NCERT Class 9 Solutions: Forest society and colonialism (India and the Contemporary World-I) Chapter 4– Part 2

Q.3 Between 1880 and 1920, forest cover in the Indian subcontinent declined by 9.7 million hectares, from 108.6 million hectares to 98.9 million hectares. Discuss the role of the following factors in this decline:

  1. Railways

  2. Shipbuilding

  3. Agricultural expansion

  4. Commercial farming

  5. Tea/Coffee plantations

  6. Adivasis and other peasant users


(a) Railways

  • The railways demands huge amount of sleepers which was made from wood in the period from 1880 and 1920. With the growth of the railway network the scale of deforestation also became large. Additional the English with there appetite for luxury also made their houses and railway coaches from wood, further increasing the demand for wood.

    Sleepers used in railway tracks

    Sleepers in Railway Tracks

    Sleepers used in railway tracks

(b) Shipbuilding

  • Ships were essential part of the military power of the British and so to maintain its military might shipbuilding becomes an important industry for the British.

  • Indian forests provided supply of oak trees when it was sharply reduced in Britain further increasing the demand for wood. A lot of wood was thus used to build ships which were then deployed elsewhere.

  • Thus shipbuilding was also a reason for large scale deforestation in India.

(c) Agricultural expansion

  • With the growth of population in European demand of food grains also increased, this lead to the expansion of cultivated land in India. This land was ultimately cleared from forests.

(d) Commercial farming

  • The demand of raw materials such as cotton, indigo increased for the expanding industries in Britain. This led to an increase in commercial farming commercial farming in India by clearing forests.

(e) Tea/Coffee plantations

  • Tea and coffee’s demand increased in Britain and the weather of northeastern India and the eastern coast was perfect for coffee and tea plantation.

  • Large expanse of forests were cleared for plantations for British plantation owners with the land sold at very cheap rates.

    Tea and Coffee plantations

    Tea and Coffee Plantations

    Tea and Coffee plantations

(f) Adivasis and other farmer users

  • Adivasis are protectors of forests so they were not part of deforestation but some farmers taking advantage of lax in administration had expanded the cultivated land as happened in Java.

  • Because of this slowly and gradually, although done unlawfully, significant amount of cultivatable land was encroached from forests for farming.

Q-4. Why are forests affected by wars?


Forest affected during wars

Forest Affected During Wars

Forest affected during wars

  • The forests were affected badly by the two World Wars.

  • Many trees were indiscriminately cut to meet the wartime needs of Britain. This was done against the conservation policy which was conveniently “forgotten” at this time.

  • ‘Scorched earth policy’ was followed by the Dutch in Java just before the Japanese occupation of the region and they had destroyed sawmills and burnt huge masses of giant teak logs.

    Scorched earth policy was used by many armies during world

    Scorched Earth Plan

    Scorched earth policy was used by many armies during world

  • The Japanese sustained the exploitation of forests and enforced forest villagers to cut forests.

  • The lax in forest policy came as an opportunity to expand cultivated area for many villagers. This area was thus permanently lost from the forest cover.

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