Honouring Our Trees To Overcome Natural Calamitiesby Opinion Express March 22, 2018 0 comments
Forests are an important factor when it comes to overcoming a number of life-threatening climatic changes, such as global warming. The worldwide celebration of forests is a great platform for people to gain awareness on the various ways they protect us. To overcome the global warming catastrophe, nations should join in this effort to sustain and preserve life on Earth.
The world observed The International Day of Forests on March 21, 2018 as ordained by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2012. Since 2012, the commemoration day has enabled celebration of forests and provided a platform to raise awareness for the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and explore the ways in which they sustain and protect us.
Forests and trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change in and around urban areas. Trees also improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for air conditioning by 20-50 per cent. Studies have shown that in the urban areas, the strategic placement of trees can cool the air by up to eight degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 per cent. Urban tree canopy also acts as excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants from the air and fine particulates besides reducing noise pollution, as they shield homes from nearby roads and industrial areas.
The wood sourced from urban trees and planted forests on the outskirts of cities provides renewable energy for cooking and heating, which reduces pressures on natural forests and our reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, forests in and around urban areas help filter and regulate water, contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people. Forests also protect watersheds and prevent flooding as they store water in their branches and soil. In fact, well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, helping to maintain and increase biodiversity.
Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create jobs, encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies. Urban green spaces, including forests, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent disease, and provide a place for people to socialise.
But in spite of such positive features the forests of today are besieged by various challenges and hurdles that pose a threat to the very existence of our forest cover.
Various studies and State of Forest Reports discovered that many times the agriculture sector emerged as a challenge from unexpected quarter for our forest cover. As more and more land is continuously cleared of forests to make way for cultivable agricultural land, the efforts to ensure food security are costing our environment dearly. According to estimates, there is a direct increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent due to deforestation. There is an urgent need to integrate forests and agriculture in such a manner that food production is not achieved at the cost of green cover.
The good news for India emerged in the latest State of Forests Report 2017. According to the findings of the report produced by the Forest Survey of India and based on satellite images, India’s forest cover is, by and large stable. With a heartening forest report and nearly 21 per cent of the country covered by forests as on date — the going seems to be good for forests in India, but that may not be true in reality as the report itself is based on remote sensing mapping and is unable to provide deep insights into the integrity of the green areas. The Ministry of Environment in its audit of various regions has calculated a cumulative loss of forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal of nearly 1,200 sq km. The impact of such a terrible loss must be seen against the backdrop of the North-East representing a global biodiversity hotspot.
In addition to this, there are also reports of considerable forest cover loss in Maharashtra. To offset this loss, there is an urgent need to modify the environmental policy and make efforts to raise the forest cover to at least 33 per cent of the geographical area from the current 21 percent. This policy level initiative will yield positive dividends.
In order to achieve growth in green cover, the Government must focus on some critical aspects. Efforts must be made to reduce overgrazing, as it is a major factor that is responsible for serious damage to forests. India possesses a livestock population of over 412 million of which 270 million are bovine animals and about one-tenth of these graze in the forests leading to erosion of forest integrity. Additionally, large tracts of vegetal cover are destroyed every year by forest fires. Forest fires in India are most destructive in dry seasons. Insufficiency of properly trained personnel is a big handicap in containing them and the authorities must take suitable action so that the precious forests are preserved.
Forests are the buffer against deteriorating ecological conditions and are in fact the insurance for our environment. The premium must be placed on conserving our green acres before climate change impacts us directly.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer