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Overview
India is the seventh largest country in the world-- with a population of over 900 million. 75 percent of Indians live in rural areas, depending upon the natural resources for their livelihoods, medicine, housing materials and often, food. Forests now cover about 12 million hectares-only about 1/3 of India's once vast standing forests. Despite their decline, India's forests are home to remarkable plant and animal biodiversity. As one of the 17 "megadiversity" countries (see text box), India can boast of bamboo, Bidi leaves, Strobilanthes, Selaginella, Bombax ceiba, Sarusja tiger, Asiatic lion, rhinoceroses, and Golden Langur.

Threats to the Forests
India is faced with a number of social, economic, and ecological issues which pose an enormous challenge to sustainable natural resource management--including extreme poverty, deforestation and land degradation caused by commercial logging, cattle grazing, exploitation of non-timber forest products and uncontrolled fires, as well as a scarcity of potable drinking water and unhealthy air quality in many cities and town. All natural resources-including land, forests, water, and biodiversity--are under immense pressure. India's remaining forests include some 80 national parks and around 450 wildlife sanctuaries-home to panthers, wild boar, mongoose, Sambar, Adina cardifolia, Tectona grandis, and Euphorbia.

Potential Tools to Combat Degradation
Community management of natural resources has been an important strategy in India since it was piloted there in the 1960's. In fact, India is one of the most important models of successful joint forest management in the world. Under this system, national governments decentralize control of forests and turn it over to villagers who take over the responsibility for forest and water use and protection. Despite some problems, the system has helped the country with its land management challenges for over thirty years.

India has a strong scientific community working on energy issues as well as natural resources conservation. Continued collaboration among government, development agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, and community groups is needed to make progress towards improving the quality of life both in rural and urban areas, while protecting the forests and their unique biodiversity.

Why does the USDA Forest Service Work in India?
India is an important player in the Asian-Pacific region-as the world's largest democracy, it serves as a model for many other developing nations. Its pioneering work in community forestry has inspired others, both neighboring Nepal and the U.S., to reconsider how forest management systems succeed with genuine local control. Furthermore, the very high animal and plant biodiversity make India a high priority for managing the remaining forests sustainably, since they are home to these unique species.

Overview of the United States-India Collaboration
Over the past 40 years, the USDA Forest Service has been involved with numerous research, training and management projects in India. Currently, Agency personnel are working with staff from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy to develop international workshops on the theme of integrated forest planning and management for conservation of biological diversity in India. These groups are also working together in four study sites in India--Satpura National Park (M.P.), Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary (T.N.), Dudwa National Park (U.P.), Balphakrarn National Park & adjoining Siju Wildlife Sanctuary and Notrek National Park (Meghalaya)--to identify diverse species, communities, and habitats and evaluate the impacts of forestry practices and use on forest diversity.


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Past Programs in India: Sustainable Forestry Practices
The most recent completed work in India was done in the area of forest management for biodiversity and forest productivity. Agency personnel worked with staff from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy to develop international workshops on the theme of integrated forest planning and management for conservation of biological diversity in India. These groups also worked together in four study sited in India - Satpura National Park (M.P.), Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary (T.N.), Dudwa National Park (U.P.), Balphakram National Park and adjoining Siju Wildlife Sanctuary and Notrek National Park (Meghalaya) - to identify diverse species, communities, and habitats and evaluate the impact of forestry practices and use on forest diversity.

For further information about this completed project, please click on the following link.


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