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VEGETATION

Flora of India

India is one of the richest of the world due to a wide range of climate, topography and environments in the country. With about 47000 species of plant species, it occupies tenth place in the world and fourth in Asia. It is thought there are over 15000 species of flowers in India, which account for 6 percent of the total plant species in the world.

 Fauna of India

India has some of the world's most biodiverse regions. India possesses a wide range of ecozones i.e. desert, high mountains, plateaus, tropical and temperate forests, plains, grasslands as well as group of islands. It has three biodiversity hotspots: the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, and the hilly ranges that on the India-Myanmar border. These places have numerous endemic species. India, for the most part, lies within the Indomalaya ecozone, with the upper reaches of the Himalayas forming part of the Palearctic ecozone; the contours of 2000 to 2500m are considered to be the altitudinal boundary between the Indo-Malayan and Palearctic zones. India displays significant biodiversity. One of twelve mega diverse countries, India is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species. India is home to many well known large mammals including the Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Leopard and Indian Rhinoceros.

Sacred Groves

 1)  A sacred grove is grove of trees of great religious importance to a particular culture. Nature worship is an age old tribal belief based on the premise that all creations of nature have to be protected. Such beliefs have preserved several virgin forests in natural way  called Sacred Groves means the forests of God and Goddesses.

 

2)  Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes. These are protected by the community. Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches. Honey collection and fuel wood collection are sometimes allowed on a sustainable basis.

3) Traditionally, members of the community take turns to protect the grove. The introduction of the protected area category community reserves under the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002 has introduced legislation for providing government protection to community held lands, which could include sacred groves.

4) Sacred groves occur in a variety of places – from scrub forests in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan maintained by the Bishnois, to rain forests in the Kerala, Western Ghats. Himachal Pradesh in the north and Kerala in the south are specifically known for their large numbers of sacred groves.

5) The Kodavas of Karnataka alone maintained over 1000 sacred groves in their region. The Mundas and the Santhal of Chhota Nagpur region worship mahua (Bassia latifolia) and kadamba (Anthocaphalus cadamba) trees, and the tribals of Orissa and Bihar worship the tamarind (Tamarindus indica) and mango (Mangifera indica) trees during weddings. To many of us, peepal and banyan trees are considered sacred. Some of the more famous groves are the kavus of Kerala, which are located in the Western Ghats and have enormous biodiversity; and the law kyntangs of Meghalaya. Among the largest sacred groves of India are the ones in Hariyali, near Ganchar in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, and the Deodar grove in Shipin near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.

Environment Related Movement

1)    Chipko movement 

The Chipko movement or Chipko Andolanmeans hugging the tree to protect itfrom big cut. It is a social-ecological movement that practised the Gandhian methods of satyagraha and non-violent resistance, through the act of hugging trees to protect them from being cut. The Chipko movement started in the early 1970s in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand. The landmark event in this struggle took place on March 26, 1974, when a group of peasant women in Reni village, Hemwalghati, in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India, acted to prevent the cutting of trees and reclaim their traditional forest rights that were threatened by the contractor system of the state Forest Department.

Today, this movement has inspired many environment loving people throughout India to protect their environment and trees.

2)    Beej Bachao Andolan 

The Beej Bachao Andolan, or Save the Seeds movement began in the late 1980s as a group of activists from the Henwal River Valley in Tehri district (Uttarakhand, India), led by Vijay Jardhari, drew links between the erosion of agricultural biodiversity and rural livelihoods, and sought to preserve the people’s cultural and scientific patrimony, as well as fight back against agrarian policies that favour corporate agribusiness at the expense of small farmers.Many of its members such as Dhoom Singh Negi and Sudesha Devi are veterans of various social and environmental movements of the region including Chipko, the Anti-Liquor movement, and the anti-Mining struggles.

3)    Joint Forest Management (JFM)  

In India joint forest management (JFM) programme is a good example for involving local communities in the management and restoration of degraded forests. This programme was started in 1988 when Orissa passed the first resolution for joint forest management. This programme depends on the formation of local (village) institutions that undertake protection activities mostly on degraded forest land managed by the forest department. In return, the members of these communities are given some benefits like non-timber forest produces and share in the timber harvested by ‘successful protection’.

 

Project Tiger

Tiger is one of the key wildlife species in the food web. In 1973, the authorities realized that the tiger population had reduced to 1,827 from an estimated 55,000 at the turn of the century. The major threats to tiger population are poaching for trade, shrinking habitat, depletion of prey base species, growing human population etc. The trade of tiger skins and the use of their bones in traditional medicines have led the tiger population on the verge of extinction. Since India and Nepal provide habitat to about two-thirds of the surviving tiger population in the world, these two nations became prime targets for poaching and illegal trading. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. A 'Task Force' was then set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach.
“Project Tiger” was launched in 1973. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted 'tiger reserves', which are representative of various bio-geographical regions falling within our country. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in the natural environment. Initially, 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74, by pooling the resources available with the Central and State Governments. These nine reserves covered an area of about 13,017sq.km-viz Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa), Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal).

The project started as a 'Central Sector Scheme' with the full assistance of Central Government till 1979-80: later, it become a 'centrally Sponsored Scheme' from 1980-81, with equal sharing of expenditure between the center and the states.
The W.W.F. has also given assistance in the form of equipments, expertise and literature.
 Initially, it showed success as the tiger population went up to 4,002 in 1985 and 4,334 in 1989. But in 1993, the population of the tiger had dropped to 3,600. There are 27 tiger reserves in India covering an area of 37,761 sq km Tiger conservation has been viewed not only as an effort to save an endangered species, but with equal importance as a means of preserving biotypes of sizeable magnitude.

 Hence, 'Project Tiger', is mainly for the conservation of the entire eco-system and apart from tigers, all other wild animals also have increased in number in the project areas.

TYPES OF VEGETATION

The following major types of vegetation are found in India:

(i) Tropical Rain Forests or Evergreen Forests

(ii) Tropical Deciduous Forests

(iii) Tropical Thorn Forests

(iv) Montane Forests

(v) Mangrove Forests

 

Tropical Rain Forests

These forests are found in heavy rainfall (More than 200 cm.) areas of the Western Ghats and the island groups of Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar, upper parts of Assam and Tamil Nadu coast. The trees reach heights up to 60 metres or even above. These forests appear green all the year round. Ebony, mahogany, rosewood, rubber and cinchona are the main types of trees found here. Elephants, monkey, lemur and deer are the main animals of these forests. The one horned rhinoceros are found in the jungles of Assam and West Bengal.

 Tropical Deciduous Forests

Tropical Deciduous Forests are found in the major part of India. They are also called the monsoon forests and are found in the area receiving rainfall between 200 cm and 70 cm. Trees of this forest-type shed their leaves for about six to eight weeks in dry summer. These forests exist in northeastern states, along the foothills of the Himalayas, Jharkhand, West Orissa and Chhattisgarh and on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. Teak , Bamboos, sal, shisham, sandalwood, khair, kusum, arjun, mulberry are other important species of these forests. In these forests, the common animals found are lion, tiger, pig, deer and elephant. A huge variety of birds, lizards, snakes, and tortoises are also found here.

 The Thorn Forests

These forests are found in areas receiving less than 70 cm of rainfall, the natural vegetation consists of thorny trees and bushes. This type of vegetation is found in the north-western part of the country including semi-arid areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Acacias, palms and cacti are the main plant species.  In these forests, the common animals are rats, mice, rabbits, fox, wolf, tiger, lion, wild ass, horses and camels.

 Montane Forests

In mountainous areas, the decrease in temperature with increasing altitude leads to change in natural vegetation from the tropical to the tundra region. The wet temperate forests are found between a height of 1000 and 2000 metres. Evergreen broad-leaf trees such as oaks and chestnuts predominate. Between 1500 and 3000 metres, temperate forests containing coniferous trees like pine, deodar, silver fir, spruce and cedar are found. At high altitudes, generally more than 3,600 metres above sea-level, temperate forests and grasslands give way to the Alpine vegetation. Silver fir, junipers, pines and birches are the common trees of these forests. At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of tundra vegetation. The common animals found in these forests are Kashmir stag, spotted dear, wild sheep, jack rabbit, Tibetan antelope, yak, snow leopard, squirrels, Shaggy horn wild ibex, bear and rare red panda, sheep and goats with thick hair.

 Mangrove Forests

The mangrove tidal forests are found in the areas of coasts influenced by tides. Mud and silt get accumulated on such coasts. The deltas of the Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Krishana, the Godavari and the Kaveri are covered by such vegetation. In the Ganga- Brahamaputra delta sundari trees are found. Palm, coconut, keora, agar, also grow in some parts of the delta. Royal Bengal Tiger is the famous animal in these forests. Turtles, crocodiles, gharials and snakes are also found in these forests.



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