Traditionally, Forest Department of any state attended to the protection, conservation and development of forests of the State. Wildlife Management, Soil Conservation, preparation of working Plan/Management Plan, Research &Utilisation, and Civil works like construction of roads, buildings, etc. have been the ancillary and incidental works. Forests used to be considered and important Department, since it was a big source of revenue. With passage of time, however, this thinking has undergone a sea change as is manifested in the paradigm changes in policies, legislations and management practices. " Forest " is a concurrent subject in the Constitution of India and the Central Government takes a lead in the formulation of policies of legislations. The latest forest policy enunciated by the Government of India in 1988 is the guiding force of forest management for all the States. Its salient features are:
Abandoning the traditional viewpoint of treating forest as a revenue earning Department: More emphasis to environmental stability and biodiversity conservation.
Involving people, particularly the indigenous people, in all aspects of forest management i.e. to acknowledge and strengthen the symbiotic relationship that exists between forest and people.
Enlarge tree planting and areas outside forests and thereby relieving forests of increased pressure.
Strengthen protection measures of existing forests.
Reactivate research so as to increase productivity of forests.
Implicit in these new strands of policy initiatives is the recognition that, forests are an invaluable and vulnerable resource, which needs to be preserved for ensuring sustainability of our civilization.
Policy imperatives and economic considerations: the new policy however should however be not understood as to discourage or condemn revenue accrual from forests. On the contrary, the policy recognizes the need and scope to augment revenue receipt form forests: But these have to be on sustainable basis scrupulously observing the cardinal principles of sound forestry.
From a purely economic point of view, a standing forest has a dual role. It is both the capital as well as the product. Conventional forestry science had therefore evolved the concept of what came to be known "sustainable yield management". This means from a standing forest, only that much of forest produce is to be removed as annual yield, which is equivalent to the annual increment. In a crude analogy, this is akin to drawl of interest from bank, while keeping the principal in tact. The whole concept has been based on over-generalised and simplistic premises.
Modern biological understanding has betrayed that, this style of working of forests is pernicious to conservation. Conservation means much more than mere preservation of forest crop in quantitative terms; because opening of any virgin forest brings about cataclysmic and irreversible qualitative changes. Forests perform number of "ecosystem services" which are not usually (probably because they can't be) converted into monetary terms, but which at the same time are essential to sustenance of development of any sector. Sequestration of carbon, amelioration of air pollution, stabilization of weather, prevention of natural disasters like flash floods-landslides, arresting soil erosion, promotion water percolation, synchronization of the hydrological cycle with local regime of climate are some instances where the role of forests is critical. These critical ecosystem services do not get reflected in conventional national accounting systems.
Notwithstanding these intangible benefits which forests bring about, it should be conceded that maintenance of large areas under forest cover involve very huge "opportunity costs". Protection, maintenance and nurturing of forests entail handsome and regular investments, which under the existing system is met through budgetary grants. The system can hardly be allowed to continue, for any realist would be skeptical of increasing outlays to be earmarked every year to a sector that does not bring commensurate visible returns, especially so in developing economies like ours characterized by meagre resources and having more pressing sectors like food production, housing, social welfare etc. The endeavour of the forest department is to reconcile these conflicting options, that is, to maximize mobilization of revenues from forests and at the same time conserving these resources.
The concept of Non-invasive use of forests has emerged as a result of this approach. This is a practically unexplored field and holds good promise. These strategies, through paying rich dividends in the long run would require substantial investments to build up basic infrastructure and develop skills. It is proposed to take up this works in the 10th Plan in a big way. The main avenues for non-invasive uses are Eco-tourism and Non-timber forest products (NTFP's). The Government of Pondicherry has already embarked upon an ambitions project of NTFP's in a big way. Among the NTFP's, medicinal plants enjoy a pride of place. The forest department, conscious of the tremendous potential of this sector is committed to purse and revolutionise the cultivation of medicinal plants in the State of Pondicherry.
The present worldwide trend is to encourage systematization of indigenous medical systems. Governmental, voluntary and commercial establishments have evinced interest in this field. The Government of India recently constituted a Medicinal Plant Board under the Chairmanship of Hon. Union Minister for health with about 10 Union Secretaries as ex-officio members. This Board has urged all State Governments to constitute similar boards at the level of all States. Constitution of a similar high-powered Board is being finalized by the State Government.
Justification Of A Project And Its Concepts
The state of Pondicherry with large areas falling under Eastern Ghats is repository of large number of rare, threatened and endangered plants, many of which are found to possess invaluable medicinal properties. There are a number of medicinal plant species, which can be introduced and grown in Pondicherry and which have tremendous demand. The introduction of medicinal plants can be done in forest areas as well as farmlands. This is a largely neglected sector. If harnessed, the sector provides tremendous scope for enhancing revenues from forest areas in non-invasive ways.
This can also enhance earnings of farmers with small and marginal land holdings when popularized among them. Identification of such plants in the forests and their cultivation in farm holds/forests can help conservation of biodiversity in a big way. But starting and popularizing medicinal plant conservation and cultivation entails substantial investments in terms of infrastructure, market studies, training of staff, extension to the farmers etc. Routine schemes will fail to make impact especially to rope in more and more farmers to collaborate in a field new to them. Strong linkages have to be established with pharmaceutical companies (in indigenous systems of medicine) for assured demand of the items produced. All these justify a concerted strategy through a time bound project.
A phased approach has to be followed in the prosecution of the project.
a) Identifying the medicinal plants,
i) which grow indigenously in Pondicherry,
ii) which can be introduced in Eastern Ghat area like Tamilnadu and grown in Pondicherry and
iii) which fall the category or rare, exotic and endangered from out of category as given in i) above. Preliminary studies on these aspects have already been conducted by the forest department and the list is as given below.
Some important of indigenous medicinal plants
|| Tinospora cordifolia
Some endemic, rare vulnerable and endangered species
- Eugenia macrocephala
Some species which can be introduced in Pondicherry
- Piper longum