India's massive forest wealth still unassessed

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New Delhi, May 10 (UNI) Recognising the importance of forests in maintaining environmental stability and ecological balance, the government is putting in place a system for maintenance of forestry statistics to assist planners and policy makers.

The present level of statistical reporting in the forestry sector is far from satisfactory, says the Ministry of Forests and Environment.

Forestry in developing countries like India is increasingly being seen as a means for eradicating rural poverty and achieving sustainable development, so maintenance of proper statistics and records are inevitable for the management of forests on a sustainable basis.

It is not only the long rotation involved but also the nature of forests as a renewable resource, which requires comprehensive information for proper management.

The Ministry is taking the help of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) to prepare the forest data system.

India is also a signatory to the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), wherein, various demand and supply, production and consumption data regarding timber and fuel wood are required on an annual basis.

Annual administrative reports, prepared at the Division level, are the basic part of the reporting system in forest administration.

The basic data originates at the range level in a set of forms standardized for the whole State.

The above channels of reporting need to be continuously improved, updated and reinforced as integral parts of the forest statistical system.

Apart from the information on administrative part, sectoral information proves crucial for helping plan/policy related deliberations. Lack of such information has proved crucial in forestry sector planning.

For example, production, consumption, trade and movement of wood and non-wood forest produce outside the Government owned forest estate contribute substantially to the national economy. Wood is among the most prominent natural resources used in creation of infrastructure and manufacturring of various consumer products.

Since many State Forest Departments are not giving the requisite data in appropriate form to ICFRE, Dehradun, the National picture of many parameters of forestry remains unclear.

Moreover, the contribution of forestry products, vis, timber, poles, fuelwood and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) including the medicinal plants to GDP remain unassessed.

The State Forest Departments will have to come forward to develop, strengthen and streamline the forestry statistics collection, compilation and dissemination mechanism through capacity building/development of human resources, the Ministry said.

UNI NAZ LPB GC1338

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