Forests, in all civilizations, have been treated as important economic and biological
resources, consequently, forests were put under some kind of management depending
on the needs and knowledge available to a particular community.
Though planned woking of forests in India was crafted in isolated, decentralised
way in 1837 by U.V. Munro, the than Superintendent of Forests in Travancore, a countrywide
unified approach towards the preparation of working plans was undertaken by Sir
Wilhelm Schlich, IG of Forests in 1884. This led W.E. D’arcy to come out with the
treatise” Preparation of Forests Working Plans in India” in 1891, providing guidelines
for systematic working plan preparations. The work of checking working plan was
brought under Central control and this job was entrusted to FRI Dehradun.
However, Central control was lost in 1935 and felling of forests was carried out
in total disregard to the working plan. For half a century after independence in
1947, State Governments prepared working plan according to their own codes. Finally,
with the intervention of Hon. Supreme Court in 1996, it was decided that all working
plans, were to be approved by the Central Government and a uniform National Working
Plan Code, 2004 was adopted for the purpose. Recently, this code has been revised
and replaced by National Woking Plan code, 2014.
Preparation of Working Plans
Working Plans are chiefly the concern of Divisional Forest Officer, Working Plan
Officer and the Chief Conservator of Forests, Working Plan. Basic information regarding
the forests i.e. the area statement, forest maps, compartment histories, effects
of past management on the forests, details of various incidents affecting the health
& status of forests, details of flora & fauna and the utilization fo forest produce,
are provided by the Divisional Forest Officer. After analyzing this information
and assessing the growing stock in the forest, the working plan officer prepares
a ten year plan giving detailed prescriptions for management, conservation, treatments
(of refractory site & crop) and other such aspects needing immediate attention.
The forest area under a plan is divided into management units, known as working
circles. These working circles may ot may not be contiguous with the geo-graphical
area of the forests. Forest crop(e.g. Sal, Teak, Jamun, medicinal plants etc), activity
& treatment (plantation, extension, soil conservation, ravine reclamation etc),
conservation of wildlife etc are the defining factors for forming working circles.
Each working circle contains detailed prescriptions regarding removal of forest
produce and regeneration techniques to be used, and a list of sites (coupes) are
prepared, where these works should be carried out. In case forest produce is to
be extracted in the form of timber, bamboo, medicinal plants or any other produce,
then estimations of yield on a sustainable basis are also given.
Thus a working plan is essentially a plan detailing the existing forest wealth (land,
flora, fauna & water resources) describing the climatic and biotic factors and prescribing
management practices to conserve, preserve and efficiently utilize this forest resource.
As such these plans are very useful and important for every individual and agency
having any interest in or bearing on the forests.
Needs of an increasing population have put massive demands on forests for land as
well as for forest produce. To counter these demands Government. of India & State
Government. have tried to extend forest cover on areas outside the traditional forest
area, mainly on road, rail and canal stips, community lands and agricultural lands.
This endeavour has led to various social forestry schemes being formulated and implemented.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide a judgement dated 12.12.96, in writ petition
no 202/95, have laid down well-defined guidelines regarding working plans. This
judgement makes it mandatory for all forest areas (irrespective of ownership and
legal status) to be managed according to a scientific working plan. This judgement
also makes it mandatory for the working plan to be approved by the Govt. of India.
This is in accordance with the fact that forests are a concurrent subject.