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Ecosystems and Development

Meena Bhargava

By Manorama Savur
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 2003, pp. xxiv 715, Rs. 1500.00


This book is an outcome of the project funded by the Indo-Dutch Program on Alternatives in Development (IDPAD) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi and the Institute for Social Science Research in Developing Countries (IMWOOD), The Hague.   The book evaluates the impact of the Pulp and Paper Industry (PPI) on the tropical forests of India. Arguing that the consequential effect of PPI was largely destructive on these forests, Savur makes a case study of nine states—Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Assam and Nagaland. Each of these states has a distinct linguistic and cultural identity, which makes the social history of each forest region diverse. In these states, the author and her project associates analyse the felling practices of PPI in its lease areas in the forests—primarily bamboo forests.   Bamboo forests are considered to be secondary forests due to anthropogenic interference, nevertheless they protect the ecosystem. Savur contends that it was the use of bamboo as a raw material for paper making by the British foresters and subsequently after Independence by the Indian businessmen that ravaged the bamboo and virtually wiped it off the Indian forests. The negative process regarding the Indian forests begun by the British Act of 1894 was continued by the Forest Act of 1952. By the 1970’s under the disguise of social forestry, eucalyptus was planted as fuel, fodder and food species in the common lands of the villages or wherever space was available, this time under the advice of the forestry wing of FAO and other international agencies like the World Bank, USAID and SIDA. The state, Savur observes, increasingly moved towards being anti-social. Although this book does not study the details of social forestry, it refers to it to demonstrate how exotic pulpwood trees would occupy more and more space.   Talking of the tightly-held British monopoly and British colonization through the paper industry and use of bamboo and the raw material from the forests, Savur discusses the British attempts to control the Indian industry, exploit the raw material and reduce the country to a mere hinterland. In this direction, the earliest policy by the colonial government in India was to introduce plantations, initially indigo—a dye for its cotton industry—and later plantations of coffee, tea, spices and timber trees in the forest region that caused considerable damage to the forest ecosystem. But British ambitions ...

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