Depleting forest cover

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

As per the Forest Survey of India Report 2019, India has a forest cover of almost 25 percent of total area. However, the report highlights that Northeast India continues to lose forests when compared to previous reports, witnessing a loss of about 3,199 sq kms of forests since 2009.

Arunachal Pradesh has the second largest forest cover in the country with 66,687 sq kms, which is 79.63 percent of the state’s area. Arunachal has a rich biodiversity with about 20 percent species of the country’s fauna, 4,500 species of flowering plants, more than 500 species of orchids, etc. However, the alarming report is that the forest cover in the state has decreased by 276.22 sq kms as compared to the previous assessment reported in 2017.

Reduction in forest cover is caused by a variety of reasons, including jhum (shifting) cultivation, timber business, conversion of forested areas for construction of houses, offices and irrigation fields, hill-cutting to create real estate, firewood, etc. Rampant deforestation has been aggravated by the easy availability of handheld sawing machines. Hundreds of handheld sawing machines are held by local villagers, leading to rampant cutting of trees. Most of these trees and bamboos are ferried on rafts and sold in Assam.

Only those forests are surviving where humans, vehicles and elephants cannot venture due to tough terrain. On a small scale, some government-declared reserve forests are being preserved. Some trees and plants are being revived due to plantation crops like tea, rubber, orange, oil palm, etc.

Although cutting of trees and timber business was banned by the Supreme Court many years back, it appears that tree cutting and logging have increased unabated in the past few years. Rampant deforestation is leading to massive river erosion, global warming, extreme weather, flooding, loss of flora and fauna, etc.

One of the major causes of deforestation is widespread cutting of trees for firewood. The government and social organizations should take a lead role in promoting adoption of alternative sources like LPG, biogas and solar plants in our villages and towns for cooking and heating requirements, which would reduce the cutting of trees for firewood.

The government and social organizations should also take a lead role in planting more trees. This may be promoted through horticulture or other plantation crops like tea, rubber, oil palm, orange, etc. Illegal timber business by using bench saws in certain areas should be banned and strictly implemented.

The government and other organizations may also consider networking all offices to achieve a paperless office. Paperless offices are in practice in many places. This will lead to a huge reduction in usage of paper (wood product) in our offices.

Rampant deforestation is already leading to flooding, massive erosion, extreme weather and hotter environment due to global warming. Isn’t it time to stop deforestation and revitalize our planet Earth?  (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)