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Forest Restoration

GS Paper 3

 Source: TH

Context: For over two centuries, India has been a laboratory for tree planting experiments, offering valuable insights into the consequences of various approaches to forest restoration.

 

What is Deforestation?

Deforestation is the process of clearing or removing a large area of forests or trees, typically due to human activities such as logging, agriculture, urban development, or infrastructure expansion.

 

Drivers of Deforestation in Tropical Areas:

DriversExamples
Economic DriversAmazon rainforest in Brazil: Threatened by logging, mining, and agriculture due to economic incentives.
Infrastructure DevelopmentTrans-Amazonian Highway, Brazil: Facilitated access to remote areas, leading to deforestation.
Global Demand for CommoditiesPalm Oil Predicament, Malaysia & Indonesia: High palm oil demand drives extensive deforestation.
Climate Change PressuresAmazon’s Tipping Point: Increased climate stress risks forest dieback and widespread deforestation.
Policy and GovernanceCongo Basin Crisis: Weak governance contributes to extensive deforestation in the Congo Basin.
Sociocultural FactorsIndonesia’s Indigenous Communities: Displacement for palm oil plantations leads to deforestation.
The demise of the Adivasis, India: Displacement and loss of traditional forest management knowledge cause deforestation.

 

What is Forest Restoration?

Forest restoration involves the deliberate and planned process of restoring and regenerating forests that have been degraded, damaged, or lost due to various human activities or natural causes. This process aims to return a forest ecosystem to a healthier and more natural state, often involving tree planting, habitat restoration, and sustainable management practices to improve biodiversity, ecosystem services, and overall forest health.

 

India’s Pledge:

India aims to restore 21 million hectares of forest by 2030 through the Bonn Challenge. In 2018, a report by the government and the IUCN indicated 10 million hectares were under restoration. India’s national forest policy targets 33% tree coverage.

 

Status of forest restoration:

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), deforestation and forest degradation contribute to around 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 30% of forestland is degraded in India. The total area occupied by primary forests in India has decreased by 6%.

  

Current Approach to Restoration:

The current global focus on tree planting has often led to the rapid establishment of fast-growing tree plantations e.g. Miyawaki Method; fast-growing single species like eucalyptus or bamboo to quickly increase tree cover. This approach can yield quick results but also poses risks, including invasive species and land dispossession.

 

India’s Tree Planting Experiments:

India has conducted tree planting experiments for over 200 years, offering valuable lessons about different approaches to forest restoration and their consequences on local communities and the environment.

 

Lessons from India:

LessonsExamples from India’s Experience
The Importance of Diverse Restoration ApproachesPositive Case: The Forest Rights Act of 2006 empowered village assemblies (Gram Sabhas) in central India’s Gadchiroli district to restore degraded forests, sustainably utilizing tendu leaves for bidi (Indian tobacco).
In western India’s Kachchh grasslands, communities successfully restored the ecosystem by removing the invasive “gando bawal” tree, introduced by British foresters in the late 19th century.
Balancing Tree Planting with Ecosystem ImpactNegative Case: The introduction of non-native species like wattle, pine, and acacia disrupted ecosystems, leading to resource loss and community hardships.
Considering the Impact on Local CommunitiesNegative Case: British colonial restrictions on local forest use led to conflicts, including communities burning down forests in retaliation.
Measuring Success Beyond Tree QuantityPositive Case: Measuring success by the well-being of people and ecosystems, rather than just tree quantity, ensures a more comprehensive view of restoration outcomes.
Sustainable Management for Long-Term BenefitsPositive Case: Communities managing forests sustainably, like in Gadchiroli and Kachchh, demonstrate the long-term benefits of responsible forest restoration.

 

Further Actions Needed:

  • Forest Landscape Restoration: Implement forest landscape restoration to restore ecological functionality and enhance human welfare in deforested or degraded forest landscapes, involving communities, governments, and vulnerable forest-dependent individuals.
  • Diverse Tree Species: Prioritize planting diverse native tree species in reforestation efforts. Natural forests with varied species are more effective at carbon sequestration than monoculture plantations.
    • For instance, in Punjab, native species like Jhand, Desi Kikar, and Pharwan have high survival rates.
  • Promote Agroforestry: Encourage sustainable forest crops through agroforestry, which enhances food security, empowers women, and boosts household income, reducing rural-to-urban migration.
  • Holistic Well-being: Recognize that tree planting contributes to the holistic well-being of individuals, communities, and the planet.

 

Key Government Initiatives:

International Initiatives:

  • UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030): Focuses on restoring degraded terrestrial ecosystems, including forests.
  • Bonn Challenge: Aims to restore 350 million hectares of landscapes by 2030. India pledged to restore 21 million hectares and create a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes by 2030.

 

Indian Programs:

  • Compensatory Afforestation
  • National Afforestation Programme
  • National Mission for a Green India (Green India Mission)
  • Nagar Van Scheme
  • Hariyali Mahotsav and Van Mahotsav
  • Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme
  • Green Skill Development Programme for youth in the environment and forest sectors.
  • State Initiatives (Telangana): ‘Telanganaku Haritha Haram’ large-scale tree planting program, utilizing drones for efficient implementation.

 

Conclusion:

Successful forest restoration must consider its impact on forest rights, local livelihoods, biodiversity, and carbon storage. The choice of plantation species should prevent invasiveness, and a broader view of success is needed beyond tree cover alone.

 

Insta Links

The baton of forest restoration in the net-zero race

 

Mains Links:

Forest restoration is one of the key elements of climate mitigation strategies. In this context, examine the measures taken in restoring the degraded forest landscape in India. (250 words)

  

Prelims Links:

With reference to the ‘New York Declaration on Forests’. Which of the following statements are correct? (UPSC 2021)

  1. It was first endorsed at the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014.
  2. It endorses a global timeline to end the loss of forests.
  3. It is a legally binding international declaration.
  4. It is endorsed by governments, big companies and indigenous communities.
  5. India was one of the signatories at its inception.

 

Select the Correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1,2 and 4

(b) 1,3 and 5

(c) 3 and 4

(d) 2 and 5

 

Answer: A

 

 

Which of the following best describes/describe the aim of the ‘Green India Mission’ of the Government of India?

  1. Incorporating environmental benefits and costs into the Union and State Budgets thereby implementing the ‘green accounting’
  2. Launching the second green revolution to enhance agricultural output so as to ensure food security for one and all in the future
  3. Restoring and enhancing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures

 

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Answer: C