A Times March 30, 2010
Arunachal Pradesh need to act to save its precious forest resources
21st March is observed by the global community as world forestry day. One week has elapsed since its observance and I wonder whether the common public is aware of the extremely rapid disappearance of our forests.
Scientists estimate that India should ideally have 33% of its land under forest. Today we only have about 12%. Thus we need not only to protect our existing forests but also to increase our forest cover. Natural forest eco systems play an important role in controlling local climate and water regimes. The loss of forest cover in the catchments of a river thus leads to irreversible changes, such as excessive soil erosion, large run-off of a river surface water during monsoons leading to flash-floods and shortage of water once the monsoon are over.
A great proportion of the residual wilderness of India is now under great threat. Its unique landscape is shrinking as the intensive form of agriculture and industrial growth spreads through a process called ‘development’. Modern science has serious doubts about the possibility of the long term survival of the human race if man continues to degrade natural habitats, extinguishes millions of years of evolution through an extinction spasm, and looks only of short-term gains. The extinction of species cannot be reversed. Once a species is gone, it is gone forever. Future generation will hold us responsible for this great loss.
History is testimony to the fact that those civilizations, which looked after the forest by using forest resources cautiously have prospered, whereas those that destroyed forest have gradually impoverished. Today logging is a serious cause of loss of forest for our country. What needs to be understood is that long-term ecological gains cannot be sacrificed for short-term economic gains that unfortunately lead to deforestation.
Deforestation in the Himalayas leads to floods that year after year kill people, damage crops and destroys homes in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra valley. In most arid regions of the world the rains are very unpredictable. This leads to periods when there is serious scarcity of water to drink. Drought prone areas are thus faced with irregular periods of famine.
For decades, the growth process has paid scant attention to replenishing of the rich natural resources inherited over many generations. As a consequence, in less than half a century the world has lost a fourth of its topsoil and a third of its forest cover. In the last 35 years above, a third of global bio-diversity was forfeited. Global warming and climate changes are also the result of deforestation. Scientific evidence available today not only confirms the acceleration of global warming but warns that an increase beyond 2 degree would trigger an irreversible “tipping point” exposing the planet to unmitigated disaster. Global warming exacerbates the challenges of poverty and environmental degradation and together they pose a threat of far reaching consequences to the world. Agriculture, the mainstay for developing economics is far more susceptible to climate induced disasters. The recent occurrence of extreme events in India is a forbearer of this warming. The frequent occurrence of heat waves, drought and floods not only signal that global warming is no longer an issue of the future. It is impacting us here and now.
In the north-east, Cherrapunji once known worldwide as the wettest place on earth is now facing the shortage of drinking water due to deforestation. The water problem of Cherrapunji became so acute that the govt. of Meghalaya had to invite the Israeli experts for technical aid to harvest the rain water. Similar is the problem faced by the people of Danglat village located nearby Tezu town, the headquarters of Lohit District. Every year all the wells of that area dries-up during the winter thus leading to scarcity of water, due to deforestation. Apparently the water crises will aggravate in the region owing to population explosion in the future. A famous dictum is ‘Think globally and act locally’. We should realize that forest once destroyed takes hundreds of years to regenerate into fully developed natural ecosystem with the full complements of species. Forest can thus be said to behave like non-renewable resource if over used.
Forest Conservation Act 1980 was enacted to control deforestation. Under this Act, penalties for offences in reserved / protected forest shall be punishable for a term of six months or with a fine which may extend to Rs. 500/- or both. But alas, despite the enactment of this law, deforestation continues unabated due to the lack of environmental awareness. The most important concern is related to creating an ethos that will support a sustainable lifestyle in society. This brings us to the need for environmental education. The honourable Supreme Court has thus ordered that every individual at school and college level should be exposed to a course on environment. It is not to create only an awareness of environmental issues but also to bring about pro-environment action.
We are still fortunate that 82% of the land in our state is still under forest cover and it should be our endeavor to protect and preserve it. It is noteworthy that therefore the state’s demand for ‘Green Bonus’ from the centre is fully justified. Unfortunately logging is clandestinely carried out in our state thereby leading to deforestation. One should realize that such activities are unlawful, unethical and unsustainable. They should refrain from adopting such means of livelihood which is at the cost of the nature. They should rather opt for a vocation which is eco-friendly, legal and sustainable. It should be the endeavor of the public that even if a tree is felled for domestic purpose, they should plant at least 10 (ten) more trees to compensate the loss of one tree. It should be the motto of every individual to plant more trees of local and indigenous species around one’s house and work place. One must keep in mind that plants are vital to our survival in many ways. One shouldn’t ignore the stark reality that we have only one planet to live together and perish together. Global warming transcends geographical and political border and does not distinguish between the rich and the poor. Deforestation has reached its zenith and it must be stopped at any cost.