Forestry Practise Past & Present

In 1914, the Maharajah of Sikkim, Sidkeong Tulku, the tenth Chogyal after completing his studies at Oxford University in 1908 was given charge of forests, monasteries and schools. He initiated the demarcation of the forest areas of the then Kingdom of Sikkim. Forests that were vital to the life support system and required full protection were set apart as Reserve Forests. These forests were to be left in their natural state and heavy penalties were imposed for illegal activities in these areas. Other forest areas that could be worked on a small scale, in order to meet the timber and fuel-wood requirements of the local populace, were carved out in the vicinity of villages. Those forests were called Khasmal Forests and those that were set apart as grazing grounds for village cattle were called Goucharan Forests. Forest rules and regulations were instituted for the first time during this period. The Chogyal introduced avenue plantation of trees on either side of bridle paths in Sikkim through public participation; he passed regulations for conserving 50 yards on either side of the rivers Rangit, Tista and their tributaries as River/Khola Reserves and for compulsory bench-terracing of the cultivable land of farmers.

Consequently, the system of exploitation of forests by selection felling, leaving the mother stock intact, was adopted. Contracts were given for lifting of forest produce from mature forests and extracted timber was exported with a view to generate revenue to meet increasing expenditure on administration, and to aid natural regeneration. This was supplemented by undertaking plantation work on a limited scale in marginal forests through the Taungyadar system.

In 1975, Sikkim was merged with India as its 22nd State and became part of the Indian Union. Developmental activities accelerated, aided by central assistance. Construction activities got a boost, and the lifestyle of the people also improved considerably. The increasing population, coupled with the timber-intensive lifestyle, has since mounted pressure on the forest areas, and the requirement of forest produce for internal consumption has also increased considerably. The State Government has come up with several innovative schemes to augment the growing needs of the people, such as Green Mission, 10-Minutes to Earth, extension of ban on commercial wild harvesting of medicinal plants for another five years, and growing emphasis on ecotourism and village tourism.

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