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Sansad TV: Nature And You- Why do we need forest?

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Importance of it:

  • Forests and terrestrial ecosystems more broadly are critical not only to flora and fauna but also to communities that depend on them, contributing to poverty reduction, economic growth and employment.
  • They provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare. These include:
    • Absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses that produce climate change. In tropical forests alone, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass
    • Providing clean water for drinking, bathing, and other household needs
    • Protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing the amount of erosion and chemicals that reach waterways
    • Providing food and medicine
    • Serving as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls
    • Providing habitat to more than half of the world’s land-based species.
  • Forest goods provide an important “hidden harvest” for rural populations, keeping many people out of extreme poverty.
  • Forests support rural economies in many countries and create jobs and wealth for populations with few alternative off-farm employment options.
  • Healthy forests provide critical ecosystem services important to people and economies such as habitat for biodiversity, provision of drinking water, water and climate cycle regulation, erosion prevention, crop pollination, soil fertility, and flood control.
  • Forests provide a critical carbon sink to slow climate change.

Efforts undertaken by Government:

  • National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme, National Mission for a Green India (GIM) and Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPM) under the MoEF&CC.
  • Green India Mission: It has the broad objective of both increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha, as well as increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in another 5 million ha of forest/ non-forest lands in 10 years.
  • National Agroforestry Policy (NAP): A dynamic ecologically based concept which integrates woody perennials in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production.
  • Promoting urban forestry through Nagar Van Scheme, which involves creation of 200 Nagar Van, on forest land by adopting a collaborative approach, involving various agencies like forest and other departments, NGOs, Corporate Bodies, Industries etc
  • Landscape based catchment treatment of 13 major rivers
  • LiDAR based survey of degraded forest areas for soil moisture conservation projects
  • Launch of National Transit Portal to facilitate smooth movement of Forest produce.
  • School Nursery scheme which aims at involving school students from the young age in nursery and plantation operations was also elaborated and discussed during the course of the four-hour long meeting.
  • Joint forest management (JFM): It is the concept of developing relationships between fringe forest groups and forest department on the basis of mutual trust and jointly defined roles and responsibilities for forest protection and development.
  • Funds under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA): In a major boost to promoting afforestation and achieving “green” objectives of the country, the Centre handed over Rs 47,436 crore of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds to various States.

Other measures needed:

  • India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations that are favoured by even forest development corporations in many States.
  • Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed.
  • The latest assessment categorises more than 300,000 sq. km of area as open forests with a tree canopy of 10-40%. These lands provide the opportunity to bring back diverse, indigenous trees.
  • Such a measure, combined with a policy against allowing open cast mining, can bring about a renaissance.
  • Dedicated efforts will be required to protect the precious forests of the Northeast.
  • The forest policy must be prepared by involving the stakeholders viz. people along with the state.
  • Community-led initiatives have successfully regenerated forests by adopting sustainable- use practices, regeneration through traditional knowledge of forests and species, guarding and penalizing poachers, among others. These must be promoted.
  • Innovative solutions like Tree Ambulance in Tamil Nadu must be emulated across the country.
  • Identify and reduce the dependency. For instance, fuel wood via LPG connections and promoting fast growing timbers in forest fringes, grazing via stall feeding or rotational grazing, controlling commercial exploitation of forests, adopt zero-tolerance to fires setting targets to reduce fires by 50%, 25% to 10% etc.
  • Increase surveillance and setup legal cell in forest department to follow-up on court cases

Conclusion:

India’s diverse forests support the livelihoods of 250 million people, providing them firewood, fodder, bamboo, beedi leaves and many other products. The timber currently benefits the state treasury. There is a need of revamping India’s forest policy. These efforts are critical to meet our national and international goals under National Forest Policy, Nationally Determined Commitments and restoration of degraded forest land.