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Last updated: September 2014

Forest Management

In India, 23% percent of forest cover in India is primary, 62% is regenerated, and 15% is planted. 35.65 million ha of forest are public lands administered by the government, 21.55 million ha are public lands reserved for communities and indigenous groups, 9.58 million ha are owned by private companies and individuals, and 1.65 million ha are owned by communities and indigenous groups. Public lands can be classified as protected, production or village forests. In 2010, 29% of India’s forests in public lands were protected, but the condition of many protected areas is poor because of fire, grazing and inadequate management.

State forest departments are custodians of the public forest resource and act as the forest authorities, enacting their own State laws in accordance with the Indian Forest Act of 1927. The states have also established state forest corporations, responsible for production within the public forest estate. States must submit working plans to the national government for production forests. Community-based approaches to forest management such as Joint Forest Management are becoming more common, with over 17.3 million hectares under the scheme.

During the past five years, the use of international forest certification systems, particularly Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, has increased 10-fold, partly because of the response towards FLEGT among buyers in the EU. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests is also in the process of developing a national forest certification system.


According to the Corruption Perception Index 2013 from Transparency International, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries around the world using a score of 0-100 (where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is completely clean) India is ranked 94th out of 177 countries assessed. It scored a corruption index of 36, meaning it has a perception of relatively high corruption. 

Transparency International's country profile on India

Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Index interactive map

The World Bank compiles a set of Worldwide Governance Indicators for all world economies. The country data report on India can be found in the full data set.

Laws and Regulations

Forestry Laws

In India the national and state governments are jointly responsible for the sustainable management of the forest resource. In a practical sense, the state forest departments act as the custodians of the public forest resource and as the forest authorities, managing the forest resources on the basis of forest management plans that they submit to the central government. Often the state authorities also perform a commercial function, becoming involved in production, processing and trade through forest development corporations responsible for production within the public forest estate. 

As the Indian Forest Act of 1927 empowered Indian state governments to enact rules regulating various aspects of forest management, rules differ from state to state. There are several national policies those working in the Indian forestry sector should be familiar with. Although not an exhaustive list, here are some relevant Indian environmental, forestry-related and trade laws and policies, among others.

For additional information, please see the WWF-GFTN and TRAFFIC’s Common Framework for Assessing Legality of Forestry Operations, Timber Processing and Trade Annex. This tool sets out India’s legal references based on criteria and indicators. It is a very useful reference for those interested in learning more about India’s regulations, principles, indicators, criteria of forestry operations, timber processing and trade.

Indian Forest Act, 1927

The Indian Forest Act of 1927, the country’s guiding forestry legislation, sought to consolidate and preserve areas with forest cover or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and to levy duties on timber and other forest produce. It was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British and provides the legal framework for the management of forests. It defines the procedure by which a state government can declare an area a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It also defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and what penalties occur on violation of the provisions of the Act. In some States, the Act is applicable as it is. Some States have enacted their own laws that are in essence adopted versions of the Indian Forest Act of 1927. In 2012 the Act was amended to include prohibition of fresh clearances in forests and setting fire to a reserved forest.  

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and The Forest (Conservation) Rules, 1981, updated in 2003

The Forest Conservation Act states that prior approval of the Central Government is essential for the diversion of forest areas for the non-forestry purposes. Diversion of forest land is mostly allowed in order to meet developmental needs for drinking water and irrigation projects, transmission lines, railways, roads, power projects, defense related projects, and mining. The act stipulates that compensatory afforestation must take place and plans for catchment area treatment, biodiversity and wildlife conservation, rehabilitation etc. must be submitted to the state authority. In 2003 new rules were issued to regulate the rights of tribals on forest lands, and guide the process of establishing productive village forests. 

The National Forest Policy, 1988 

This policy was established to ensure compensatory afforestation, essential environmental safeguards, sustainable utilization, maintenance, restoration, and enhancement of forest areas.  It stressed that forests should meet the subsistence requirements of people and was intended to decrease degradation by forest dwellers through better management. It also stipulates that industrial wood needs should be met increasingly by farm forestry. Its main implementing programme is called Joint Forest Management, which proposed that villages manage specific forest blocks in association with forest departments, in order to provide for the basic needs of rural and tribal populations, increase forest productivity, improve the efficiency of forest product utilization, and minimize the pressure on existing forests. JFM programmes are currently present in 27 states, represent 85,000 village committees, and cover over 17.3 million hectares of forest area. (World Bank, 2005, India: Unlocking Opportunities for Forest Dependent People)

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) was established in 2009 as a National Advisory Council under the chairmanship of the Union Minister of Environment & Forests for the monitoring, technical assistance and evaluation of compensatory afforestation activities. It is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses. The fund was constituted based on the Supreme Court of India’s order in 2006 and was authorized to disburse funds in 2009, endowed with around US$5 billion. State CAMPAs receive receive funds collected from user agencies towards compensatory afforestation, additional compensatory afforestation, penal compensatory afforestation, Net Present Value (NPV) and all other amounts recovered from such agencies under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. They utilize the funds collected for undertaking compensatory afforestation, assisted natural regeneration, conservation and protection of forests, infrastructure development, wildlife conservation and protection.

National Mission for a Green India (GIM)

One of the eight national missions of the government under its National Action Plan on Climate Change, GIM is a 10-year program aimed at improving the quality of five million hectares of degraded forests and bringing another five million hectares of non-forest areas under forest cover through social and farm forestry. In 2014 the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved an expenditure of Rs 13,000 crore (US$2.1 billion) on plantation and forest restoration in the country over the next five years, marking the beginning of the programme. 

National Afforestation Program (NAP)

The NAP Scheme began in 2006 and aims to support the ongoing process of devolving forest protection, management and development functions to decentralized institutions of Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) at the village level, and Forest Development Agency (FDA) at the forest division level. The overall objective of the scheme  is to develop the forest resources with people’s participation, with a focus on improving the livelihood of the forest-fringe communities, especially the poor.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006

The Wildlife Protection Act states that hunting or collecting wild animals and plants in areas protected by the State requires approval from the Forestry Administration. The 2006 Amendment Act created the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau). The National Tiger Conservation Authority approves tiger protection and conservation plans by the States, whose plans can define areas of protection for tigers but must take into account the agricultural livelihood interests of people living in and around Tiger Reserves.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, and stipulates that companies/States should protect the existing rights and concessions of the forest dependent communities.

Other national legislation and policy relevant to forestry includes: 

Processing/Manufacturing Laws

All private companies must implement a Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation Plan, approved by the State Forest Department, when forest clearance is involved. Relevant laws include the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. According to the National Working Plan Code, State Forest Departments must implement a Management Plan for Protected areas and a working plan/scheme, also adhering to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

Different states have different restrictions on felling of wood/timber raised on private land, based upon area, intended use and species. A timber harvesting company or farmer should have permission according to the State’s Land Revenue Codes/Act 9, Tenancy Act, Consolidation and Fragmentation Act, Transit Rules issued under Indian Forest Act, 1927 or its Forest Act. If the state forest department harvest wood/timber, this should be approved as per that State’s working plan/scheme for the forest, according to Orders in T.N Godavarman vs. Union of India and ors (W.P ( C ) No. 202/1995) passed by Supreme Court of India, the National Working Plan Code issued by Ministry of Environment and Forest, and the State’s Forest Manual/Codes.

Any timber processing company i.e saw mill unit must be legally registered according to the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, the Factories Act, 1948, the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, the Employees Provident funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 , the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the State Land Revenue Act, the State Tenancy Act, and the Town and Country Planning Act. It must also hold a valid license according to Section 41 of the Indian Forest Act and that State’s Forest Act and Saw Mill Establishment Rules.

Transport Laws

The States are empowered to enact transit rules regulating the movement of forest produce, including timber within the state and related to international import and export. Laws vary from state to state but most states issue transit passes for timber transporters. More information can be found under Section 41 Indian Forest Act of 1927, the State Forest Acts, and State Transit and Transportation Rules.

Tax Laws

Clear evidence of tax returns for timber production, timber processing and timber trade must be filled out properly and taxes should be paid on time as per the Indian Forest Act 1927 and relevant State Forest Laws.

All Taxes linked to import/export of forest products must also submitted and paid according to the Indian Customs Act, 1962 and the Indian Customs Tariff Act, 1975.


Trade Laws

In India international timber trade is regulated by the Export Import policy (EXIM), which is a five-year Policy Directive under the central government’s Foreign Trade (Development Regulation) Act 1992 (FTRD). Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of Government of India made in pursuance of Foreign Trade (Development Regulation) Act 1992 and is enforced through the Customs Act, 1962.

The Authority under the FTRD act is the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under the Ministry of Commerce. Specific forest products are classified depending on whether they are restricted, regulated or prohibited. All species exported /imported are authorized by the DGFT as per the EXIM policy. They must must also be CITES compliant and valid under The Destructive Insects and Pests Act of 1914 and The Plant Quarantine Order of 2003.

Importing or exporting entities must have a valid license/permit issued by an export promotion council, commodity board or other registered authority designated by the Government for purposes of export-promotion. Entities must follow all transit rules for timber at international borders as enacted by the central government under section 41A of Indian Forest Act 1927, as well as State Transit Rules. 


CITES is an international agreement among governments whose purpose is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plant species does not threaten the survival of these species. 180 countries (September 2014) have agreed to be bound by CITES, which is a binding legal agreement. It is up to each Party to CITES to draft its own domestic legislation in order to comply with its CITES obligations. India acceded to the Convention in 1976.  

The Government of India has banned the export for commercial purposes of all wild-taken specimens of species included in Appendices I, II and III, but permitted the export of cultivated varieties of plant species included in Appendices I and II - Notification 1999 / 039 of CITES (see also this official notification to the parties).  This includes all the species mentioned below. 

Aquilaria malaccensis can produce agarwood, a fragrant wood extremely valuable for incense, perfume and traditional medicine. Over-exploitation and unsustainable harvesting has led to the listing of Aquilaria species in CITES, and the species is considered critically endangered in India with export prohibited. It is included in Appendix II of CITES. The CITES listing for Aquilaria spp. applies to all parts and derivatives, except seeds and pollen; seedling or tissue cultures obtained in vitro, in solid or liquid media, transported in sterile containers; fruits; leaves; exhausted agarwood powder, including compressed powder in all shapes; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade; this exemption does not apply to beads, prayer beads and carvings.

The primary producer of agarwood is A. malaccensis, but other Aquilaria species can produce agarwood, including A. khasiana, a species which is limited to the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya (Red Listing report on A. malaccensis listed below).  

According to the IUCN Red Listing, Gonystylus macrophyllus might eventually be split into several distinct species, as the present species concept might be too wide.  Trade is restricted to all parts and derivatives, except:

a) seeds, spores and pollen (including pollinia);

b) seedling or tissue cultures obtained in vitro, in solid or liquid media, transported in sterile containers;

c) cut flowers of artificially propagated plants;

A straw-coloured hardwood, Ramin is of considerable commercial value, often used for furniture, toys, broom handles, blinds, dowels and decorative mouldings as well as flooring, plywood and picture frames. 

Taxus chinensis, T. fuana and T. wallichiana all have restrictions on trade for all parts and derivatives except seeds and pollen and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.  Taxus chinensis has undergone a large population reduction (more than 50%) since the 1990s as a result of the discovery of the importance of this species for treating cancer. There are attempts now to propagate this species to meet the demand, however, exploitation of wild plants is likely to continue but probably at a lower rate than before. 

T. fuana is identical to T. contorta.  As T. contorta is a much earlier name, T.contorta has priority and should therefore be used.  According to the IUCN Red List, Taxus contorta has undergone a recent, rangewide population decline of at least 50 % but probably less than 80%, except in NW India (and Nepal), where it is estimated that the population has declined by up to 90% due to harvesting for medicinal use. In northwest India, it was assessed as critically endangered at a regional level (Ved et al. 2003) and harvesting of wild trees has been banned.

T. wallichiana's decline has been similar to T. contorta, with up to 90% reported in its main range areas including India.

More resources:

Forest Resources

According to Global Forest Watch, in 2012 15.43% of India, or 48.23 million ha was forested. India is one of the twelve mega-biodiverse countries, hosting 7% of the world’s biodiversity. Indian forest types include tropical evergreens, tropical deciduous, swamps, mangroves, sub-tropical, montane, scrub, sub-alpine and alpine forests. The most widely distributed genera in tropical wet evergreen forests are Dipterocarpus, HopeaCallophyllum and Syzgium, and the families Lauraceae and Myrthaceae are also well represented. Tropical moist deciduous forests are characterized by Tectona grandis (teak) and others by Shorea robusta (sal).

The country has experienced a fluctuating rate of deforestation over the past twenty years. In 1988, in response to rapid deforestation and degradation, the Indian government placed major restrictions on legal domestic harvesting. Nevertheless, deforestation rose dramatically from 0.2% between 1990 and 2000 to 0.7% between 2000 and 2005, driven by fuel wood removal and mining clearances. Between 2005 and 2010 the average rate fell again to 0.2%.

41% of forest in India classed as “degraded,” due to heavy use pressure on the forest from fuel wood collection and cattle grazing. The 275 million people living in forest areas, including 88 million “tribals,” rely heavily on forests for fuel, fodder, grazing, wood, and non-timber forest products (NTFP’s). The country’s fuel wood harvest totals 300 million m3/year (5 times the sustainable amount) and 100 million cattle graze in forests, also well above the sustainable level of 31 million. Furthermore, domestic illegal logging and smuggling of high-value timber is a major problem in many parts of the country (including in protected areas) - in 2009 the Ministry of Environment and Forests estimated that 2 million m3/year of logs were being illegally felled each year.

Forest Products

The forestry sector contributed USD 31.0 billion to the Indian economy in 2011, which is approximately 1.7% of its GDP.  According to 2011 FAO data, 707,000 people are directly employed by the forestry sector. Although India is one of the world’s top producers of tropical logs, it is also one of the world’s largest consumers of wood products. It has a thriving range of industries for semi-processed and value-added timber products, including wooden handicrafts, pulp and paper, plywood and veneer and wooden furniture. Exports of wooden handicrafts in particular are on the rise.  

India is a major producer of wood-based products, including pulp, paper, plywood, furniture, wooden handicrafts, and veneers. Its major exporting hubs are the EU, US and the Middle East.

India cannot meet its own demand for wood products with domestic supply, and as a result is currently the world’s 2nd largest importer of tropical logs. Many of these logs come from illegal sources in Indonesia, PNG and Myanmar.

India does not plan to sign a VPA since it has banned the export of unprocessed logs. It is however a priority country for the EU FLEGT Asia Regional Support Programme (FLEGT Asia) because of its importation of illegal logs. 

Production Status

The forestry sector contributed USD 31.0 billion to the Indian economy in 2011, which is approximately 1.7% of its GDP.  According to 2011 FAO data, 707,000 people are directly employed by the forestry sector. About 50% of the total revenue from the forestry industry comes from the non-timber forest products category, which provides a significant source of income to over 400 million people, mostly rural.

Although India is one of the world’s top producers of tropical logs, it is also one of the world’s largest consumers of wood products, for fuel wood, fodder, and industrial use. It has one of the fastest growing paper markets in the world, producing over 10.11 million tonnes of paper and consuming around 11.5 million tonnes in 2012. Consumption is projected to reach 22 million tonnes by 2020. India also has significant semi-processed and value-added timber products industries, including wooden handicrafts, pulp and paper, plywood and veneer and wooden furniture. The wooden handicrafts industry is growing rapidly, and making an important contribution to economic development and the creation of employment opportunities, particularly through SMEs. The value of exports of wooden handicrafts increased from USD 46 million in 1996 to USD 546 million in 2012. Major markets are the UK, Germany, US, Australia, Japan and the UAE. The industry depends mainly on locally available wood species, primarily sheesham, mango, Indian rosewood, teak, babul, sandalwood.

India currently cannot meet its growing demand for wood products with domestic supply. The government has banned the export of timber in the form of unprocessed logs and reduced import tariffs, and as a result timber imports – of primarily unprocessed logs – are growing by 12% a year, often from illegal sources. If the demand continues, by 2020 India will need to import nearly 50% of its requirements. 

Because India is a major importer of timber from other Asian countries, it is a priority country for the EU FLEGT Asia Regional Support Programme (FLEGT Asia). About 17% of imports to India are currently estimated to arise from illegal sources. There has been limited recognition of the problem of illegal timber imports to date, either by the Government or the private sector. 

As of early 2013, India was not considering entering into a VPA with the EU, largely because it has banned unprocessed log export. However, its timber products industry is likely to be affected by the EUTR, as products listed under the EUTR have an annual export value of around US$1.3 billion. 

The use of international forest certification systems, particularly Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, has increased 10-fold during the past five years, partly because of the response towards FLEGT among buyers in the EU. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests is also in the process of developing a national forest certification system.


Civil Society Organizations

  • Indira Gandhi National Forests Academy
  • IIFM - Indian Institute of Forest Management Useful for the managers in the area of Forest, Environment and Natural Resources Management and allied sectors.
  • WWF India WWF-India was established as a Charitable Trust in 1969.  It was rechristened World Wide Fund for Nature-India in 1987. 
  • TRAFFIC India TRAFFIC works closely with the National and the State Governments and various agencies to help study, monitor and influence action to curb illegal wildlife trade and bring wildlife trade within sustainable levels.
  • CPF - Centre for People's Forestry CPF works for the rights and livelihoods of forest dependent communities with due regard to conservation. 
  • FES - Foundation for Ecological Security Involved in working with almost 6,000 village institutions and tree growers’ cooperative societies at the village level to rehabilitate degraded village commons across eight states in India.
  • ASHOKA Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment A research institution in the areas of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Promotes socially-just environmental conservation and sustainable development by generating rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge that engages actively with academia, policy makers, practitioners, activists, students and wider public audiences.
  • Chipko Andolan movement Chipko Andolan is a socio-ecological and non violent movement of conserving forests and trees from illegal destruction where people hugged trees to confront commercial loggers from felling trees. This action raised the support for the movement and it was called Chipko Andolan which literally meant to hug trees.
  • Tarun Bharat Sangh A non government organization in Rajasthan that started to bring people together on the issues of management of forests and water resources in the 1980s.

Government Ministries

  • Ministry of Environment & Forests Implements policies and programmes relating to conservation of the country's natural resources including its lakes and rivers, its biodiversity, forests and wildlife, ensuring the welfare of animals, and the prevention and abatement of pollution. 
  • Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment & Forests Gives support to protected areas.
  • Forest Policy Divison of the Ministry of Environment & Forests The Forest Policy Division provides policy support on forestry matters and provides inputs to international forest policy processes. 
  • ICFRE - Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education An Autonomous Body of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India.  There are 8 regional institutes under ICFRE. 
  • FRI - Forest Research Institute, Dehradun A premier institution under the Indian Council of Forest Research and Education (ICFRE), FRI focuses, in particular, on the research needs of the Indo-Gangetic plains of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh, as well as the U.P. Himalayas.
  • Institute of Forests Genetics & Tree Breeding, Coimbatore A national institute formed in April 1988 under the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), acting as an autonomous council under MOEF. Purpose is to identify and evolve varieties of species used in afforestation and social forestry that will contribute to the national goal of achieving a growth of 3 to 4 m3 of biomass per ha per year within the ecological considerations applicable to the area.
  • IWST - Institute of Wood Science & Technology, Bangalore IWST is an Institute of ICFRE, having a mandate of conducting research on wood science at the national level and with a focus on studies related to problems in forestry sector at the regional level. 
  • HFRI - Himalayan Forests Research, Institute, Shimla HFRI is an Institute of ICFRE, looking at forestry research, eco-restoration of cold deserts & mined areas and regeneration of coniferous & broad-leaved forests, as well as activities on management practices in temperate forests and alpine areas.
  • TFRI - Tropical Forests Research Institute, Jabalpur TFRI is an Institute of ICFRE, specialising as a major nucleus for research on forestry and ecology related problems of tropical forests of the central region comprising of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Orissa.
  • AFRI - Arid Forests Research Institute, Jodhpur One of the institutes of ICFRE working under the MOEF. The Objective of the Institute is to carry out scientific research in forestry in order to provide technologies to increase the vegetative cover and to conserve the biodiversity in the hot arid and semi arid region of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Dadara & Nagar Haveli union territory.
  • Rain Forests Research Institute, Jorhat An Institute of ICFRE, RFRI looks at the field of forestry resources and technology to all NE states including Sikkim. Includes conservation, protection, restoration and management of forest resources. 
  • Institute of Forests Productivity, Ranchi An Institute of ICFRE, IFP looks at forestry research needs in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority/Project Tiger The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role for Project Tiger. Project Tiger provides central assistance to the tiger states for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
  • IFS - Indian Forest Service An all India Service which consists of 25 State Cadres (including three joint cadres, namely the Assam-Meghalaya, the Manipur- Tripura and the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram Union Territories (AGMUT). Its mandate is the implementation of the National Forest Policy which envisages scientific management of forests and to exploit them on a sustained basis for primary timber products, among other things.