Unusual heat condition

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

A relatively cooler state like Arunachal Pradesh is experiencing an unusual heat condition this year. According to the India Meteorological Department [IMD], last month was the country’s hottest May in 36 years, with temperature rising above 50 degrees Celsius in some states.

The IMD recorded temperatures exceeding the normal by more than 5.1 degrees Celsius in some areas in the state last month. Responding to this blistering heat condition, the state government had issued health advisories.

Pasighat in East Siang district recorded the highest 39.6 degrees Celsius – 9.4 degrees Celsius above the normal temperature.

According to scientists, the extreme temperature is the result of human-driven climate change.

Burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and factories are the major contributors to greenhouse gases that cause climate change by trapping the sun’s heat.

Trees play a vital role in fighting climate change. They help cool the Earth by absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, and evaporating water vapour into the atmosphere through their leaves as part of their photosynthesis process.

Globally, approximately 12 million hectares of forests are destroyed annually. According to Global Forest Watch (GFW) data, Arunachal has lost 2,62,000 hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 4.2 percent decrease in tree cover, during 2001 to 2023. India lost 2.33 million hectares of tree cover during that period.

The data showed that Arunachal has lost 1,39,000 hectares (3%) of humid primary forests from 2002 to 2023, making up 55 per cent of its total tree cover loss in the same period.

A total of 134 mt of carbon dioxide was emitted as a result of tree cover loss in the state during this period.

The data showed that five districts accounted for 51 per cent of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2023. West Siang had the maximum tree cover loss at 36.7 kilo-hectares (kha) compared to an average of 14.6 kha during that period. Lohit lost 33 kha, Changlang 24.5 kha, Longding 20.5 kha, and East Siang 18 kha.

The data further showed that the state lost 4.61 kha of tree cover from fires from 2001 to 2023, with 2017 recording the most tree cover loss due to fires (452 ha).

The main drivers of deforestation in Arunachal, like many other regions, are unsustainable logging and timber extraction, expansion of agriculture, and infrastructure development, including construction of roads, dams and other developmental projects, which require clearing of forests.

Deforestation causes hotter temperature, loss of species, extreme weather conditions, more health risks, poverty, and displacement.

While floods may destroy homes and livelihood, water scarcity may affect crop production, leading to poverty. The time is ripe to motivate people to plant more trees and create awareness among the citizens, especially the students, about the importance of trees.

The government can encourage afforestation by rewarding people who take the initiative to plant trees. The forest department should distribute saplings to schools, NGOs, government offices, colony/village welfare associations, etc, free of cost. This may go a long way not only in compensating the lost forest cover but also reducing the effects of greenhouse gases.