(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
March 21: International Day of Forests: Can India shift from a ‘plantation’ mindset to an ‘eco restoration’ one – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/forests/international-day-of-forests-can-india-shift-from-a-plantation-mindset-to-an-eco-restoration-one-82005
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
International Day of Forests: Can India shift from a ‘plantation’ mindset to an ‘eco restoration’ one
Context: The United Nations proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012. This year marks a decade of IDF.
- The day celebrates and raises awareness about the importance of all types of forests.
- Theme for 2022: ‘Forests and sustainable production and consumption’
- The country has 307,120 square kilometres of forest in the open category, which increased by 4,203 sq km in the last two years, according to India’s State of Forest Report 2021.
- Add scrub land (46,539 sq km) to this and the total becomes 353,659 sq km, constituting 10.76 per cent of degraded forest and scrub land in India.
- If we consider only forest area, it is 43.03 per cent.
The Green India Mission (GIM) was launched way back in 2010, with three-fold objectives:
- Double the area to be taken up for afforestation / eco-restoration in India in the next 10 years
- Increase the greenhouse gas removals by India’s forests to 6.35 per cent by increasing forest biomass in 10 million hectares (mha), thus achieving carbon sequestration of 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually
- Enhance the resilience of forests / ecosystems.
India’s Working Plan Code 2014 majorly focuses on how some timber-producing trees need tendering and felling / working. It signifies the working of coupes (a forest area wherein felling and silviculture operations are done in a 20-year cycle), but fails to bring in an ecosystem approach in planning and execution.
Somewhere, we have missed the bus without proper alignment between these two government documents in letter and spirit.
India’s forest management needs a paradigm shift from ‘working’ to ‘managing’ them for the country’s future prosperity and to take care of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services they provide.
- Rising temperatures and changing monsoon rainfall patterns from climate change could cost India 2.8 per cent of its gross domestic Product and depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population by 2050, according to a World Bank report.
- The report further cautions that by 2050, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will be in the red. The water catchments of this region and the permanence of the river systems and aquifer recharge is directly dependent on health of forests.
- Open forests in the states of MP, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra account for 74,295 sq km.
- Forest restoration is a must for water security. The Union Ministry of Jal Shakti launch of a plan to plant trees along 13 rivers at a cost Rs 19,000 crore is laudable.
The Way Forward
- Back the indigenous communities that have defended their forest homes for generations, without meaningful support or recognition and often in the face of chronic danger. Territorial rights of Indigenous peoples must be recognized, protected forest areas expanded and roads and industry avoided in still intact forests. These steps can set the stage for more sustainable forest economies.
- India would do well to set up an ambitious goal of first retaining and then increasing its forest cover. Protecting tropical forests can secure seven to 10 times as much carbon through 2050 as replanting forests. Saving the trees can also ease the crisis of species extinction. And protecting these forests is crucial to maintaining the homes and ways of life of thousands of forest cultures.
- A forest policy should be a broad vision taking into account the varied political, socioeconomic, and ecological contexts of the country. Adequate finance along with public-private partnership can propel the efforts towards restoration of the planned interventions. Active engagement of stakeholders and an inclusive approach can turn the table. We need to also properly word our goals. The use of proper vocabulary changes the vision.
- Selection of Species: Forest department select those that are non-palatable, have good coppicing (ability to grow new shoots from stumps) power even after getting browsed, are less water-demanding and are fire-resistant, usually for afforestation. They prefer such species even if they are Invasive Alien Species (popularly known as IAS). There is a need to warn and change this practice as it may change the floral / faunal composition and ecology of the forest in the future.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Forestry and forest management in India stand at a crossroads. Do you agree? Critically examine.