The world's forest resources are monitored by FAO at an interval of 5 to 10 years since 1946. The Global Forests Resources Assessments (GFRA), by FAO, provide a consistent approach to describe the changes in the world's forest resources. The assessments are based on country reports and remote sensing studies conducted by FAO. The latest GFRA 2015 has shown India among the few countries of the world indicating increasing trend in Forest and tree cover. Results of India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2015 also coincide with Global Forest Resource Assessment 2015 (GFRA 2015).
Forest Cover is classified into very dense forest, moderate dense forest and open forest. The total forest cover of the country as per ISFR 2015 is 701673 sq.km which constitute 21.34 percent of the geographical area of the country. There has been an increase of 3775 sq.km. in the country's forest cover as compared to 2013 assessment. The total growing stock of India's forests and trees outside forests is estimated as 5768 million cum which comprises of 4195 million cum inside the forests and 1573 million cum outside the forests. There is an increase of 110.34 m .cum in total growing stock of the country as compared to the assess-ment reported in ISFR 2013. Out of this, increase inside the forest is 21.69 m. cum and that outside the forest is 88.66 m.cum. Similarly, mangrove cover has increased by 112 sq km as compared to the previous assessment.
As per Forest Survey of India (FSI) report 2015, total forest cover in the State of Kerala is 19239 sq.km, which is 49.5 percent of the total geographic area. Forest Cover in the State consists of 1523 sq.km of very dense forest, 9301 sq.km of moderate dense forest and 8415 sq.km of open forest. The extent of very dense forests is about 8 percent of the forest cover whereas open forests accounts for 44 percent of the forest cover. A comparison with the previous assessment in 2013 indicates a significant increase in the extent of open forests and a decline in the area under dense and moderately dense forests. Similarly, there is an increase in forest cover to the extent of 1317 sq. km and this is mainly due to commercial plantations. Idukki tops the districts in forest cover ( 3770 sq km). Alappuzha has the least forest cover (112 sq km). In terms of percentage of forest cover to total geographical area, Wayanad ranks first (79.73 per cent), followed by Idukki (75.11 per cent) and Pathanamthitta (65.96 per cent). District wise details of forest cover in Kerala is given in Appendix 2.62.
Natural forests in Kerala are being managed mainly for sustaining the life support systems and biodiversity conservation. Forests in Kerala are mainly classified into 5 major categories. The major types of forests in Kerala is given in Appendix 2.63.
Forest protection is the important aspect of managing natural forests. Major activities taken up during 2015-16 were survey of forest boundaries, forest protection and regeneration of denuded forests. Boundary demarcation was carried out by construction of cairns and kayyalas along the boundary of the forests. Degraded forest areas were rehabilitated by planting in gaps with the local species. Protection of the forests from fire was carried out mainly by undertaking fire lines and engaging fire protection watchers. About 7983 cairns and 10.72 km of stone wall were constructed in 2015-16. Gap filling was done in an area of 100 ha and fire protection for 99.79 kms in and around degraded forests during the previous year.
About 1549 sq km of forests are under plantations of various types. Around 1,50,000 ha (13 per cent of total forest area) of forest plantations of various species exists, of which teak covers an extent of approximately 76,800 ha (51 per cent of total plantation areas). The annual revenue of the department comes mainly from the thinning and final felling of these plantations. Modern technologies including the use of improved seeds and modern nursery practices were adopted for raising the plantations. Plantations of hardwood species of local origin and pulpwood species for supplying raw materials to industries were also raised. Under Hardwood species, 265.04 ha of new areas were raised and 910.20 ha were maintained during the year 2015-16. Regarding industrial raw materials, 598.48 ha were newly planted and 1280.78 ha were maintained. Non-Wood Forest species were raised newly in 371.00 ha and it was maintained in 418.61 ha during 2015-16. Species wise area under forest plantation is given in Appendix 2.64.
Forest Development Agencies (FDAs) are registered as Federation of Vana Samrakshana Samithies (VSS)/Eco Development Committees (EDC) under the Societies' Registration Act. All VSSs/EDCs of forest dependent communities/villages will come under the FDA on the condition that such units shall not exceed 50 under a single FDA. As on March 31, 2016, there are 400 Vana Samrakshana Samithies and 190 Eco development committees in Kerala.
Tribal people are integral part of forest ecosystem. Advent of scientific forest management and administration led to the settling of rights of people on forests under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, the first of which was formulated in 1865. Forests were notified by the British Government as reserved forests and protected forests after settling the rights of people on forest land and on forest resources. After independence also, the same process continued as per various State Forest Acts in the line of Indian Forest Act. It was a long felt need that the rights of tribals on forest land and on forest resources needed recognition. As a consequence, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognitions of Forest Rights ) Act, 2006, popularly known as Forest Rights Act was legislated. The Forest Rights Rules, 2008 amended in 2012 deals with the detailed procedure for claim, recognition and settling of rights.
The Act defines a forest dwelling scheduled tribe as members or community who primarily reside in forest and depend on forest or forest land for their bona fide livelihood and includes scheduled tribe pastoralist communities. Similarly traditional forest dwellers are members or community who reside in forest for a period of at least three generations prior to 13th day of December 2005 and who depend on forest or forest land for their bona fide livelihood.
The rights are classified into individual right and community right. The most important individual right is the right of individual or community for forest land for habitation and personal cultivation for livelihood . The most important community right is the right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce. Right to intellectual property rights is also recognised as a community right.
Grama sabha or Oorukoottam is the primary institution which collects application and take evidence in connection with the rights. Screening of rights is done at the level of Sub Divisional Level Committee and District Level Committee. The title is issued by the District Level Committee. State Level Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary monitors the whole programme.
In the State about 25,000 families have been given title for individual right so far allotting about 35,000 acres of forest land. The process of settling of Community rights on forest resources, which is more vital for livelihood is being settled now. Progress Report as on 30.11.2016 is shown in Appendix 2.65.
The production of major forest produce during the period 2014-15 and 2015-16 is shown in Appendix 2.66. Forests contribute substantially to the non-tax revenue of the State amounting to 290.20 crore against a budget estimate of 354.73 crore during 2015-16. During 2015-16, revenue ( revenue from forest products plus interest on forest revenue dues) from forests was 290.20 crore against the previous year revenue of 300.40 crore . Revenue from forest products also shows a decreasing trend, it was 257.37 crore during 2015-16 against 289.51 crore during 2014-15. Among the forest products, timber contributes the major source of forest revenue. Though major portion of the forest revenue is from timber, the share has declined during the previous year. Revenue from timber during 2015-16 was 240.89 crore against 269.43 crore during 2014-15 ie, the share of timber has declined from 89 percent of the total forest revenue ( 2014-15) to 83 percent (2015-16.) (Figure. 2.12). Details are given in Appendix 2.67. Further, enhanced rates for various services rendered by the Department, and e-Auction of timber has added to the forest revenue.
Source: Forest and Wildlife Department, Government of Kerala
The share of Forestry and logging in total GSVA at basic prices during the period 2015-16 (Quick Estimates) is 0.83 percent against 0.90 percent during 2014-15. The share of primary sector in GSDP has decreased from 11.62 percent (2014-15) to 10.53 percent during 2015-16. The contribution of Forestry sector in GSVA is given in
At present, there are 11 wildlife divisions under the wildlife wing. The wing manages 3213.237 sq.km of forests under its protected area network which includes 5 National Parks, 17 Wildlife Sanctuaries (includes 2 Tiger Reserves, 2 bird sanctuaries, 1 Peafowl sanctuary) and one Community Reserve. List of Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks, Biosphere Reserves and Community Reserves in Kerala is shown in the Appendix 2.69. During 2015-16, Wildlife wing has undertaken activities such as management of protected areas, preparation and implementation of management plan/Tiger conservation plan, conduct of wild life census, implementation of National Conservation projects, conduct and co-ordination of nature education and awareness programmes, co-ordination of ecotourism/eco-development activities in protected areas, mitigating man- animal conflict including payment of compensation to the victims of wildlife attack etc.
Man animal conflict is a perpetual problem confronted by the local people who inhabit the fringes of forest. In order to mitigate the problem, the Department has constructed several preventive structures such as solar fencing, elephant proof trench, elephant proof wall, bio fence, kayyala, and rail fence . During the year 2015-16, 6022 incidents of man animal conflicts were reported in Kerala. This includes human death, injury to human beings, cattle death, crop damage and property loss. Among the various circles of the Department, 6022 applications were received and 6.81 crore was paid as compensation to the victims of wild life attack during 2015-16.
Compared to majority of the states, Kerala stands fairly good in TOF in the country. The recent FSI reports (2015) suggest 11073 sq. km area under TOF which is about 28.49 per cent of the state's geographical area. Department has carried out massive afforestation programmes outside forest areas since 2007 with novel ideas. Haritha Keralam is an umbrella programme envisaged to increase greenery and enhance biodiversity in non-forest area of the State. This includes “Ente Maram, Nammude maram” Vazhiyora thanal, and Haritha theeram. The total number of seedlings distributed/planted under the various programmes upto March 31, 2016 is 576.2 lakh. The details of seedlings distributed under these programmes are given in Appendix 2.70.
During 2015-16, against the State Plan outlay of 152.00 crore, 125.36 crore was spent (82.47 per cent). Expenditure details during 2015-16 is shown in Appendix 2.71.