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The concept of economic development has been changing over a period of time. In the early 1980s a new concept of development had emerged as a reaction to the negative experiences of development, which is known as "sustainable development". The concept "sustainable development" may be interpreted to mean a certain pace of development which can be sustained even in the very long run. Since development is a process, sustainable development is also a process in which the economic and social welfare of the people can be maximised with the minimum damage to ecology and environment. Thus, environmental conservation and sustainable development are closely interlinked such that one cannot be achieved at the expense of the other. These two have become the global goals of the late 1980s and early 1990s in the wake of the Brundtland Commission in 1987 and the UN Earth Summit in Rio-de-Janerio in 1992.
In India, the concern for environment and its protection was totally absent in the official policies from the very beginning of the planning programmes (Roy et al., 1992). The environmental policies of the Government were initiated with the setting up of the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Co-ordination in 1972 and specially with the creation of the Environment Department in 1980. Since the 1980s, a number of legislative measures were adopted for the preservation of the environment but they largely remain ineffective. However, in recent years, much concern has been expressed about the alarming rate of deforestation which has occurred. Although 22.86 percent of the total geographical area in India has been declared as forest area, satellite imagery pictures show the actual forest cover to be as low as 19.46 percent, of which, the good forest cover is only around 10 percent of the total land area (National Remote Sensing Agency, 1983). In fact, much of the good forest area is located in the north-eastern region of India, where 65.19 percent of the total geographical area is covered under forests, representing around 25.97 percent of India's forest area based on satellite imagery (North Eastern Council, 1995).
North-East India consists of seven hill states; namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Of these, Assam is the least hilly state, since much of it lies in the plains of the Brahmaputra and Barak river systems. Tribal people constituted 57.68 percent of the population of these states (except Assam) in 1991. Shifting cultivation (popularly known as jhum) and forest resources play an important role in their economic life. Rapid growth of population (26.10 percent, which is much higher than the all India average of 23.85 percent in 1981-1991) and a quantum leap from the subsistence economy to the monetised market economy (where a majority of the population are very poor) have resulted in a lack of sustainability in the use of forest resources. As a result, the need of the hour is to look for an alternative approach for the development of forestry and forest use and evaluate their sustainability from an economic, social and environmental point of view.
In the present study, Arunachal Pradesh (earlier known as the North East Frontier Agency) is taken as a case study because of its vast forest resources (around 61.5 percent of the total geographical area is covered under forest, which the highest among the seven states of North-East India). As per the recent estimate of Forest Survey of India, based on satellite imagery, forest area in this state constitutes nearly 81.9 percent of the total area of the state. An analysis reveals that in around 2.5 percent of India's landmass the state of Arunachal Pradesh contains nearly 16 percent of the total timber growing stock of the country (the highest among the individual states) and more than 20 percent fauna of India (Government of Arunachal Pradesh, 1995).
The present paper makes an in-depth study about the need of an effective approach for the preservation of environment and sustainability in the use of forest resources which will not only minimise the conflict between the demand for private goods and that of public goods from the forests, but also maximise the flow of public goods from forests for achieving sustainable development of the state. For convenience, the paper is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to the land-use pattern, ownership and management of forests in the state. The second section concentrates on the government policy for forestry development and environmental preservation of the state. The third section deals with the new approach of environmental preservation and sustainability in the use of forest resources and finally, the conclusion follows.
Section I …