India, in the late 1940s, was still heavily forested, with many endemic species. However, with the rapid rate of human population growth since then, and the encroachment of humans and livestock into forests, large areas of forest land have been replaced by wasteland. The government of India has designated 23% of the land as state forest land but less than 11% of the country is still covered by forest! And less than 2% of this area consists of natural forest (Alcorn and Molnar, 1996). India has a forest destruction rate of about 3.3% per year (Dobson, 1995), and deforestation and the unsustainable use of marginal lands has left approximately 40% of the country in wasteland. Much of India is subject to flooding, and dams have become silted up, due to the deforestation of watersheds. River flow is very low during dry seasons because of the severe damage to watersheds by deforestation, which has led to the salinization (and thus ruin) of coastal agricultural lands. Deforestation has additionally disrupted the historical pattern of subsistence living, which depended upon access to forest goods – such as wood for fuel and housing, building and living materials, and fruits. An increase in the already desperate poverty of many rural areas has been the result. All of these problems are exacerbated by the rapid growth of India’s population, which is now more than one billion.

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