General Studies IIIEnvironment and Ecology

Reserved Forest


Recently, the Delhi government has notified forest land in two villages in South Delhi as ‘reserved forest’, which will give them legal status.

Definition of Forest:

  • At present, in India, there is no clear nationally-accepted definition of ‘forest’.
  • States are responsible for determining their definition of forests.
  • The prerogative of the states to define forests stems from a 1996 Supreme Court order called the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs the Union of India judgment.
    • In the judgement, the Supreme Court interpreted that the word “forest” must be understood according to its “dictionary meaning”.
    • This description covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise.

What is reserve Forest:

reserved forest and protected forest in India are forests accorded a certain degree of protection. The concept was introduced in the Indian Forest Act of 1927 during the British Raj to refer to forests granted protection under the British crown in British India, but not associated suzerainties. After Indian independence, the Government of India retained the status of the reserved and protected forests, and extended protection to other forests. Many forests that came under the jurisdiction of the Government of India during the political integration of India were initially granted such protection.

Unlike National Parks or wildlife sanctuaries, reserved forests and protected forests are declared by the respective state governments. At present, reserved forests and protected forests differ in one important way: Activities including hunting, grazing, etc. in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise. In protected forests, such activities are sometimes allowed for communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or prod

What is the Status of Forest Cover in India?

  • According to the India State of Forest Report-2021, the forest and tree cover in the country continues to increase with an additional cover of 1,540 square kilometres over the past two years.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
  • Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.


State ForestsCommercial ForestsPrivate Forests
Include almost all important forest areas of the country and are under full control of the government (state/central).Owned and administered by local bodies (municipal corporations, village panchayats, district boards etc.)Under private ownership.
Cover almost 94% of the TFA.Cover 5% of the TFA.Cover slightly more than 1% of the TFA.

On Merchantability

MerchantableNon- Merchantable
Forests that are accessible.Forests that are situated at high mountainous peaks; non accessible.
Cover 82% of the TFA.Cover 18% of the TFA.

Based on Composition

Coniferous ForestsBroad-Leaf Forests
Temperate ForestsTropical and subtropical monsoon forests.
Found in middle and upper elevations of the eastern Middle Himalayas and N-E Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh.Found in the plateaus, plains and mountainous areas of the country.
Cover 6.50% of the TFA of the country.Cover about 94% of the TFA of the country.

Difference between Reserved Forest & Protected Forest

Reserved ForestProtected Forest
1. Reserve forest is the designated forest with many other natural areas that enjoy judicial protection based on the legal systems.1. Protected forests are forests with some amount of legal and constitutional protection in certain countries. Here the habitat and resident species are given legal protection against any further depletion.
2. In reserve forest natural habitats have been given a high degree of protection against any kind of hunting and poaching.2. In protected forests, sometimes the local community has got the rights for activities like hunting and grazing as they are living on the fringes of the forest because they sustain their livelihood wholly or partially from forest resources or products.
3. These forests come under government protection. Rights to all activities like hunting, grazing, etc. unreserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued.3. In India, the government has property rights in these forests. This was declared by a state government under the provisions of section 29 of the Indian forest act 1927.
4. These are permanent forest estates maintained to produce timber and other forest produce.4. Almost 1/3 of the total forest area is declared as a protected forest by the forest department.
5. As the conservation of forest and wildlife is concerned more than 50% of the total forest land has been declared as reserved forest.5. Protected forests are often upgraded to wildlife sanctuaries which may further upgrade to national parks.
6. In India, Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under permanent forest (75% of the total forest area) followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal6. In India, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan have the bulk of their forest, under-protected forest.

Forests Categorised Based on Rainfall in India?

  • Tropical Evergreen and Semi Evergreen Forests:
    • These forests are found in the western slope of the Western Ghats, hills of the northeastern region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • They are found in warm and humid areas with an annual precipitation of over 200 cm and mean annual temperature above 22oC.
    • Tropical evergreen forests are well stratified, with layers closer to the ground and are covered with shrubs and creepers, with short structured trees followed by a tall variety of trees.
    • In these forests, trees reach great heights up to 60 m or above. There is no definite time for trees to shed their leaves, flowering and fruition. As such these forests appear green all the year round.
    • The semi evergreen forests are found in the less rainy parts of these regions. Such forests have a mixture of evergreen and moist deciduous trees. The undergrowing climbers provide an evergreen character to these forests.
  • Tropical Deciduous Forests:
    • These are the most widespread forests in India. They are also called the monsoon forests. They spread over regions which receive rainfall between 70-200 cm. On the basis of the availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous.
  • Montane Forests:
    • In mountainous areas, the decrease in temperature with increasing altitude leads to a corresponding change in natural vegetation.
    • Mountain forests can be classified into two types, the northern mountain forests and the southern mountain forests.
  • Tropical Thorn forests:
    • Tropical thorn forests occur in the areas which receive rainfall less than 50 cm. These consist of a variety of grasses and shrubs. It includes semi-arid areas of south west Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
    • In these forests, plants remain leafless for most part of the year and give an expression of scrub vegetation.
  • Swamp Forests:
    • They are found along the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the delta area of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
      • Other areas of significance are the Mahanadi, the Godavari and the Krishna deltas.
    • Some of these forests are dense and impenetrable. Only a limited number of plants are found in these evergreen forests.
    • They have roots that consist of soft tissue so that the plant can breathe in the water.
    • It consists mainly of whistling pines, mangrove dates, palms, and bulletwood.

Acts pertaining to forests

The Indian Forest Act, 1927

The Indian Forest Act, 1927- was enacted to ‘consolidate the law related to forest, the transit of forest produce, and the duty liable on timber and other forest produce’. The preamble to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (16 of 1927) states that the Act seeks to consolidate the law relating to forests, the transit of forest produce and the duty that can be levied on timber and other forest produce.

The Wildlife Protection Act, Rules 1973 and Amendment 1991

The Wildlife Protection Act, Rules 1973 and Amendment 1991 provides for the protection of birds and animals and for all matters that are connected to it whether it be their habitat or the waterhole or the forests that sustain them. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, provided for the protection of the wild animals, birds and plants. The Act was substantially amended in 2002. A major objective of this amendment was to update the law to deal with sharply escalating levels of organized poaching. The Ministry of Environment and Forest formally notified this Amendment Act on 1st April, 2003. 

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 has come into force on 4th September 2006. The Act provides for creating the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau).

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

The Forest (Conservation) Act was enacted for providing a higher level of protection to the forests and to regulate diversion of forest lands for non forestry purposes. FC ACT, 1980 – Prior approval of the Central Government is essential for DE-reservation of forest lands and / or diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes.

Source: Indian Express

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