Chapter 4 Forest Society and Colonialism
Topic– 1: Why Deforestation?
I. Very Short Answer Type Questions. [1 Mark]
1. What is referred to as deforestation?
Ans. The disappearance of forests is referred to as deforestation.
2. Why did cultivation expand rapidly during the colonial period?
Ans. (i) British directly encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton.
(ii) The colonial state thought that forests were unproductive.
3. The disappearance of which forests in England in the early 19th century created a problem of timber supply for the Royal navy?
Ans. Oak forests.
4. Why did the spread of railways from the 1850s create new demand for timber?
Ans. (i) To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel.
(ii) To lay railways lines sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together.
5. Large areas of natural forests were cleared to make way for which plantation?
Ans. Large areas of natural forests were cleared to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing need for these commodities.
II. Short Answer Type Questions. [3 Marks]
1. What is deforestation? Why is it considered harmful?
Ans. The disappearance of forests is referred to as deforestation. Forests are cleared for industrial uses, cultivation, pastures and fuelwood. Clearing of forests is harmful as forests give us many things like paper, wood that makes our desks, tables, doors and windows, dyes that colour our clothes, spices, gum, honey, coffee, tea and rubber. They are the home of animals and birds. Forests check soil erosion and cause rainfall. They preserve our ecological diversity and life support systems.
2. Mention the various uses of forests.
Ans. Forests give us a mixture of things to satisfy our different needs — fuel, fodder, leaves, trees suitable for building ships or railways, trees that can provide hardwood. Forest products like roots, fruits, tubers, herbs are used for medicinal purposes, wood for agricultural implements like yokes, ploughs etc. Forests provide shelter to animals and birds. They also add moisture to the atmosphere. Rainfall is trapped in forest areas.
3. Why did land under cultivation increased during colonial rule?
Ans. During the British domination of India, the British encouraged the cultivation of cash crops such as jute, indigo, cotton, etc. Food crops were also required to be grown for food. Both things were important. Secondly, the forests were considered unproductive by the British government and hence large areas of forests were cleared for agriculture. Now this forest land could be cultivated to enhance the income of this state.
4. How did the spread of railways from the 1850s in India, create new demand for timber?
Why was the railway network spread by the British in India from the 1850s onwards? Why was there a need for forest timber spread for railways?
Ans. Wood was required as fuel to run locomotives and to lay railway lines. Sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together. From the 1860s, the railway network expanded rapidly. The length of the railway tracks increased tremendously. As railway tracks increased, the need for timber also increased. More and more trees were felled. Contracts were given to individuals to supply timber. These contractors cut down trees indiscriminately. Railway tracks were soon devoid of forests.
5. “A growing population in England was responsible for deforestation in India.” Justify the statement.
Ans. The British directly encouraged the production of crops like jute, sugarcane, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in the 19th century in England where food grains were needed to feed the growing urban population. The colonial state thought that forests were unproductive. Forests had to be brought under cultivation so that the land could yield agricultural products and revenue, and enhance the income of the state. Thus, between 1880–1992, cultivated area rose by 6.7 million hectares.
III. Long Answer Type Questions. [5 Marks]
1. How did the following contribute towards the decline of forest cover in India between 1880-1920?
(a) Railways and shipbuilding
(b) Commercial farming
Ans. (a) (1) Railways: The spread of railways from the 1850s created a new demand. Railways were essential for successful colonial control, administration, trade and movement of troops. Thus to run locomotives, (a) wood was needed as fuel (b) and to lay railway lines as sleepers were essential to hold tracks together. As the railway tracks spread throughout India, a larger and larger number of trees were felled. Forests around the railway tracks started disappearing fast.
(2) Shipbuilding: the UK had the largest colonial empire in the world. Shortage of oak forests created a great timber problem for the shipbuilding of England. For the Royal Navy, large wooden boats, ships, courtyards for shipping etc., trees from Indian forests were being felled on a massive scale from the 1820s or 1830s to export large quantities of timber from India. Thus the forest cover of the subcontinent declined rapidly.
(b) Commercial Farming: Large areas of natural forest were also cleared to make space for the plantations or commercial farming. Jute, rubber, indigo, tobacco etc. were the commercial crops that were planted to meet Britain’s growing need for these commodities. The British colonial government took over the forests and gave off a vast area and exported it to Europe. Large areas of forests were cleared on the hilly slopes to plant tea or coffee. This also contributed to the decline of the forest cover in India.
2. Mention any three causes of deforestation in India under the colonial rule.
Ans. (i) In the colonial period, cultivation expanded rapidly for various reasons. First, the British encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. The demand for these crops increased in the 19th century and forests were cleared to meet the foodgrains and raw materials needed for industrial growth in Europe.
(ii) The spread of railways from 1850 created a new demand. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel and to lay railway lines sleepers were necessary to hold the tracks together. The government gave out contracts to individuals and the contractors began cutting the trees rapidly. Forests around the tracks disappeared.
(iii) Large areas of natural forests were cleared for tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Forests were cleared for them.