Forest Cover Rises

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Apr 2018 08:49:41


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total carbon stock in forests was estimated at 7,082 million tonnes, showing an increase of 38 million tonnes over the last assessment in 2015. Thus, there is plenty of good news for environmentalists and people in general.

Forest is an essential requirement for a healthy, balanced and ecologically viable life on earth and the more green cover we have, the better it is for our future generations and the longevity of the planet.

FOREST cover has increased by 6,778 sq km in the country during the last two years, with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala making a significant contribution, according to the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
“The growth in forest cover can be attributed to plantation and conservation activities, both within and outside the recorded forest areas,” FSI Director General Saibal Dasgupta said recently. Dasgupta said Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have contributed to an increase of 2,141 sq km, 1,101 sq km and 1,043 sq km forest area respectively. He said the total forest and tree cover in India, according to the current assessment was 8,02,088 sq km, which was 24.39 percent of the country’s geographic area.
“The present assessment shows that 15 States/UTs have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover,” said Dasgupta, who also holds the post of Additional DG of Forest in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change. Area wise, Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover (77,414 sq km) in the country, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq km), Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq km), Odisha (51,345 sq km) and Maharashtra (50,682 sq km), he said.


Referring to the north-eastern region, Deputy Director FSI, E Vikram, informed that the total forest cover in the NE States was 1,171,306 sq km, which was 65.34 per cent of its geographical area, though there had been a decrease of 630 sq km in the region. Surprisingly, there has also been a marginal increase in the extent of mangroves and water bodies.
The total carbon stock in forests was estimated at 7,082 million tonnes, showing an increase of 38 million tonnes over the last assessment in 2015. Thus, there is plenty of good news for environmentalists and people in general. Forest is an essential requirement for a healthy, balanced and ecologically viable life on earth and the more green cover we have, the better it is for our future generations and the longevity of the planet.


The rapidity with which trees are being cut is already alarming and we have lost large forest tracts over the years which have led to rising temperatures and erratic rains among other things.
Growing carbon footprint due to an ever-increasing human population, coupled with growing industrial and vehicular pollution has only enhanced the importance of trees. In no time in history, the need of trees has been so strongly felt as in our times.
Unfortunately, lumbering and illegal cutting of trees is still rampantly prevalent in the country and to be fair, just 24 per cent of forest cover in such a vast country is not at all satisfactory. Ideally, we should have at least round 40 per cent forest cover, which is a far cry and almost impossible to achieve in present conditions. The amount of increase which the survey flaunts is, in all fairness, much infinitesimal as compared to our needs and the land area we have.
Just 1,000-odd sq km in such a big State like Karnataka, that too in two years, is not a very significant gain. We cannot take away the achievements in any case, because in India, given the population pressure and the illegalities involved in the forestry sector, it is not that easy to replenish even 1,000 sq km.


But the fact is, India’s needs are so stupendous, and we are already so late in reckoning that, that small gains seem insignificant in the face of the environmental crisis we face. We need rapid intervention to cover as much area as possible with trees to compensate to some extent the losses we have caused to the environment in the last few decades to make way for industries and infrastructure. Development has always been our priority but the environment hasn’t been so. In historical times, India was a land of forests and greenery was celebrated even as hermits found their knowledge meditating in these jungles. Jungles housed the gurukuls and ashrams and several religious rituals developed in the jungles in obeisance to trees. Lord Rama, Mahavira, and Buddha had a deep connection with forests.

Herbs from the jungles have traditionally been used to prepare medicines in Ayurveda and our religious and historical texts are full of references to lush green forest covers and sylvan valleys that made the Indian environment conducive to meditation and other spiritual practices. It is only following the industrial revolution and the effect of British industrialisation spree in the country starting the 1700s that forests gradually started dwindling. Once the British left, the plunder was more aggressive and complete because by that time India’s economic and logistics needs had quadrupled and the population was expanding by leaps and bounds.
To accommodate human needs and making space for them, the forests had to go. The more human possibilities grew, the more trees were hacked to make way for posh skyscrapers and theme parks and malls.
Lack of planning and lack of political will and priority to keep forests intact coupled with corruption and greed for petty gains ensured that there was no way forestland could be rescued from systematic slaughter by the mafia and other interest groups. In the backdrop of such detrimental developments, it becomes crucial to appreciate and encourage even a piece of land turned green by human effort. If a start is made, it is probable that it will pick force and affect other interest groups too to save greenery and promote plantation. It has to be a national culture, for which every child needs to be taught in school the importance of trees in our lives and the ways to save and promote them.


If children grow up as responsible citizens they can influence decision making and force policymakers to give due importance to the environment. Governments too need to attach top priority to forestry and ensure that the plantation drives really bear fruits. The forest department needs to be properly equipped and financially resourced. New saplings planted need to be monitored and the results assessed in a time-bound manner. There has to be an alacrity and intense involvement as a flagship project so that the real-time benefits are recorded. There is no time to take a casual approach and let things fall into place by and by. An environment is a serious concern globally and we too should consider it so. Luckily, MP still is a State with the largest forest cover in the country by area, but this is no time to be complacent and all efforts must be taken up to further enhance the forest cover, especially in urban areas because they need trees the most to act as a carbon sink.
By the way, if we sit back and relax, in no time what is green today will be replaced by concrete. The more concrete we have, the greater risks we are leaving for our progeny to fight with. lack of forests is a recipe for grave risks like landslides, floods, droughts and the like.