New Delhi: What constitutes a forest?
There is no anwser for this simple and plain question
even 62 years after independence if a RTI reply of the
Ministry of Environment and Forests is a pointer.
The reason cited by the Ministry in its reply is that
"definition" of forests is under active consideration and it
is yet to be "finalised".
"Definition of forests is under active consideration
and yet to be finalised. However regarding definition of
Forest, we may like to refer to the judgement of Honourable
Supreme Court dated December 12, 1996 in the case of T N
Godavarman versus Union of India and others in Writ Petition
civil No. 202/1995," an official of the Forest Policy Division
with the Ministry said.
Ajay Marathe, a resident of Mumbai, had filed an Right
To Information(RTI) application asking for state-wise and
area-wise comparison statement showing increase in forest area
and the forest cover in the last decade.
Marathe said, "Its surprising that in the report on
`Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation`
updated on 30 March 2011 they talk in length and breadth on
how 3 million hectares of forest cover have been added over
the last decade.
"This too when we get to read news reports of
encroachment on forest area by builders, chopping off trees in
other other places leading to forest being completely erased
in many states. This is why I asked them to provide what was
the definition of forests for preparing the report.
Marathe also said he sought a definition of the
quality of forests.
"The report speaks of shifting focus from increasing
the quantity of forest towards increasing its quality and
improving provision of ecosystem goods and services. That is
why I have asked them to define quality of forest and how it