Joint forest management in India and its ecological impacts

Ecological impact of joint forest management (JFM) in India was assessed using the studies undertaken at national, state and forest division levels. It was found that there are very few studies that have specifically addressed the ecological aspects under JFM. The study noted that there are significant strides made in promoting JFM, but the program still needs to address a lot of inadequacies. Though it is estimated that little over 14 million ha of forests are brought under JFM, covering nearly 50 per cent of the open forests in India, how much of it has developed into good forests is not really known. It also needs to be noted that there are many lacunae in implementation of the program and there are also gaps in policies to promote JFM. The study noted that in four states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal, the recruitment was significant, amounting to 17 per cent of the regenerating individuals. In Karnataka, over 10 per cent of open forest has been brought under JFM, while a lot of wasteland could still be brought under JFM. The JFM plantations are dominated with exotic firewood species and low in timber and non-timber species, resulting in lower biodiversity. Biomass growth rate was comparatively higher in JFM forests as compared to the national average. Other support activities to JFM indicated that various biomass conservation programs were initiated, installing a substantial number of energy saving and alternate energy devices. However, the study also notes
that effectiveness of such support programs is not clearly known in terms of its functioning and biomass saved.