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Artificial and Natural Regeneration of the Forests of Bombay Presidency: 1838 to 1860

Author Affiliations

  • 1 History Dept., Ramnarain Ruia College, Matunga, Mumbai 400 019 INDIA

Res. J. Recent Sci., Volume 1, Issue (2), Pages 113-118, February,2 (2012)

Abstract

Since the late eighteenth century, the Colonial government actively pursued a forest policy that facilitated rapid commercialization which led the Forest officers, timber merchants and contractors deep into the forests of India. The British systematically and legitimately exploited forest of India for the construction of ships, railways, civic construction, military and other purpose. The state of Bombay’s forests in the late 1830’s was highly deplorable that there was concern about supplies of timber, especially teak which were required for the Royal Navy at Bombay Dockyard for the construction of ships.. This drew the attention of the British Government in 1838 to indiscriminate destruction of the forests. In January 1840 the Bombay Government instructed Dr. Alexander Gibson, the Superintendent of the Botanical garden at Dapuri and Hewra in Poona, to make a tour of the Northern and Southern Konkan Forests. His report confirmed the Government fears of devastation and exhaustion of these forests. The pressure of the timber needs worked to the advantage of the development of conservation policies, which resulted in the evolution of the policy of natural resource management. This finally resulted in the establishment of the pioneering forest department in 1847 in the Bombay Presidency with Alexander Gibson as its Conservator. The establishment of the forest department and the rules and regulations implemented by the Bombay Government to conserve the forests of Bombay was a landmark in the history of forestry of Bombay Presidency. For the first time in Bombay, serious effort was made towards such conservancy measures. The paper endeavours to evaluate conservation measures undertaken by the Forest Department in Bombay Presidency under the Conservator Alexander Gibson in the period 1838 to 1860. It will throw light on the role of the Botanical gardens of western India towards afforestation. It is argued that the history of plantation for sustainable development was a result of colonial anxiety to meet timber needs and for increased revenue earnings. Forests became more of a commercial commodity than a matter of rich biodiversity to be protected from various unwanted factors although it helped in the better regeneration of a few specific timbers such as teak.

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