India’s current forest and tree cover is estimated to be 78.29 million ha, constituting 23.81% of the geographical area of the country. As per the India State of the Forest Report (ISFR) 2011, forest cover has declined by 367 sq. km compared to the forest cover in the preceding ISFR in 2009. The National Forest Commission report 2006 indicated that around 41 per cent of total forest in the country is already degraded, 70 per cent of the forests have no natural regeneration, and 55 per cent of the forests are prone to fire. In the forested landscapes of India, the livelihoods of the people, especially the indigenous communities, living close to forest and within the forests are inextricably linked to the forest ecosystem. People depend on the forest for a variety of forest products for food, fodder, agriculture, housing, and an array of marketable minor forest produces which can potentially degrade forest if harvested unsustainably. People living in these forest fringe villages depend upon forest for a variety of goods and services. These includes collection of edible fruits, flowers, tubers, roots and leaves for food and medicines; firewood for cooking (some also sale in the market); materials for agricultural implements, house construction and fencing; fodder (grass and leaf) for livestock and grazing of livestock in forest; and collection of a range of marketable non-timber forest products. Thus, this increasing degradation of forest is hampering the basic human right to life and livelihood of the local communities, especially the indigenous community whose life is closely linked with the resources and environment amidst which they live.
Keywords: Forest degradation, human rights, local communities.
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