India is the seventh largest country in the world with an area of 328.72 million hectares (mha). The forest and tree cover of the country -- as per the biennial assessment report, 2011 prepared by the Forest Survey of India -- is 78.29 mha, which is 23.81 per cent of the total geographical area.
Forestry is the second-largest land use in India after agriculture. Roughly, 275 million rural people in India -- 27 per cent of the total population -- depend on forests for at least part of their subsistence and livelihoods, earned from trade in fuelwood, fodder, bamboo, and a range of non-timber forest products. Seventy per cent of India’s rural population depends on fuelwood to meet its domestic energy needs.
Before and immediately after independence, forest management in India focused on deriving commercial benefits from forests, with little regard for the development needs of forest communities or for natural forest conservation. However, a strong shift towards conservation came with the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) in 1981.