THE draft National Environment Policy (NEP: released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has attracted much attention. It represents the first-ever attempt to draft a policy for the environment as a whole. At first glance, the document appears to be quite comprehensive and sophisticated.

The moist tropical forests of the Western Ghats of India are pockmarked with savanna-grasslands created and managed by local agricultural communities. A sample of such savanna-grasslands with differing growing conditions was studied in terms of peak above-ground biomass, monthly growth and cumulative production under different clipping treatments.

Does rural fuelwood use and more generally rural biomass use cause forest degradation? This question has been debated in scientific and policy circles. The author presents a framework for defining degradation and sustainable use of forests that might help clarify some of the confusion.