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Tropical forests cover about 23 % of the earth’s land surface, but are disappearing at the rate of about 4 to 5 million hectares a year

Millions of hectares of deciduous forest are destroyed every year most of them in the Caribbean and South America.

Most of the world’s best agricultural land was once forest area. As the human population grew and there was need for more food and space for habitat, deforestation began to take place.

One-third of the forests in the world are coniferous forests and are found in the temperate regions.

Tropical rain forests are valuable for their genetic resources, timber and other products. Rain forests are among the most diverse ecosystems; they cover over 6% of the earth’s surface but house over 50% of the species.

The Van Gujjars, are an indigenous forest dwelling people and have been living in the foothills of the Himalayas for centuries. They spend the winters in the forests of the Shivalik mountain range at an average height of 1500 feet above sea level, and the summers in the high altitude pasturelands of the Himalayas at heights between 8000 to 12 000 feet. For centuries they have reared their buffaloes in these forests and pasture lands.

India's biggest urban forest is being carefully nurtured on 400 acres of prime land belonging to the ASC (Army Supply Corps) in the heart of Bangalore. When the saplings begin to mature into trees within the next two to three years, the forest will act as a huge carbon sink cleansing the polluted city.

The forest cover of the country has been estimated to be 637 293 sq. km, which is 19.39% of the geographic area of the country. The dense forest, open forest and mangrove constitute 11.48%, 7.76% and 0.15% of geographic area respectively. Scrub and non-forest are the other classes in the scheme of classification.

Among the states, Madhya Pradesh accounts for more than 20% of the forest cover of the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa , Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The seven North-Eastern states together comprise about 25 % of the total forest cover.

About 85% of the total mangroves, a unique eco-system occurring in inter tidal regions are in West Bengal, Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Van Mahotsava (the Festival of trees) is celebrated every year throughout the country in the first week (1st to 7th) of July. Lakhs of saplings of different tree species are planted with active involvement of government agencies like the Forest department. In July 1947 a successful tree plantation drive was undertaken in Delhi in which national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad participated along with many others. The week was celebrated in a well-organized manner in a number of states all over the country. In the early 1950's late Shri K M Munshi, noted educationist and nature lover, named this movement ‘Van Mahotsava’. Massive tree plantation drives were conducted with active involvement of the local population

In the Rig Veda there is a beautiful hymn to Aranyani, the elusive spirit of the forest, which explains the inter dependent relationship between man and nature. Many other religious literature of ancient India highlight the deep love of nature and all that it contains. Many religious beliefs are attached to different trees and plants. The Buddha is believed to have received enlightenment under a peepal tree. Peepal trees are thus said to have a special, sacred quality.

During the reign of Ashoka in the third century BC, trees were planted along the roadsides and in groves. He banned hunting and regulated the slaughter of animals. Forests and life in the forest area were protected.

Mughal emperors and nobility surrounded their palaces with exquisite, well laid out gardens with trees and bushes, some of which survive to this day. Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty was a keen naturalist and his autobiography, the Babarnama, has detailed account of the flora and fauna of India.


   

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