Finding balance in India’s forests
Tuesday, 22 August 2017
Brought together by certification, forests supply high quality logs while continuing to provide a sanctuary for wildlife and the culture of Indigenous Peoples.
Plant, animal, and human lives co-exist in profusion and harmony in the densely wooded tracts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India. There are many human activities here – wildlife sanctuaries, logging operations and tribal villages, but they are strictly monitored to preserve the ecological balance of the area through a unique partnership between the UP Forest Department and UP Forest Corporation (UPFC).
Large, productive forest areas
The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is covered by rich forests, totalling 21,720 square kilometres – just over nine per cent of the state’s geographical area. These forests are highly diverse and include high quality timber-yielding trees like teak and sal, along with fruit and indigenous medicinal plants used in Ayurveda therapy.
UPFC earned FSC forest management certification in 2015, covering almost 404,104 hectares. FSC certification has enabled the UP government to make plans to boost its revenue from forest products, while ensuring that the forests remain healthy and vibrant.
“While the value of timber from UP was already well known, the UP government sought FSC certification to compete in international markets. Timber from UP is world famous for its quality and strength – while a teak tree has to be at least 65 years old before it can be cut, furniture made from teak can last even longer. We are gearing up to market FSC-certified wood and earn better revenues - indeed, 20 buyers have already registered to purchase FSC-certified timber.” notes P. Brahmanandan, Divisional Manager for UPFC.
An economically viable solution that protects all
UP forests are home to more than trees and plant species, they are also known for their rich diversity of wildlife, particularly endangered species like tigers, cheetahs, and leopards.
With the forests managed by the forest department, and with logging sales and eco-tourism activities overseen by the UPFC, cooperation and synergy is essential.
Evidence of the two entities working together can frequently be seen in the field. One example is a 350-year-old Banyan tree, set deep in the jungle and considered sacred by Muslims and Hindus alike. The caretaker of a 200-year-old guesthouse built near the tree says, “The forest dwellers regularly visit the tree and pray for safe passage as they move around the forest. The tree’s devotional significance means that no one has ever dared to harm even a single branch or leaf on it.” The corporation’s FSC certification has made this tree’s future – and the future of many millions of others – even more secure.
A sustainable future for the community
Fakirpuri is a tiny village in Bahraich District located within walking distance of the Nepal International border. It is entirely inhabited by Indigenous Peoples from the Tharu tribe, who have traditionally made a living out of forest products, and growing and collecting their own food from the forests. Recent stringent forest laws have prevented them from performing some of these traditional practices.
“We are dependent on the forest for our existence but realize the importance of keeping it healthy,” says Radha, a Tharu villager, “our future generations will be safe if our forests are safe.” Villagers now devise ways to earn additional income, such as making jewellery out of canes, beads collected from the nearby river, and leftover bamboo pieces.
Under the blessing of the sacred tree, and using the responsible management and business model that FSC certification has brought, the communities and wildlife of UP’s forests have a vision and a path forward that will hopefully last for centuries to come.
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