Forest Management and Water in India

Introduction

India underwent a major transformation of its landscape and land-cover after approximately 1860, when large parts of the country came under the British Colonial rule (Gadgil and Guha, 1993; Goldewijk and Ramankutty, 2004; Kumar, 2010), spurred by demands for timber destined to shipbuilding, railways, expansion of agriculture, and plantations for tea, further continuing in the postindependence period for dams and reservoirs, agricultural expansion, and refugee resettlement. It is estimated that in the period 1875-1900, roughly one-third of India was cultivated, an equal expanse was forested, and about twenty percent of the land was grassland and savannah-woodlands (Lynch and Talbott 1995; Sivaramakrishnan, 2009). Overall estimates of deforestation are between 40%-50% of original cover lost between 1860s and 1990s. However, according to Laurance 2007, India has already lost nearly 80% of its original native forest cover. Using the best available datasets, his analyses suggest that the remaining native forests in India are declining at a rapid pace, from 1.5% to 2.7% per year.