Convergence of Forest Resources in Jangalmahal, West Bengal

Convergence of Forest Resources in Jangalmahal, West Bengal

Nilendu Chatterjee (Rabindra Bharati University, India) and Soumyananda Dinda (The University of Burdwan, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0215-9.ch022


The topic of growth and convergence is at the heart of a wide-ranging debate in the growth literature. The century long history of deprivation and backwardness of Jangalmahal area and four districts of it in the state of West Bengal—Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore and parts of Birbhum—is also a well discussed issue. The dependency of the people on forest products to earn livelihoods is a natural phenomenon which, over the years, has resulted in considerable exploitation of forest resources. Through this chapter, we have made an attempt to see whether there exists any convergence, both absolute as well as conditional, in the total forest product of Jangalmahal and in the incomes earned from forest resources. We have seen the presence of Beta convergence, both conditional and absolute, in both tests of forest products as well as income from it. Sigma of forest income diverges instead of converge. Similar result is seen in case of timber.
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Each country of the world is unique. Each has its own peculiar combination of climate, geology, ecology, landscape, politics, economics, and social perspectives. The problems and challenges are also different for each. However, there are also similarities between many aspects for many countries. Consequently, one country's experiences in a particular sphere can be relevant to a number of others. In the global forestry sector considerable interest is shown in the dry land forests. There are several reasons for this. People of dry lands greatly rely on all sorts of forest products, that is, both timber and non-timber products, just to survive. The governments also use forest products of these areas as a source of earning. Therefore, sustainable forest management (SFM) has remained at the forefront of forestry discussions globally for several decades and is an important concept both for the forestry and forest product sectors.

The world’s dry lands are fragile ecosystems due to harsh climatic conditions and growing human pressures. Yet, they constitute some of the world’s largest land reserves and provide a wide range of goods and services which are fundamental to the livelihoods of millions of people. The semi arid and arid regions are situated in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world and they account for almost 30% of the world’s total area and around 20% of the total population (Sivakumar, Das & Brunini, 2005). According to the World Atlas of Desertification (UNEP, 1992), dry lands have a ratio of average annual precipitation (P) to potential evapotranspiration (PET) of less than 0.65. In fact, according to the report of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1993, dry lands are categorized into hyper arid, arid, semi arid and dry sub humid zones not only on the basis of P/PET ratio but also on the basis of rainfall (in mm.). Thus, when P/PET ratio is less than 0.05 and rainfall is less than 200 mm, the dry land is referred to as Hyper arid. Again when P/PET ratio lies between 0.05 to 0.20 with rainfall less than 200 mm. in winter and 400 mm. in summer, it is considered as arid zone. The next categorization is Semi arid zone for which P/PET ratio lies between 0.20 and 0.50 with rainfall less than 200-500 mm. in winter and less than 400-600 mm. in summer. Finally, when P/PET ratio lies between 0.50 and 0.65 with rainfall less than 500-700 mm. in winter and less than 600-800 mm. in summer, it is referred to as Dry sub humid zone. On the basis of FAO statistics, the percentage share of arid and semi arid categories combined together are the highest among the total dry land areas of the world.

In India, arid and semi arid zones are characterized by low to medium mean annual rainfall coupled with high coefficient of variability, large amplitude of fluctuations of temperature, strong wind regions and high potential evaporation. The average annual rainfall of these regions varies between 150 mm and 500 mm along with a coefficient of variation as high as 60% to 70%. The distribution of rainfall is also very erratic1.

The concept of 'forest dependency' is highly problematic. Although it is possible to refer loosely to any people who rely on forest products for their livelihood as being to some extent 'forest dependent'. In this work we concentrate on people who are more or less directly reliant on forests for livelihood purposes. It is useful to identify three broad types of people-forest relationships:

Firstly, people who live inside forests often live as hunter-gatherers or shifting cultivators, and who are heavily dependent on forests for their livelihood primarily on a subsistence basis. People in this category are often indigenous peoples or people from minority ethnic groups. They are, thus, usually outside both the political and economic mainstream.

Secondly, people who live near forests, usually involved in agriculture outside the forest, who regularly use forest products (timber, fuel wood, bush foods, medicinal plants etc) partly for their own subsistence purposes and partly for income generation. For those involved in agriculture, nutrient supplements from forests are often of critical importance to productivity. Such supplements can be in the form of mulch from leaves gathered in the forest. Another source of nutrient supplement is forest grazing by livestock which converts nutrients from forest biomass into manure.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Forest Products: Includes both forms of products, timber as well as non-timber. Non-timber product is mostly dominated by fuel wood as it is available throughout the year. In our study area, Sal is the dominated timber product. Other forms of timber are also available, but in lesser amount than Sal.

Conditional ß Convergence: If there is heterogeneity in fundamental variables among the economies, the rich countries may grow at higher rates than the poor even with the former have higher initial value of the variable than the latter. It means convergence of the countries to their own steady states.

Convergence: Poor or developing regions grow faster compared to developed regions with a higher per capita income and gradually reach similar high levels of per capita income. Thus, all areas, over time, may converge in terms of income per head. There are two types of convergence, namely Beta convergence (ß) and sigma (s) convergence.

Jangalmahal: It is a part of Chhotonagpur plateau situated in parts of West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattishgarh. Our focus on Jangalmahal is covering four districts of West Bengal. These are- Purulia, Bankura,West Medinipur and Birbhum. These districts are also drought-prone in nature.

s Convergence: By this definition of convergence it is meant for a situation when the cross country dispersion measured in coefficients of variations is going down over time.

Forest Income: It is the net district domestic product (NDDP) generated by forestry sector as a whole. It includes income from both timber and non-timber products.

Absolute ß Convergence: In a homogeneous group of economies, the rich with higher initial value of the variable grow at lesser rates compared to the poor economies with lower initial value of the variable and ultimately the poor catch up the rich.

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