Andaman and Nicobar Islands are richest in their green wealth with GWI at 0.747, while Sikkim for protecting its natural heritage ranks highest on GPI scale with 0.903. All India GWI is a dismal 0.193 (Ghosh, 2004).
A total of 0.397 m ha forests loss in Madhya Pradesh is recorded with tribal areas accounted for about 0.219 m ha. And in Andhra Pradesh forest loss was about 0.346 m ha in tribal areas. This trend continues in Northeast including Assam (State of the Forest report, 1999). Various ethnic groups practice various forms of agriculture as main stay of economy in NE region. Rice is major crop though maize and millets are grown.
Traditional agricultural systems are Zabo, terrace construction and jhum or shifting cultivation. Zabo, an indigenous farming system of Nagaland combines agro-forestry and animal husbandry and is common to individually owned lands of about 2.5 ha. For terrace construction, the area is cleaned by cutting and burning forest vegetation. Jhum cultivation is practiced roughly by 5 lakhs tribal families.
A total land area of 4.36 m ha is being affected by jhum cultivation, out of which 2.7 m ha is in NE region. Jhum cycle has reduced to 4-5 years in Meghalaya, 5-10 years in Mizoram and Tripura, 6-15 years in Nagaland and Manipur and 5-10 years in Arunachal Pradesh. Such cultivation results in soil erosion and loss of soil fertility.
In areas, where bamboos are cut and burnt, K- rich ash accumulates for jhum crop. This fallow land invites several weeds and it takes a very long time for soil, to support crop plant growth. Modern agriculture with longer cycles of 10 or more years and agro-forestry system are suggested for control of jhum (Sharma. 2004).
Problems relating to use and conservation of natural resources in developing countries are qualitatively different than those of developed countries. In developed countries, the primary issue is protection of what remains in nature, but in India conservation of natural resources must necessarily consider the claims of human population on these resources for their sustenance and livelihood.
Such population is dependent on forests and is among the poorest, as forests form life support systems for them. Any legal and administrative regime must aim to judiciously utilize these resources for addressing the concerns of livelihood while ensuring sustainability of their use (Hazra, 2002).