Dehradun, April 25: Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said India now pays much more attention to environment than earlier. Addressing the convocation of 2016 Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy here, Naidu said states must be incentivised for increasing forest cover, adding that Niti Aayog and the Centre must have provisions to encouraging states doing well. “India is among the fastest growing economies in the world today… It is now paying much more attention to environment than earlier,” Naidu said, adding while 15,000 hectares of forest land was anually diverted to non-forest activities before 1980, it was then reduced to 15,500 hectares.
Addressing the trainee officers, Naidu said: “You are entering the forest service at a crucial time in which India is trying to carve out an important and rightful position in the world.” The Vice President also pointed out how management strategies were changed over time. “I have been told that scientific forest management in India is more than a century old We have come a long way in changing the management strategies from keeping people away from the forests for protection purposes to managing the forest with cooperation of people,” he said, asking the batch of IFS, comprising two trainee officers from Bhutan, to keep an approach to balance national interest and welfare of people.
He said top most priority must be given to the forest, rivers, adding that environment protection and economic development must go together. As per the India State of Forest Report, 2017, India is ranked 10th in the world with 24.4 per cent of land under forest and tree cover. Between 2015 to 2017, India has recorded one per cent growth in forest cover. Naidu stressed that overgrazing, shifting cultivation and fires have resulted in elimination of many species. “We need to work with local communities to rehabilitate the degenerated forests and encourage farmers to adopt ecologically sustainable practices. This is not an easy job and best brains and hearts are needed to make this fine balance,” he said. (IANS)