of fodder or green fertiliser, it is relevant to measure crown biomass productivity. India, with its rich generic diversity in plants and animals, is endowed with venous types of trees which have annual yields of crown biomass that are much higher than the total biomass produced by Eucalyptus as indicated in Table 5.12

An important biomass output of trees that is not assessed by foresters, who look only for timber and wood, is the yield of seeds and fruits. Fruit trees, such as jack, jamun, mango and tamarind, have been important components of indigenous forms of social forestry as practiced over centuries in India. After a brief gestation period fruit trees yield annual harvests of edible biomass on a sustainable and renewable basis. Tamarind trees yield fruits for more than two centuries. Other trees such as, neem, pongamia and sal, provide an annual harvest of seeds which yield valuable non-edible oils. These diverse yields of biomass provide an important source of livelihood for millions of tribal or rural people. Coconut, for example, besides providing fruit and oil, provides leaves for thatching huts and supports the large coir industry in the country. Since social forestry programmer in their present form have been based only on the knowledge of foresters who have been trained to look for woody biomass in the tree, these important high yielding species of other forms of biomass have been totally overlooked in these programmer. Two species which have been emphasized in ancient farm forestry systems in arid zones are pongamia and tamarind. Both these trees are multi-functional producers of firewood, fertilizer, fodder, fruit and oil-seed. More significantly, components of the crown biomass that are harvested from fruit and fodder trees allow the living tree to perform its essential ecological functions in soil and water conservation. In contrast;, the biomass of Eucalyptus is useful only after the tree has been felled. Afforestation strategies based predominantly on Eucalyptus are not, therefore, the most effective mechanism for tiding over the serious biomass crisis facing the country. The benefits of Eucalyptus have often been unduly exaggerated on the basis of the myth of its fast growth and high yields. The myth has become widespread because of the unscientific and unjustified advertisement of the species. It has been further strengthened by the linear growth of Eucalyptus in one dimension while most indigenous trees have broad crowns that grow in three dimensions. Since the morphology of tropical trees is very different from that of trees like Eucalyptus, it is important that the methods and formulae used to calculate yields for social forestry programmes should not be dependent on the partial yield assessments of the conventional forestry paradigm. Even without these rigorous measurements of yield for diverse species which play a role in social forestry, it is adequately clear that the growth and yield of Eucalyptus does not give it a privileged position in biomass production.




Table 5.12 Crown Biomass Productivity Some Well Known Fodder Trees

Name of Specks Crown Biomass
Acacia nilotica 13-2 7
Grewia optiva 33
Banhinia 47
Ficus 17.5
Lucenea lucofela 7.5
Morus alba 24
Prosopis sineraria 30

While dominant forestry science universalises wood fibre yield as total biomass yield, people's forestry knowledge linked to fodder needs has a different perception of biomass productivity. Diverse economic interests lead to conflicting perceptions of 'biomass', 'yield', 'productivity', etc. Conflicts related to land use generated by Eucalyptus cultivation are thus at the economic as well as epistemological levels. They are multidimensional because land has to satisfy the multidimensional needs of fuel, fodder, food and fibre! With wood fibre and pulp interest being economically dominant, expansion of wood fibre cultivation is undermining the land use potential for food and fodder and generating conflicts within rural communities.

Water Balance of Eucalyptus Cultivation

The single most important conflict generated by the reckless expansion of fucalyptus has been through its impact on water resources. Throughout the country reports are available of the rapid destruction of water resources as a consequence of large scale planting of Eucalyptus. Babuguna recorded the following statement of an elderly forest ranger in the Nainital Tarai of Uttar Pradesh 'We felled mixed natural forests of this area and planted

Eucalyptus... Our handpumps have gone dry as the water-table has gone down. We have committed a sin. Mahashweta Devi described the impact of Eucalyptus on water resources in the tribal areas of Bihar and West Bengal in the following words:

I am concerned with the India I know. My India is of the poor, starving and helpless people. Most of them are landless and the few who have land are happy to be able to make most of the given resources. To cover Purulia, Bankura, Midnapur, Singbhum, Palamau with Eucalyptus will be to rob my India of drinking and irrigation watery'

On 15 August 1983 farmers of Barka and Holahalli villages in the district of Tumkur in the state of Karnataka, marched en masse to the forest nursery and uprooted millions of Eucalyptus seedlings, planting tamarind and mango seeds in their place. According to them, the plantation of Eucalyptus in the catchment of the streams feeding their agricultural lands had led to the drying up of these vital water resources. Describing the state of the mainstream feeding the village Guttalagollahalli, a local farmer complained, 'Earlier we would take our cattle to this stream in the summer. But now, as the stream is dry, we have to fetch water from a well. The hydrological impact of Eucalyptus on water resources has been systematically studied by the hydrological division of the CSIRO in Australia. A long-term experiment established that, during years with precipitation less than 1,000 mm, deficits in soil moisture and groundwater were created by Eucalyptus. A permanent water deficit was avoided by significantly high rainfall of 1,477 mm in one of the five years studied. The results of the long term hydrological study showing that when rainfall is of the order of 1,000 mm or less Eucalyptus plantations create deficits both in the soil moisture and groundwater are summarised in Table 5.13. Quite clearly in the semi-arid regions of India, where rainfall is about 700 mm, the soil moisture and groundwater deficits created by Eucalyptus plantations will act cumulatively, resulting in groundwater depletion, soil aridisation, desertification and water conflicts. Such regions never enjoy rainfall of the order of 1,500 mm which, in the Australian habitat, provide surplus precipitation to make up for the deficit created in years with low rainfall. Eucalyptus, which is ecologically adapted to its native habitat in Australia, threatens to become a serious ecological hazard in the water deficient regions of India. Nowhere in its native habitat is Eucalyptus observed to be a self-sustaining system of vegetation in regions poorly endowed with water. The introduction of Eucalyptus in the dry zones of India does not have the built-in safeguards provided by sites of its natural occurrence. In spite of the internationally recognised, systematic studies on the hydrological impact of Eucalyptus, foresters in India have continued to deny the fact that Eucalyptus disturbs the hydrological balance in low rainfall zones, showing that natural resource conflicts are epistemological in nature. Tewari, President of the Forest Research Institute of India, contributed to the special issue of Indian Forester on Eucalyptus:

Table 5.13 Changes in Soil Moisture and and Groundwater Eucalyptus catchments

Year Precipitation Soil Moisture Groundwater ETR
1974 1477 +29 +27 1255
1975 914 -87 -14 932
1976 &83 -49 -33 947
1977 983 +49 -12 811
1978 900 +30 - 19 813

Of late in India a lot of controversy has arisen over the water consumption behaviour of Eucalyptus planted in afforestation programmer in social forestry. It has been alleged that Eucalyptus plantations consume large quantities of water to the extent that they deplete local water resources such as streams, wells, etc. This notion does not appear to be correct as no experimental data in support has so far been presented... There is no scientific basis in the popular fallacy that Eucalyptus lowers the groundwater table.

This conflicting understanding of the ecology of Eucalyptus is rooted in the epistemological limitations of the existing forestry science. Reductionist forestry science, instead of enlightening the people in appropriate afforestation progrsmmes, and in turn enriching it self If of their wisdom, continues to protect narrow interest groups. The role of Eucalyptus cultivation in altering hydrological stability can be explained on the basis of the mechanism of root spread of the species under various moisture conditions.

The shallow and laterally spread root system characteristic of Eucalyptus in low rainfall zones has two significant ecological impacts. The vast network of roots just below the soil surface extracts every bit of moisture made available to the soil by precipitation. It, therefore, inhibits other plant growth by competing for scarce moisture. This partly explains why Eucalyptus plantations in dry zones do not show any undergrowth. In dry regions of Karnataka farmers cultivating food crops dig trenches to reduce this impact from neighbouring Eucalyptus plantations. The second and more serious impact of this effective mechanism of Eucalyptus to take up moisture that infiltrates to the soil is the blocking of the percolation processes which would recharge groundwater. The depletion of groundwater takes place when its recharge is interrupted due to evapotranspiration losses under conditions of low rainfall. In complete denial of the established hydrological principles which state that high evapotranspiration rates can deplete groundwater resources by blocking recharge processes, senior forest officials in India have found in the shallow and laterally spread root system of Eucalyptus a most ingenious idea to confuse the people and policy-makers on this issue. At a specially organised press conference, Shyamsundar, the Chief Conservator of Forests of Karnataka, claimed that: 'One of the main criticisms against Eucalyptus that it lowers down the ground water table was baseless as the roots of Eucalyptus rarely went lower than 3 4 metres. Hence it could not tap subterranean water.

From the water balance it is evident that the higher the evapotranspiration the less will be the water available for percolation and recharging of underground water sources. It is also obvious that when the underground recharge is totally dependent on percolation and when the water rquirement of a species is high and is of the order of the total precipitation, there will be no water available for recharging groundwater. Given the available scientific estimates of water requirements of a species and given the rainfall data, the water balance equation is the single and most direct means for assessing the impact of a particular species on water resources. Just as much as Newton's equations of motion provide the predictive tools for the movement of bodies along a trajectory, the water balance equation provides the predictive tool for assessing the impact of land use on water resources.

In the low rainfall zone of peninsular India, the large-scale introduction of a species like Eucalyptus hybrid which has water requirements in the range of 70() 1,200 mm will predictably inhibit recharge of underground water resources. Empirical reports of the drying up of water resources confirm what the scientific principles predict. The response of the 'scientific' foresters to these reports is a one line and unjustified statement that 'unless the water table is higher than 3 metres in any given region, Eucalyptus hybrid cannot tap the water table'. To say that tapping of underground water resources by the tap root is the only process of depleting groundwater by the trees is to say the least, against all accepted principles of plant sciences. Soil moisture provides the primary source of water for plant life. In arid regions, where rainfall is the only source for replenishing soil moisture and recharging groundwater, the introduction of plants with a high water requirement will obviously destroy the hydrological balance of vulnerable ecozones. The Deccan plateau is one such vulnerable ecozone. Being in the rainshadow of the Western Ghats it receives scanty rainfall. Geologically characterised by shallow top soil layers overlying the hard rocks of the Deccan, the groundwater resources in this ecozone are localised pockets of water percolating through fissures and cracks in the hard rocks. The planting of Eucalyptus in these regions is a sure way of blocking the process of percolation by using up the available moisture for the growth of Eucalyptus plantations at the soil surface itself. Ironically, this zone which is the most vulnerable, has been described as a 'preferred zone' for the growth of Eucalyptus in social forestry. Conflicts over water arising from Eucalyptus cultivation have been most significant in such regions and have generated movements against the large scale spread of the species.

Nutrient Deficit by Eucalyptus Cultivation

Economic and epistemological conflicts over land are not generated merely by how land is used, but how this use affects the productivity and fertility of land. Biological productivity is primarily a function of adequate water for plant life and adequate nutrients for plant growth. Eucalyptus plantations conflict with sustainable land use by undermining the water cycle and mining soil fertility. The assessment of the impact of Eucalyptus plantations on fertility and biological productivity of soil must be based on the integrated impact of the species on various segments of the nutrient cycle. This includes the nutrient uptake for growth, the nutrient return through leaf litter, the biodecomposibility of the leaf litter, and the impact on soil flora and fauna. The biological productivity of the soil under a particular type of tree cover is also dependent on the associate plants that the particular species allows. A species introduced as an exotic in an ecosystem will either enhance or deplete soil productivity depending on whether the complex processes which contribute to biological productivity of land are strengthened or eroded by its ecological impact. Unqualified assumptions that any tree planted in any ecozone will contribute to biological productivity have so far been guiding afforestation schemes under social forestry programmes meant for ecological rehabilitation and soil conservation. The introduction of Eucalyptus in arid zone farm lands illustrates of how tree planting undertaken without an assessment of the environmental impact can itself become the source of destruction of biological productivity of the soil instead of contributing to it. There are two dominant processes through which Eucalyptus undermines the biological productivity of arid regions. The first process is based on the physiology of Eucalyptus as a fast growing exotic which creates serious nutrient deficits. The second process is based on the allelopathic and toxic effects on plant life and soil organisms.

The nutrient requirements of Etucalyptus for rapid growth are excessively high. For this reason it grows well only on fertile soils like clear felled natural forests or good agricultural lands.Quantitative information on the nutrient requirements of Eucalyptus is available. It is known, for example, that Eucalyptus hybrid requires 217 kg of Nitrogen, 100 kg Of Phosphorus and 1,594 kg of Calcium per hectare per year. The high nutrient requirement of Eucalyptus for good growth is also evident from Table 5.14 which shows that on sites of poor quality and poor nutrient status growth rates fall to 0.9 CuM per hectare compared to 12 CuM per hectare in fertile soils. Eucalyptus is being planted on fertile agricultural soils for harvesting at short rotations. This creates nutrient deficits because compared to its high uptake of nutrients, Eucalyptus

Ecology and the politics of survival returns a very small quantity of nutrients to the soil through leaf litter. Its annual return in leaf litter is only 35 kg of Nitrogen, 14 kg of Phosphorus and 335 kg of Calcium per hectare per year The wide gap between the nutrient uptake and nutrient return implies that Eucalyptus plantations create a massive deficit in soil nutrients. At this rate, at the end of the second rotation, after twenty years the total nutrient deficit of the land will be 3,540 kg of Nitrogen, 1,720 kg of Phosphorus and 25,200 kg of Calcium (Table 5.14).

Table 5.14 Nutrient Deficit o Eucalyptus Hybrid Plantation

  N P Ca
Eucalyptus (uptake) 217 100 1594
Eucalyptus returns 35 14 335
Annual nutrient deficit 182 86 1260
Deficit after second rotation (twenty years) 3640 1720 15200

While most trees indigenous to a habitat form a self-sustaining system,of living resources, Eucalyptus plantations harvested at short rotations are non-sustainable. The nutrient deficit created by short rotation harvesting of Eucalyptus hybrid does not imply that Eucalyptus would create deficits under all conditions and would be a non-sustaining form of vegetation in all ecosystems. In its native habitat in Australia, Eucalyptus manages to sustain itself because it is not fast growing in sites of natural occurrence. Commenting on this difference of growth and nutrient uptake between Eucalyptus as an exotic and as a naturally occurring tree in Australia, Pryor states:

The outstanding single feature of the genus is its capacity for rapid growth as an exotic if soil and climate conditions are generally suitable. Many Australian soils are exceedingly deficient in phosphorus and other essential mineral nutrients. Sites which are like this are characteristically occupied by the peculiarly Australian vegetation of which Eucalyptus are a part. On the most extremely nutrient deficit sites Eucalyptus may be excluded almost entirely... In many areas where they are planted outside Australia the basic fertility levels are higher than in the natural Australian habitat. It is for this reason that in many cases the growth is greater when they are seen as an exotic, rather than under natural conditions.

Allelopathic Properties of Eucalyptus

Allelopathy refers to the deleterious effect of one plant on another through the production of chemical retardants that escape into the environment. The allelochemical and toxic effects of Eucalyptus have been scientifically recorded and studied both in India and abroad. Del Moral and Muller were the first to scientifically study allelopathy in Eucalyptus plantations and to analyse this factor as responsible for the absence of herbaceous annuals. Al-Mousawi and Al-Maib studied the pronounced paucity of herbaceous plants in Eucalyptus plantations in Iraq. Commenting on the reduction of seed germination due to Eucalyptus, Swami Rao and Reddy reported:

Investigations revealed that the reduction was not due to soil moisture, nutrient elements and shading. On the other hand, leaf extracts, decaying leaves and soil collected under Eucalyptus canopies inhibited seed germination and seedling growth of associated species. In subsequent research three volatile inhibitors and five water soluble inhibitors were found to be produced by Eucalyptus leaves which inhibited germination of seeds.

Farmers in the dry regions of Karnataka affected by Eucalyptus plantations in the neighbouring fields have complained that Eucalyptus makes the soil toxic for seed germination and plant growth and thereby reduces the yield potential of crops in the vicinity. In some areas the impact has been so severe that small farmers surrounded by Eucalyptus plantations have had to dig trenches to protect their food crops. A scientific study was carried out at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore to determine whether there was any basis of the fear that Eucalyptus inhibited the germination of food crops in its vicinity through allelopathy.

The studies indicate that the toxic substances to the soil through the leaf litter remain for a long time in low rainfall areas and will have inhibitory effect on seed germination of crop plants. The inhibitory effect will be minimised once the toxins are leached out by the rains. It may be said that no crop can be grown successfully near Eucalyptus trees in low rainfall areas, where there is every chance of toxic substances remaining in the soil for a long timed

Not only is Eucalyptus toxic to the germination of other plants, it is also toxic to soil organisms responsible for building soil fertility and improving soil structure. Earthworms are significant among the soil fauna for improving the fertility of the soil through deposition of their faecal material and for increasing the permeability of the soil to air and water. Their activity may increase soil porosity by as much as 27 per cent.

In 1881 Charles Darwin, published his last work, the result of a lifetime's study of earthworms, in which he wrote: 'It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures.'

Soil organisms, like earthworms, are the primary producers of soil fertility. The m:trients in the leaf litter remain locked until decomposed by the soil fauna. The real assessment of the nutrient return to the soil is not obtained merely from estimates of leaf litter, but from the dynamics of its decomposition Soil organisms play a critical role in completing the nutrient cycle in which nutrients move from soil to plants to litter to decomposer to soil. The scanty leaf litter of Eucalyptus is not effectively transformed into decomposed organic matter because Eucalyptus is toxic to soil organisms constituting decomposer food chains. The eathworms- lanipito mauriti-which are responsible for the decomposition of leaf litter are found in most dry land agricultural areas of Kamataka. They are, however, absent in Eucalyptus plantations. Kale and Krishnamurthy have attributed this to the presence of chemical repellents in the leaves. Bano and Krishnamurthy observed the Milliped Jonespellis Spendidus rejecting Eucalyptus leaf litter." Through this invisible pollution of the soil environment, Eucalyptus plantations destroy the living resources which are critical elements of the food chain that maintains the nutrient cycle.

Farmers with an ecological sense of the soil have, in their own intuitive way, characterized the complex of processes by which Eucalyptus destroys soil fertility by naming it the 'Visha Vriksha'. Instead of seriously considering scientific research findings and the farmers' experience, 'scientific foresters' try to brush aside these ecological observations, and defend their special interest and reductionist expertise. For example, Shyamsundar, Chief Conservator of Forests of Karnataka, tried to wish away this recognised and established toxic impact of Eucalyptus on soil fauna when he said: 'It is claimed that exudation of toxic chemicals in Eucalyptus root system destroys micro-organisms. This is a fantastic claim unknown to the scientific community of the world.

In its native habitat, nutrient recycling is achieved by the natural occurrence of fires characteristic of the sclerophyll forests which are dominated by Eucalyptus. Fires release the nutrients locked in the leaf litter thus returning them to the soil, by-passing the decomposes food chain. Further, the specific type of s'oil fauna which slowly decomposes Eucalyptus leaves in Australia does not exist in those areas where it is an exotic.

These strategies for maintaining the nutrient cycle are not associated with Eucalyptus plantations in India. In semi-arid zones Eucalyptus excludes other plant associates through its high water nutrient demands and its allelopathic effects. The large nutrient deficits created by Eucalyptus as an exotic, therefore, cannot be compensated by the nutrient returns from other species. The scanty leaf litter of Eucalyptus is itself not easily biodegradable because Eucalyptus pollutes the soil for decomposing organisms. Thus, there is no quick release of the nutrients locked in the leaf litter. As a result, continuous cultivation of Eucalyptus will leave the soil drained of nutrients.

Figure 5.6 Over Conflicts over species (a) The Role d Indigenous Species

Figure 5.6 Over Conflicts over species (b) The Role d Eucalyptus in Agroffasystem

Land for Food or Land for Wood?

Conflicts over land use for food production and land use for commercial wood production have emerged from social forestry programmer at three levels.

First, the transfer of land from food crops to Eucalyptus plantations has generated a conflict between the two uses with lands previously under the staple food, ragi, now producing wood. According to a sample survey of the Karnataka government, nearly 13 per cent of agricultural land in one district was already under Eucalyptus in 1985, and this figure has increased since then, because under social forestry, the cultivation of Eucalyptus has been expanding systematically. Most of this expansion is at the cost of the area under ragi. The area and production of ragi is shown in Table 5.15 which clearly indicates that there has been a dramatic reduction in food crop.production as a result of the expansion of wood production.

Table 5.15 Area and Production of Ragi in Kolar District during 1977-78 to 1981-82

Year Area
1977-78 141772 175195
1978-79 146361 165174
1979 80 140862 99236
1980-81 48406 13440
1981 82 46000 (estimate) NA

Source Bureau of Economics and Statistic. Karnataka.

The rural poor of Kolar have been doubly hit by this loss of traditional crops to Eucalyptus. First, the decrease in food production leads to higher food prices. Second, it reduces empoyment and, hence, leads to lower incomes; thus increasing even further the gap between basic requirements and the ability of the rural poor to satisfy them. That impact cannot be assessed merely in financial terms. More significant is the deterioration in physical health and nutritional status as a result of shifting from the traditional staple diet of millets and pulses.

To assess the loss in nutrition due to a shift to Eucalyptus cultivation, a study was carried out in Malur taluk of Kolar district and Koratagere taluk of Tumkur district, Karnataka. Three villages in each taluk were stratified according to the distance from the taluk headquarters the centre of market activities. Villages that lie within 10 km distance from the taluk headquarters, those that lie between 10-20 km, and those which are more than 20 km.

Taluk 10 km 10-20 km 20 km
Koratagere G.G. Halli Kuramkote Bendone
Malur Dyapasandra Mutadahalli Jayama

In each village 10 per cent of the households were selected from each of the following categories landless, those holding below 1 hectare, those holding between 1-2 hectares, those holding between 2-4 hectares, and those with more than 4 hectares. The pattern of classification is similar to that of the government which is based on coarse grain cultivation. According to this classification, those holding below 1 hectare are called marginal farmers, those holding between 1-2 hectares are small farmers, between 2-4 hectares are medium farmers and above 4 hectares are large farmers.

Data was collected to determine the extent of landholding, crops grown, the quantum of grains sold versus retained for consumption, facilities for irrigation, their daily food consumption, availability of milk, etc.

The distribution of households according to land-ownership in the two regions is described in Table 5.16.

The output from land being dependent not only on the landholding, but also on the irrigation facility available, the total wet land in each area was also taken into account. The distribution of land gives an indication of the utilization of dry land for the cultivation of ragi (Eleusine Coracana) and groundnut in Koratagere as against the use of land for cultivation of ragi and Eucalyptus in Malurtaink (Table 5.17). Further break up of land utilisation according to ownership (Table 5.18) describes the extent of land used for food crops and Eucalyptus in the two regions respectivly. Nearly 42 per cent of the land owned by the households interviewed was under Eucalyptus cultivation, regardless of the area held by the individual farmers.

Tables 5.16 Distribution of Sample Farmers according to Land-ownership

  Korasagere Malur
No. Per cent No. Percent
Landless 9 19.1 5 17.6
< 1 hectare 7 17.0 5 14.7
1-2 hectares 16 34.2 9 29.4
2-4 hectares 12 25.5 8 23.5
>5 hectares 2 4.2 5 14.7
Total 46 100.0 32 100.0

Table 5.17 Distribution of Land in the Two Regions

Taluk Dry Wet Garden Eucalyptus Ragi Groundnut
Koratagere 149.0 29.95 - - 73.5 59.1
Malur 118.20 19. 17 33.4 48.20 69.60

Table 5.18 Proportion of Land Used for Cultivation

Ragi Groundntu Eucalyptus Wet
Paddy 'n'
Acre Per Acre Per
Acre Per
Acre Per
Acre Per
Regioni I
1 12.0 4.8 40.0 6.7 55.8     1.10 1.10 100 7
1-2 49.5 21.3 43.0 18.4 37.2     5.1 5.10 100 16
2-4 74.7 42.6 57.0 26.0 34.8     12.75 12.75 100 12
4 14.0 6.0 42.8 8.0 57.1     11.0 11.0 100 2
Total   150.2 74.7 49.7 59.1 39.34     29.95 29.95 37  
Region II
1 4.6 4.2 91.3     4. 8.7 1.20 1.20 1(X) 5
1-2 16.4 14.0 85.3     2.4 14.6 1.85 1.85 I(X) 9
2 4 36.4 17.2 47.2     19.2 53.2 4.12 4.12 100 8
4 61.0 34.2 56.0     26.20 42.9 13.0X) 13.1X) 100 5
Total   118.4 69.6 58.8     51.8 41.8 2().17 20.17 27  

This is further substantiated by the distribution of land, crop wise including line crops
and paddy (Table 5.19). There is ample evidence of mixed cropping with avare (Dolichos Lab Lab), tuvar (Cajanus Cajan) and alasande (Vigna Catjung) grown as line crops. The average yield per acre in the two regions. despite wide variations also reiterate the fact that Koratagere has a higher output per acre in comparison with Malur. The same observation expressed in terms of nutritive value of food (Table 5.20) highlights the fact that per acre output of energy in terms of calories, protein, calcium, iron and Vitamin A is much higher in Koratagete taluk than in Malur taluk.

Table 5.19 Distribution of Land (Crop-Wise)

Crop Koratagere Malur Koratagere Malur

(Total Acres)

Average Yield/Acre (kg)
Mean (S D) Mean (S D)
Ragi 73.50 69.60 461(361) 396(316)
Lilts Crop        
Avare 117.30   34(36.7) 14.7(13.7)
Tuvar 117.00   37(31 6) 6.0(1.4)
Alasande 117.00   29(43.7)  
Groundnut 59.10   553(749)  
Horsegram 30   139(247)  
Paddy 29.95 19.50 932(666) 555(392)
Eucalyptus   48.20    



Table 5.20 Nutritive Value of Food Crops per Acre in the Region (Figures in lakhs)

Region Energy
Vitamin A
(I. U.)
Koratagere 18.44 5.71 13.73 34.22 24.21
Malur 14.02 3.93 11.81 22.00 19 35


Koratagere 32.48 7.04 9.39 3.00 1.87
Malur 19.20 4.16 5.55 1.77 0.11

There is enough evidence to support the view that land utilisation for Eucalyptus cultivation diverts land from food production in Malur. The impact of this is observed in the per capita food availability in the two regions (Table 5.21). The net availability after the sale of excess production is presented according to landownership. The net availability of dhal for consumption is practically nil in Malur taluk while in Koratagere recommended allowances are available though with wide variations. The same is true of the availability of cereals in the two regions. The interesting observation is that the difference in the mean value is significant for groups owning between 1 to 2 hectares and between 2 to 4 hectares of land which corresponds with those groups which have allotted their limited landholdings to the plantation of Eucalyptus (Table 5.18).

Table 5.21 Food A Availability per Day per individual

Landholding Koratagere Malur
Cereals Pukes Cereals Pukes
(gm) (gm) (gm) (gm)
<I hectare .55 .06 .11 .03
1-2 hectares .58 .07 .29 .01
2-4 hectares 1.23 .07 .47 .03
>4 hectares 3.65 .13 1.60 .06

In Malur, nearly 30 per cent of the region surveyed was under Eucalyptus. The impacts of this change in land use on food entitlements are dramatic, showing how conflicts over land are rooted in and are a source of increased deprivation and malnutrition.

The destructive impact of Eucalyptus plantations on food production is not restricted merely to the diversion of food growing land to tree planting. This short-term loss in food production could, in principle, be made up in the long-term if the tree species planted in place of food crops had soil building properties. What differentiates Eucalyptus plantations from traditional farm forestry is that they destroy the biological productivity of rainfed ecosystems instead of enhancing it. This loss of productivity of ecosystems rather than the loss in immediate production of foodgrainsis the more critical concern in assessing the impact of Eucalyptus plantations on agriculture. The ecological impact of Eucalyptus thus generates conflicts not merely in the present, but also between future and current land use options.

A second level of food/wood conflict is generated by the ecological impact of Eucalyptus on neighbouring lands through water use and allelopathic effects which makes cultivation of food crops unproductive, and forces smaller peasants to shift from food to wood production. A follow-up study was carried out to assess further the economic impact of Eucalyptus farm forestry in these taluks. Malur taluk was revisited in 1983. The most conspicuous trend that emerged was that while the earlier initiative was restricted to large farmers, the more recent shift from food production to wood production was made by small farmers. They were forced to cultivate Eucalyptus, as food production on their lands had become difficult due to the cultivation of Eucalyptus in adjoining large holdings and the consequent reduction in moisture and nutrient availability. This expansion of Eucalyptus is concentrated around urban centres and transport networks. In Malur, sample surveys revealed that on an average 25 to 30 per cent of agricultural lands were under Eucalyptus within 10 to 11 km radius of Malur town and railway station. In villages more than 25 km away from Malur only 3 to 5 per cent of land was under Eucalyptus cultivation. It is clear from Table 5.23 that for small and marginal farmers, whose primary interest in land use lies in food production, the official claim that 'there is no alternative to Eucalyptus' is a harsh reality. Those who still want to continue food production dig trenches on the periphery of their lands to cut off the lateral roots from the neighbouring Eucalyptus plantations.

Historically, Malur, like any other rural area of India, had its community woodlots known as Gundu Thopes, covered by diverse species like honge, tamarind, neem, mango, jamun and jonne which provided fuel and green leaves as a freely available commodity to the villagers independent of economic status. In addition to these Gundu Thopes, there were good tree crops on farm bunds. This tree wealth was rapidly destroyed by the establishment of tile manufacturing industries in Malur as well as an increasing urban market demand for timber and firewood. These new commercial demands tempted the village panchayats as well as individual farmers to sell the common resources to fell trees on the farm lands in order to make money. This culture of commercialisation welcomed the introduction of commercial species like Eucalyptus and ignored the regeneration indigenous tree wealth. These landholders, who were mostly absentee landlords or were unable to manage dry land agriculture, found in Eucalyptus a return from their landholdings. For the poorer groups, the spread of Eucalyptus closed all other land use options through the ecological imperative. Thus, the indigenous rural ecosystem, which had a rich plant genetic diversity, has been reduced to a single option ecosystem with only short-term sustainability.

Table 5.22
Area under Eucalyptus in Four Talks of Kolar District

at Present
Area under
No. of
in Next Five
Years (acre)
Area Planned
No. of
0-0.99 Begepalli 0 0 0 0
Bangarpet 0 0 0 0
Kolar 0 0 0 0
Malur 0 0 0 0
2-1.99 Begepalli 0 0 0 0
Bangarpet 0 0 1.0 1
Kolar 0.5 1 3.5 3
Malur 0.5 1 1.0 1
2-2.99 Begepalli 0 0 2.5 3
Bangarpet 0 0 1.0 1
Kolar 3.0 4 7.5 6
Malur 3.0 3 1.5 2
3-3.99 Begepalli 0 0 3.0 2
Bangarpet 2.0 2 0 0
Kolar 0 0 1.0 1
Malur 2.5 2 9.0 5
4 4.99 Begepalli 0.0 0 1.5 2
Bangarpet 2.0 1 0.5 1
Kolar 6.5 4 9.5 3
Malur 3.5 3 2.5 3
5-6.99 Begepalli 0 0 3.5 7
Bangarpet 5.0 3 7.0 3
Kolar 11.5 7 1.0 1
Malur 11.5 9 6.5 4
7-9.99 Begepalli 0 0 4.0 2
Bangarpet 3.5 3 1.0 1
Kolar 11.0 4 2.0 1
Malur 13.5 7 12.0 4
10-15 Begepalli 0.5 I 10.0 4
Bangarpet 6.0 4 7.0 2
Kolar 5.0 2 3.0 1
Malw 21.5 7 18.0 4
15 and above Begepalli 4.0 3 6.0 3
Bangarpel 3.5 3 5.0 1
Kolar 42.0 5 0.0 0
Malur 170 4 7.0 3
Total Begepalli 4.5 4 35.5 23
Bangarpet 22.0 16 22.5 10
Kolar 79.2 27 27.5 16
Malur 73.0 36 57.5 26

Table 5.23 Spread of Eucalyptus Cultivation la Various Sample Villages of Malur Taluk, Kolar District

Area under
of Village
  Number of Household
Year of Planting Reason


1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 Own Ecological
Initiative Cornpulsion
0-3 Dyspsandra 3 5 7 5 1 1 9 11
Haroballi 3 5 2   4 3 0 10
Jayamangala 11 2 5 3 2 0 1 11
Muthagadhalli 11 5 3 2     3 5
3-6 Dyspsandra 3     3     3 0
Harohalli 3         2 1 0
Jayamangala 11       4 0 4 1
Muthagadhalli 11   1 3 2   6  
> Dyspsandra 3         1 1  
Harohalli 3       1 4 5  
JayamanBala 11       3   3  
Muthagadhalli 11     3     2  

The whole thrust of the Eucalyptus campaign of the forest department is based on market forces. It is wishful thinking that without a strong social organization, market forces on their own will benefit the common man, especially the poorer sections of the population who have no purchasing power to create a demand on the market. Nor have markets alone ever been able to contribute to an ecological balance anywhere in the world. To ensure social control over the utilization of natural resources? social forestry programmer need to be recast, delinking them with the market economy. That is the task of forest officials as well as of rural social organizations. Without this realization, 'social' forestry will not be able to benefit the majority of the people. Forest management in India has to abandon its strategy of providing one dimensional solutions based on a one-dimensional understanding of problems and evolve to a higher level of systems. An understanding of such systems can be seen only among practitioners of good farm forestry. It cannot be expected of foresters whose knowledge is limited to the production of commercially valuable wood, and who have no training, whatsoever, in tree farming appropriate for farm forestry. The superior knowledge of farmers for appropriate species selection of agro-ecosystems is amply illustrated by the farmers of Koratagere taluk of Tumkur district, neighbouring the district of Kolar. While land-owners in Malur have found a way out through Eucalyptus plantations, farmers in Koratagere taluk have uprooted nearly a million Eucalyptus seedlings in an attempt to prevent its spread to the neighbouring farm lands. In order to understand the rational basis of the action of Koratagere farmers, the study of farm forestry in Kolar was extended to Koratagere in the second half of 1983. The study showed that in spite of receiving nearly 100 mm less rainfall than Malur taluk where Eucalyptus is being propagated, the farmers of Koratagere have created and sustained a rich and diverse farm forest resource, closely interlinked with their agricultural practices and ensuring ecological stability and guarantee against drought. The nursery techniques and propagation methods of a large variety of tree species are part of the rich knowledge of the farmers of Koratagere. These farmers cannot understand why Rs. 550 million of a World Bank loan would be needed for social forestry in Karnataka when people have the knowledge as well as the resources to create tree wealth independently. The main species on which farming in Koratagere depends are:

  1. Honge for green manure, fuelwood and agricultural implements.
  2. Tamarind for nitrogen fixation and income from fruits.
  3. Mango, jackfruit, etc., for edible fruits, fuel, etc.
  4. Neem for green manure, pesticide, medicine and food ingredient.
  5. Soapaut for local washing material and green manure.
  6. Jallari for time for local use.

An evaluation and comparison of different models reveals that the model of farm forestry followed by the farmers of Koratagere is the only one that can be called genuine farm forestry. The model has not been evolved by a stagnant and tradition bound group of farmers but a highly innovative and dynamic one. As a response to the degradation of forest resources, the farmers of Koratagere selected a few useful tree species for intense afforestation on the farm lands. The success of farm forestry based on highly useful and indigenous species is, however, a product of hard labour backed by continuous research and innovation. These farmers have observed that a woody perennial like tamarind provides adequate insurance of economic return over two or three years of continuous drought, while at the same time contributes to soil fertility with leaves and flowers.

In terms of economic returns, the Koratagere model of farm forestry is definitely far better than the Eucalyptus based farm forestry adopted by the big landlords of Malur. The difference, however, is in the approach of the farmers and their degree of attachment to or alienation from their own land. The Koratagere model is not a unique feature of that area. Inter-cropping of trees with food crops has been a common practice all over India.

On the same lines as the Koratagere model of farm forestry, Chaturvedi (1946) has worked out a model of agro-forestry that would increase fuel and fodder availability without adversely affecting food production. Recommending the planting of babul as an agro-forestry species on the agricultural land of the Gangetic plains, he showed that it was possible to create farm forests equivalent to two million acres of pure babul plantations, twice the area of reserved forests in the region without any decline in food production.


Chapter 5:Wasteland development and conflict over commons


5 Wasteland development and conflict over commons

The Colonial Concept of Wastelands

When the british established their rule in india, it was estimated that between one-third to one-half of the total area of Bengal Province alone was 'waste'. The colonial concept of wastelands was not an assessment of the biological productivity of land but of its revenue generating capacity. 'Wasteland' was land which did not yield any revenue because it was uncultivated. Such wastelands included the forest districts of Chittagong, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri,

Chota Nagpur and Assam, the vast trail of forest lands near the mouth and delta of the Hooghly and other rivers, known as Sunderban. These lands were taken over by the British government and leased to cultivators to turn them into revenue generating lands. In the Gangetic plains, 'wastelands' were allotted to an adjacent village, but in the dense forest regions of Dehradun,
Mirzapur, etc., the forest tracts were retained as 'Government Waste'. In Punjab, 200 per cent of the cultivated area of a village was categorised as village waste. These lands were maintained partly as forest and grazing lands and partly for the extension of cultivation. In the Raiyatwari areas of Bombay there were local forms of landholding, and local methods of cultivation which always involved a patch of wood and grass bearing land being attached to each cultivated landholding. In 1861, under the vice royalty of Lord Canning, wasteland rules were formulated. As Baden Powell records 'The value of state forests-to be made out of the best and most usefully situated wooded and grass lands-was not even recognised, and the occupation of the waste by capitalists and settlers was alone discussed. It was only after the late nineteenth century when forests also became a source of revenue that state forests were no longer called waste. Village forests and grazing lands however continued to be categorized as wastelands because they were not sources of revenue for the state, even though they were vital fuel and fodder resources for the agricultural economy.

The colonial category of 'wastelands' was thus a revenue category, not an ecological category. Colonial policy did, however, also create the ecological category on 'wasted lands' which had lost their biological productivity because of social and government action and inaction. These wasted lands lay in areas demarcated as reserved forests, those owned privately by individuals and used for agriculture, and common land's shared by communities for fuel and fodder supplies. The estimates of wasted lands in India are shown in Table 6.1.

As Baxi notes, 'development of wastelands or policies addressed to it do no more than reverse social and public policy and action which hail the result of wasting lands in earlier times.' However, this is not what the government wasteland development policy has turned out to be. This policy was given a boost in 1985 when the National Wasteland Development Board was set up. Wasteland development generated conflicts because it concentrated on the afforestation of the revenue category of wastelands (i.e., commons) and threatened the customary rights of villagers to use forest produce.

In a nation-wide study covering districts in dry tropical regions spread over seven states, Jodha observed that the most basic needs of fuel, fodder, etc. of the poor throughout India continue to be satisfied from common property resources or CPM's (Table 6.2).

A number of factors have led to the degradation of commons, in particular to the decay of community norms in maintaining these commons. The erosion of systems of social control in the process of modernization and development has led to Hardin's model of degradation of commons in most regions.

Table 6.1 Estimates of Wastelands in India (hectares in lakhs,)

States/UTs Saline and
Andhra Pradesh 2.40   74.42 76.82
Assam     9 35 9 35
Bihar 0.04   38.92 38.96
Gujarat 12.14 7.04 52.35 71.53
Haryana 5.26 15.99 2.76 24.01
Himachal Pradesh     14.24 14.24
Jammu & Kashmir     5.31 5.31
Karnataka 4.04   67.18 71.22
Kerala 0.16   10.37 10.53
Madhya Pradesh 2.42   127.05 129.47
Maharashtra 5.34   110.26 115.60
Manipur     0 14 0.14
Meghalaya     8.15 8.15
Nagaland     5.08 5.08
Orissa 4.04   27.53 31.57
Punjab 6.88   4.63 11.51
Rajasthan 7.28 106.23 66.59 180.10
Sikkim     1.31 1.31
Tamil Nadu 0.04   33.88 33.92
Tripura     1.08 1.08 utter
Pradesh 12.95   53.40 66.35
West Bengal 8.50   13.27 21.77
UTs 0.16   8.73 8.89
Total 71.65 129.26 736.00 936.91

Source: society for Promotion of Wasteland Development 1984.

Village commons have been a historical reality in India. Relics of village woodlots or roadside plantations can still be easily found. In the traditional village, private and unequal landholdings existed side by side with common and equally shared resources. Thus, while self-interest might guide a landlord's use of his own land, the use of common resources would even for the private landlord be guided by community norms.

This was possible for two reasons. The first is rooted in the nature of community organisation. A community is a social organisation based on commonly accepted norms and values which provide the organising principles and control mechanisms for its members. A shared resource can be managed conununally through the implicit acceptance on the part of all the members of the community of a commonly shared norm for the use of resources. Even while subscribing to one set of norms in the context of commonly owned resources, it is possible for members of a village to subscribe to individualistic, class dominated norms when it comes to privately owned resources.

Table 6.2 Indicators a, of rural households Dependence on CPRs


States (Study Districts Villages)

Andhra Pradesh Cujardat Karnataka Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Rajasthan Tamil Nadu
Category of households poor Others2 Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others
Number of households 65 41 . 84 62 64 33 98 72 102 64 72 64 48 23
Per cent households collecting CPR products
Food items 95 10 96 16 84 14 100 18 98 13 100 23 93 12
Fuel. fodder, fibre 99 15 100 19 100 18 100 11 100 16 100 28 100 17
Timber, silt. etc. 37 59 29 83 41 78 21 84 19 90 31 89 92 42
Per household average number of
CPR based activities' 4 2 5 2 5 3 6 3 3 2 5 2 4 3
CPR items collected 7 4 8 3 7 4 12 5 7 3 10 5 6 3

The second reason why commons could be maintained despite socio-economic inequalities was the self-sufficient nature of the traditional village economy. That self-sufficiency prevented individuals from undermining community action. Thus, for example, in a traditional coastal fishing village with its own socio-economic hierarchies, the exploitation of common resources (like fish in the ocean) was guided by rigid controls to which everyone was subjected. The exploitation of the poorer sections of the village took place on the shore when the catch was distributed on the basis of private ownership. However, the most powerful groups were prevented from over-exploiting the resources of the sea. Therein lies the primary reason why India's marine ecosystem was maintained over the centuries..

The conservation of village woodlots was guaranteed through similar mechanisms, until the simultaneous operation of individual and community obligations was rendered impossible through the opening up of the village economy to large urban and industrial markets. By and large, access to the bigger markets was, and still is, possible only for the most privileged members of the community, through easy access to educational bureaucratic and financial institutions. This initiated a process whereby the rich were no longer subject to traditional social norms and this in turn led to the breakdown of the community. In the case of marine resources, the introduction of mechanised trawlers (through international and local funding used mainly by the local rich), led to the violation of traditional community norms and influenced the manner in which marine resources were exploited. Similarly, the introduction of new agricultural techniques that were adopted only by the rich farmers, made the village elite less dependent on local resources (for example, chemical fertiliser in place of green manure). Under such circumstances, the participation of wealthy villagers in community efforts to maintain local resources was reduced, leading ultimately to the slow decay of those community norms which had previously governed the use of local resources.

A Tragedy of the Commons?

It is important to recognisethat competition has not always been a driving force in human societies. In large sections of rural societies of the Third World, the principle of cooperation rather than competition among individuals still dominates. Similarly, production for one's own consumption rather than for exchange has long been the predominant motive for production in subsistence economies. In a social organization based on cooperation among members and production based on need, the logic of gain is entirely different from that of societies based on competition and profits through exchange. The general logic underlying Garret Hardin's 'Tragedy of the Commons does not operate under such conditions. However, under certain circumstances where common lands cannot even support the basic needs of the population, a tragedy is to be expected even in the absence of competition.

There may, of course, be situations where undermining a community's resources does not ruin those responsible for the exploitation of those resources. Under these conditions, as Daniel Fife points out: 'The tragedy of the commons may appear to be occurring but in fact something quite different is really happening. The commons is being killed but someone is getting rich. The goose that lays golden eggs is being killed for profit.

That situation is all too possible in the business world. Responsible business ensures that it can continue to run indefinitely. But when a business adopts 'higher temporary profits' as its principal goal, its irresponsibility may lead to the destruction of its own resources. In such a situation, it 'pays for the businessman to kill his business'.

The survival of such community property as pastures and village woodlots, or 'common goods' like a stable ecosystem, is therefore only possible under a social organisation where checks and controls on the use of resources are built into the organising principles of the community. On the other hand, the breakdown of a community, with the associated erosion of concepts of joint ownership and responsibility, can trigger off the degradation of common resources. This was seen in forest ownership and land use.

Wasteland development programmes have, however, failed to address themselves to this tragedy of the erosion of social control and to the creation of institutional frameworks that enable communities to protect commons. Instead, the early projects proposed to the Wasteland Board focused on large-scale privatization of commons by industries for commercial plantations. These proposals included using wastelands to meet their cellulosic raw material requirement for pulp and paper and plywood, and production of vegetable oil and charcoal for industrial use.

Although most of the proposals from the private sector are still under consideration by various state governments, at least two states, Orissa and Karnataka, have leased wastelands to private companies for use. The Orissa government has granted a 'licence' to Straw Products Ltd. of the J.K. group to develop a plantation on state government owned non-forest lands and utilise the usufruct from the area.

In Karnataka, two projects involving Gwalior Rayon (Harihar Polyfibres) have been approved to produce pulpwood to meet the captive industrial requirements of the company. The first is a farm forestry project on 13,000 hectares and the other is a joint venture with the Karnataka government on 30,000 hectares. While the first project has run into problems because of the current regulations of banks and the government about granting financial assistance, the second project is facing the onslaught of agitations by public interest groups opposing the leasing of wastelands to private industry.

There are at least a dozen other such proposals for the captive use of wasteland under consideration of various state governments and awaiting their approval. If the recommendations of the Wastelands Board were to be accepted, the state governments would be swamped with requests for wastelands from the private sector.

The single largest proposal for leasing in wastelands has come from Pallas Associates Pvt. Ltd. of Maharashtra. The company, with its plans to set up a 1,200 tonnes per day capacity paper mill, is interested in leasing between 1.5 to 5 lakh hectares of wastelands for paper/pulpwood plantations in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

In Maharashtra, three requests for using wastelands are pending with the state government-Shree Vindhya Paper Mills has submitted a request for 232 hectares of land for growing Mesta and Eucalyptus; Ion Exchange (India) is interested in about 180 hectares of wastelands in the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani area; and

Pudumjee Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. of Pune wants to lease between 500-1,000 acres of wastelands.

The state governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra are examining a proposal from the West Coast Paper Mills to cultivate two captive plantations of bamboo and Eucalyptus in the wastelands in Karnataka as well as in the adjacent areas of Maharashtra. While the first project would cover 16,000 hectares of wastelands belonging to the government with bamboo, Eucalyptus and subabul, the second aims at planting 4,000 hectares of Eucalyptus in private wastelands through farmers who own these lands. In Andhra Pradesh, a request from Bhadrachalam Paper Boards Ltd. for wastelands use is pending with the government.

In Tamil Nadu, New Ambadi Estates Pvt. Ltd. have submitted a proposal for setting up a 5,000 hectares joint sector wastelands project in the Pasumpon Muthuramalingam district. A proposal from Industrial Chemicals and Monomers Ltd. for leasing 1,000 hectares of wastelands under the ownership of temples in the districts of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Ramanad is also under consideration of the Tamil Nadu government. The company wants to raise a plantation of prosopis juliflora for producing charcoal which can then be used to produce calcium carbide.

Tata Industries Ltd. are interested in jojoba plantations for oil extraction on the semi-arid lands of Kutch and Rajasthan using 'suitable biotechnology'. However, they have not as yet submitted a detailed project report to the state governments involved.

In Gujarat, a proposal has been submitted by Lauric Oilseeds Seedlings (India) Pvt. Ltd. of Bombay to set up salvadorea persica (Pilu) oilseeds plantations in areas facing acute problems of water availability and soil salinity. The project expects to cover 275 villages in eight taluks in the districts of Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Ahmedabad and Kheda. It consists of 6,OOO hectares of captive plantation and 19,000 hectares of farm forestry.

The Madhya Pradesh government has set up a joint sector paper mill project covering 20,000 hectares of wastelands for meeting their captive requirements of raw material. So far they have applied for 13,000 hectares of degraded forest land but have yet to be allotted land. They plan a production of 40 tonnes per hectare on the basis of an eight-year cycle, with species like Eucalyptus, subabul and acacia nilotica.

In Haryana, Nuchem Plastics Ltd. have submitted a proposal for raising a 5,000 hectares plantation of Eucalyptus, poplar, subpart and kilrar in the waterlogged wastelands of Ambala district

In the face of a serious controversy over the conversion of food growing land to industrial wood fibre plantation in the state, the Government of Karnataka has launched a number of schemes of 'Wasteland Development' under its social forestry project which are in effect the conversion of 120,000 acres of village common lands to Eucalyptus plantations to feed a local rayon factory. 'Wastelands' are category 'C' and 'D' lands which were not a source of revenue for the state but were a source of fuel and fodder for the villages. The conversion of these village commons to feed stocks for the wood fibre industry is in direct conflict with the basic biomass needs of the local villages. The diversion of these village commons to industrial plantations through the project for 'Wasteland Development' has led to a major popular resistance movement for the protection of the commons called 'Mannu Rakshna Koota' or 'Movement for saving the soil'. Lands of 'C' and 'D' class which are categorized as wastelands are meant for fulfilling the basic needs of villagers in agriculture, animal husbandry etc. In Shimop and Chiklcamagalur areas, 'C' and 'D' class of lands are being transferred to the forest department with a view to planting Eucalyptus for a joint venture-the Kamatalta Pulpwood Ltd.- floated in November 1984 by the Kamatalra Forest Plantations Development Corporation and Harihar Polyfibres Ltd.

Were is a second proposal for transferring 'C' and 'D' class of lands to the forest department in an area within a radius of 10 km of Harihar Polyfibres, covering nearly 45,000 acres in Chitradurga, Bellary, Shirnoga, and Dharwad districts for growing Eucalyptus and selling it to Harihar Polyfibres Ltd. Here the land will be leased out to agricultural labourers on the condition that their yield be sold to Harihar Polyfibres at 'reasonable' rates.

These proposals of transferring 'C' and 'D' class of lands to the forest department, and growing Eucalyptus as well as supplying the pulpwood to Harihar Polyfibres are indications of dangerous trends in public policy, working against the interests of the people. The nexus of state and special interest power groups is working aginst ordinary citizens. As pasture lands, as minor forests, etc. 'C' and 'D' class of lands were categorized and provided for. The utitisation of these for monocultures of Eucalyptus for a single company has generated a severe conflict between the people and the state.

The experience of the forest department in growing Eucalyptus in the high rainfall area of Malnad districts like Uttar Kannada, Shimoga and Chickmagalur has been a disappointing as well as a controversial one. Therefore, the government took a decision not to grow Eucalyptus in areas with rainfall of 40 inches or more. But an exception has been made in the case of Mysore Paper Mills as well as Harihar Polylibres and the public and ecologists argue that the raising of this monocrop in the high rainfall area is totally unjustified.

Further utilization of 'C' and 'D' crass of lands in the dry zone and other areas will deprive the basic common facility enjoyed by the villages so far. Public interest is being sacrificed for promoting the interests of a private enterprise like Harihar Polyfibres whose record of industrial development has unfolded the trail of continuous pollution and its after-effects.

All this is a clear indication of the state as representative of special interest power groups and the consequent outcome of the mortgaging of people's resources now and in the future. The private interests of the Birlas are being served at the enormous cost of lives of people and cattle in the Tungabhadra region.

The people in affected villages have registered their protest by uprooting newly planted Eucalyptus seedlings from these 'wasteland' in large numbers. They have also undertaken a survey of the existing land use in 'C' and 'D' class lands. This shows that large parts of these lands are under natural evergreen or semi-green forests. Average tree population has been noted to be 50-200 per acre of diverse species. The cultivation of Eucalyptus in the village commons comprising these 'C' and 'D' class lands is perceived by the people as a programme for the creation of wastelands not a programme for their development.

The conflicting meanings of 'productivity' for conflicting interests in land use is well exemplified in the 'wasteland' category. For the state, with a primary interest in revenue, biologically productive land was iwaste'if it did not generate revenue. The state pursued a land use policy which converted productive lands into biological wastelands, a trend which continues even today as land use conflicts over wastelands in Karnataka show. For the local people 'productivity' is a material, an ecological category. 'Wastelands' are their wealth, supporting their agricultural economy. Attempts to change the vegetation and land use characteristics of these village commons are, in their perception an attempt to rob their land and its biological wealth. Conflicts are thus generated by wasteland development, emerging from conflicting views of waste and conflicting interests in land.