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Deforestation means perilous future

By Kota Sriraj, dailypioneer.com

181 days ago   Article ID# 4178739
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NEW DELHI, INDIA (dailypioneer.com) - At a time when India is reeling under successive inadequate monsoons, dwindling forests will be an additional problem. Efficient forest management is in fact one of the keys to meet SDGs. The multi-functional role of forests must not be overlooked

Efficient management of forests is one of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations member-states are expected to achieve over the next 15 years. Based on the SDG guidelines, the nations worldwide are expected to protect and restore the terrestrial ecosystems while combating desertification besides halting and reversing land degradation simultaneously. However, many Asian countries, including India, are witnessing a rapid destruction of forests, giving rise to apprehension that one of the most crucial SDGs may not be achieved by 2030 after all.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Asia-Pacific regions are witnessing continuous degradation of forests at the rate of 3.3 million hectares per year. Commercial interests in pulp, paper and timber have completely overtaken the concern for environment, leading to the increased rate of deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

There is an urgent need for nations to achieve a triangular balance between economic, social and ecological issues while utilising the natural assets and resources. This will assist in the forests being managed in a sustainable and responsible manner. This is possible only through effective governance, which in turn can prevent exploitation of the natural resources. Effective governance backed management of the forest resources can also play a vital role in securing rural livelihoods through generating income in the form of goods and environmental services.

For instance, the FAO estimates that globally, 750 million people live in or near forests and an additional 500 million live in open savannah with scattered trees and woodlands. For these people forests are the local supermarket — a place for food items, construction materials, and medicines. Every effort should be made to engage poor and forest-dependent people in commercial forestry by creating more job opportunities and allocating forests for sustainable commercial management. An effective Government mechanism can achieve this.

Additionally, in many areas degraded forests need to be rehabilitated for soil conservation and carbon sequestration. Locals should be employed in these efforts as part of income generation for the poor. The Government authorities must also focus on the prevention of forest fires which peak during the summer months across the country. The incidence of these forest fires is increasing mainly because the prevention methods being followed are not only outdated but are also not enough to deal with the scale of the event.

Moreover, the illegal timber mafia too plays a role in starting fires for commercial benefits. The problem of forest fires is a growing one and is adversely affecting the existing forest cover. According to the latest studies by Michigan University, forest fires stoked by the foliage result in nearly 62 per cent to 66 per cent increase in mercury accumulation in the soil. The study assumes particular significance since it has been predicted that global warming will lead to an increase in forest fires, this could heighten mercury accumulation significantly rendering the forestland unsuitable for natural ecosystems.

At a time when India is reeling under successive inadequate monsoons, the dwindling forests are also adding to the problem. A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, has attributed the weakening of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall (ISMR) for the period between June and September to the changes in land use and land cover in the form of deforestation.

The effect is more pronounced in north and North-East India during August and September. Given the fact that ISMR is responsible for 80 per cent of the total precipitation received in the country, the Government must focus on arresting the pace of deforestation so that the moisture in the soil is retained. This in turn will help in ensuring sustainable water management, agricultural planning and adaptation to climate change.

In order to check the rampant depletion of forests in India, the Government must also quickly check the quantum of forestland being diverted to agricultural use as well. Though food security is an important issue that needs to be immediately addressed, but doing so at the cost of forest cover is unacceptable. The authorities must highlight the complimentary role forests can play in supporting sustainable agriculture by stabilising soils and climate, regulating water flow, providing shade and shelter and providing a habitat for pollinators and natural predators of agricultural pests. When integrated judiciously into agricultural landscapes, trees can increase agricultural productivity.

Forests are ‘multifunctional’, they can combat climate change, enhance agricultural productivity besides preserving biodiversity; we can only let these assets recede at our own peril.

Copyright 2017 dailypioneer.com   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 181 days ago   Article ID# 4178739

   

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