By the late 1970s, forest loss resulting largely from competition between industrial demand for timber, the construction requirements of rapidly expanding urban areas and the rural population's need for fuel wood and agricultural land (converted from forest land) was recognised as one of India's most serious environmental problems (Eckholm, 1984). It was not until the late 1980s, however, that the Indian government started to accept that the forest policies pursued since Independence were failing to resolve this problem. The government has been equally slow in responding to criticism over its treatment of India's large (and growing) forest-dependent population.