Timber | India

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Salient Themes

Areas of Most Severe Impacts

  • Labour
  • Culture & Indigenous Peoples
  • Land & Natural Resources

Early Warning

Signs of Increasing Risk

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Under DevelopmentPrograms to address adverse impacts

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There is a thriving variety of industries for semi-processed and value-added timber products in India, including wooden handicrafts, plywood, veneer and wooden furniture. In 2018, the Netherlands were among the top-10 markets for Indian timber accounting for 3.3% of export value26.

Dutch Context

For the Netherlands India is an important supplier of semi-finished and finished tropical timber products. At the same time, there are no or few members of the VVNH that currently do business with India.


Potential and actual adverse impacts have been reported regarding:
– Decent Work
– Occupational Safety and Health
– Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining
– Forced/Bonded and child Labor

Reports indicate that:
Not all social rights are covered by the relevant legislation and enforced in India. In particular legislation and/or enforcement is lacking regarding the protection of freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining and the prevention of child labour.
• Rights like freedom of association and collective bargaining are not upheld
• There is evidence confirming compulsory and/or forced labour
• There is evidence confirming discrimination in respect of employment and/or occupation, and/or gender, in particular among Dalits and Adivasis.
• There is evidence confirming child labour.
• The country is not signatory to ILO Convention nr. 87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, (1948), nr. 98 Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (1949), nr. 138 Minimum Age Convention, (1973) and nr. 182 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999).
• There is evidence that any groups (including women, Dalits and Adivasi) do not feel adequately protected related to the rights mentioned above
• Violations of labour rights are not limited to specific sectors.

There’s a potential risk of non-implementation of the Indian Plantation Labour Act provisions. The large-scale forest areas in India are owned and managed by the Government Forest Department. Due to the land ceiling rules, private plantations are not of industrial scale in India. There Indian government rarely reports any instances of Government departments violating labour laws in India. In case of forest management operations in farmers’ fields, such activities are outside the purview of the Plantation Labour Act and not monitored by any external agency.

There’s a potential risks of non-payment of minimum wages, involvement of child labour in forest management activities, and incidences of bonded labour. The labour involved in forest management activities is specialized and justifies payment greater than the mandated minimum wage. However, despite efforts by the Government and non-government agencies, there is widespread prevalence of child labour and bonded labour in India; and the presence of such in the case of forest management activities in private plantation areas cannot be ruled out.

The most important risks identified in relation to OSH include high levels of dust and difficulty breathing, especially where wood is cut into pieces. High temperatures (with records up to 50°C and higher during summer) leading to risks of fainting. Lack of hygiene in toilets. Unsafe construction of the building in smaller industries (no safety lines on the floor, equipment directly inserted into power sockets without using plugs, dark, delayed repairs). Malfunctioning or unsafe machinery, including a risk of removal of safety protection parts. In general, it was observed that machinery seems old and not regularly serviced. A general lack of PPEs for workers is observed, except for masks during Covid-times. This is related to keeping costs low (no provision of PPEs), the quality or effectiveness of the PPES (unable to breath properly with a mask for example) and also to high temperatures (which makes it hard to wear PPEs). Lack of fire safety in general for small industries and for big industries related to training.

Additional information that is reported:
• The Labour Law requires to document accidents (fatal and non-fatal) for workers compensation mechanisms.
• Workers take water in a 15 or 20L bottle, sometimes contractors provide drinking water via bottled water or via a water tank. The cleanliness of the water tank and the origin of the water used for drinking is unsure. Corruption is a problem, as you cannot be sure if government officials will actually perform their duties to provide all necessary checks to ensure good water quality. Also a water station is not available in all factories visited.
• A general comment was made that in the smaller industries less is done to guarantee workers’ safety and health.

Environment & Public Health

Potential and actual adverse impacts on the Environment & Public Health have been reported regarding:
– Healthy Environment
– Community Safety
– Climate Change

Reports indicate that:
Environmental problems include severe freshwater scarcity (especially during the dry season form February until May/June), water (and soil) pollution, excessive air pollution. Further, many environmental conflicts take place in India, related to water management, fossil fuels & climate justice and industrial & utilities.

Small-scale family-run informal industries, accounting for 40% of India’s industrial production, tend to lack financial capital and often ignore environmental legislation. Many industrial companies do not adopt strict standards when it comes to preventing pollution and sustainable solution for waste processing is still in its infancy. Due to chemical impregnating of wood (chrome, copper), there is a risk these substances end up in the environment (for example through leaching during usage, storage and waste phases) and harm plants, animals and humans.

Related to environmental risks it’s reported that big companies do not want to risk reputational damage, but major shortcomings are observed in smaller industries. Waste management and discharge of hazardous substances in the environment were specifically identified as risks. It is reported that waste management is poor and there are discharge of hazardous substances in the environment.


Potential and actual adverse impacts on Land have been reported regarding:
– Land and Natural Resources
– Livelihoods

Reports indicate that:
The potential risks arte non-recognition and deprivation of rights of traditional peoples living in forests, encroachment on forest land, and private land disputes and the mechanism of resolution

The natural forests in India are mostly owned by the Government. There has been a paradigm shift in the way the forests are managed in that the rights of communities that live in forests and the importance of community involvement in forest management have been recognized, legislated for and practiced. Hence the risk of encroachment on forests and disruption of forest management practices have been mitigated to an extent – as the rights of the ights of communities that live in forests and forest-dependent communities have been legally recognized and they have been made stakeholders in forest management activities. However, there is evidence that illegal logging is conducted on land not under the legal tenure of loggers and there is doubt over the enforcement of such laws.

Culture & Indigenous Peoples

Potential and actual adverse impacts on Culture & Indigenous Peoples have been reported regarding:
– Indigenous Peoples Lands, Territories, Resources and FPIC
– Indigenous Peoples Cultural Rights

Reports indicate that:
• India did not ratify ILO Convention 169 and although the Indian government voted in favour of the UNDRIP in the UN General Assembly, it does not consider the concept of “indigenous peoples”, and thus the UNDRIP, applicable to India. (Scheduled Tribes are considered to be India’s indigenous peoples by the UN and NGOs although the government of India consistently denied existence or applicability of the concept of “indigenous peoples” to India.)
• There is evidence of widespread violations of legal and customary rights of Scheduled Tribes, including land evictions and forced displacements and serious human rights violations including killings.
• Violent conflicts have broken out in indigenous areas all over the country but, above all, in the Northeast and in the central tribal belt.
• Reports mentioned that the laws aimed at protecting indigenous peoples have numerous shortcomings and their implementation is far from satisfactory, which is further underlined by recent mass demonstrations for protection of rights of indigenous peoples. The laws prohibiting the sale or transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and restoring alienated tribal lands remained ineffective as the lands of tribals continued to be alienated. It was reported that a gap exists between constitutional provisions and policies, and implementation, which often results in discrimination against Adivasis and that this is exacerbated by slow legal processes and difficulties faced by communities in accessing justice. Restricted to remote villages, tribal groups can influence election results in only a few districts in the country. And the political leadership that represents Scheduled Tribes for the most part comes from non–Scheduled Tribe elites, making their concerns marginal in the national context.
• It was reported that efforts of statutory bodies meant for protection of human rights remain weak and ineffectual due to lack of funding. There is very weak access to the justice system of the country by adivasi/tribal women. The legal and judiciary system is not gender sensitive and is male dominated. Most adivasi/tribal women are not aware of their rights including to due process, and have little access to competent lawyers.

There seems to be a lack of participation of affected communities in decision-making processes related to forest management activities and denial of customary rights of communities in forest management activities as a result of lack of information or mis-information. On the basis of legislation and judicial activism regarding ensuring free, prior and informed consent from local communities regarding any activities that may affect their livelihood vis-à-vis the forests, the issue has been increasingly acknowledged in India. However the synergies and modalities of FPIC with forest management practices in India are still not well defined.


IRBC agreement ‘Promotion of sustainable Forestry’ (2020).International responsible business conduct in tropical timber value chains.

The report is based on international research and two sources that covered India, specifically the following sub-sectors: plywood production, fabrication of furniture parts, furniture manufacturing and woodwork.

FSC (2017). Centralized National Risk Assessment for India

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