Rapidly decreasing green cover
According to the latest report by India State of Forest report 2019, 25% of land area of India is under forest cover, however, a rapid decrease was observed in the forest cover of northeast region of India. There has been a significant decline in the forest area of northeast region since 2009 and nearly 25,012 Sq.km of forest region was lost.
Multiple studies and researches show that the actual forest cover of India is decreasing contrary to government claims. Forest Survey of India report claims that there has been a significant increase in the forest cover of India from 2015 to 2017 however the survey includes plantations that are very different from natural forests and therefore should not be included. Natural forest covers include a diversity of flora and fauna are which is essential for maintaining the ecosystem which is not the case in plantations.
A report published in 2017 by a team of scientists from University of Hyderabad, JNU and Indian Institute of Meteorology, studied land-use changes across the Eastern Ghats, over a period of 95 years and found that there was 15% reduction in forest cover because of activities like mining, agriculture, and urbanization. This loss of forest resulted in habitat loss for a variety of species of plants and animals and even pushed some rare species to extinction.
The decline in forest cover affects global CO2 concentrations leading to more warming as CO2 traps the sun’s radiation and does not allow it to escape. There is an increased reflection of radiation from a barren area as compared to an area covered with trees and vegetation. As a result, cloud formation shifts to higher elevations from lowland plains which later can cause droughts. Soil quality in a deforested area also declines rapidly.
Deforestation can result in watersheds that are no longer able to sustain and regulate water flows from rivers to steams making them vulnerable to erosion. Erosion will cause siltation in downstream areas which will result in flooding. Trees are highly effective in absorbing water quantities, keeping the amount of water in watersheds to a manageable level.
The World Health Organization states that the traditional people, almost 80% of them, rely on the local biodiversity for their sustenance. In India, more than a fifth of the population and especially the forest-dwelling communities, depend on forests for food and livelihoods. These people already suffer from limited access to health and educational services and benefit little from the government’s economic development programs. Destroying forests has devastating consequences for them.
A World Bank report of 2013 estimated the cost of degradation of the forest at about 0.6-1.7% of the GDP. Forest are clearly very essential for our survival and we must do everything for their protection and conservation. Deforestation is a major environmental challenge that has been persistent from the past, and the situation is more worsened at present. Therefore, there is an urgent need to focus on conservation measures in order to prevent the distressing effects of deforestation in the near future.