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Nature in danger: Deforestation climbs high

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Center for Global Development based in Washington recently undertook analysis and interpretation of data and satellite imagery from around 100 countries and have estimated that around 714 million acres of tropical forests, roughly the size of India, may be cut-down by 2050.

tree-141692_640The report further observes that this deforestation may further add up to 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050.

Deforestation is a world-wide crisis which will have far reaching and long-term consequences on the ecology and future of the world. Forests play a very vital role in the ecological cycle. They serve as carbon storage banks and hence help in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by absorbing them during photosynthesis.

Forests are also a big source of various commercial and medicinal products. Tropical forests, in particular, are home to various species of plants, birds, and animals. Without forests, the rich bio-diversity cannot be sustained which in turn will lead to ecological disaster. The green cover helps to enrich the soil and recharge the ground water level.

Forests also help in regulating the water cycle. They prevent wastage of rainwater and allow it to permeate through the soils into the ground water. This water in turn helps various animals and birds through ponds or streams and to humans through man-made wells.

One of the major reasons for deforestation is agriculture. For last many centuries, forests have been repeatedly cut down and cleared to cultivate those lands with food and commercial crops. While, farming and producing food is important, the consequences of these actions were not given importance. Forests were also used and are still being used as a source for firewood and timber. A large number of trees are cut every day for utilizing the logs for various human purposes like buildings houses, making furniture, making paper etc. Industrialization has also been another major reason for felling of trees.

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Other causes include forest fires, mining, wars and battles, overgrazing, urbanization etc. The zeal shown in the cutting of trees does not match the enthusiasm which needs to be there while planting new trees. As a result, the area under forests is dwindling every day at a fast pace. It is clear that the major causes of rapid deforestation are the human thoughts and actions. Neither people have a clear perspective about the vital role played by forests, ecologically or economically, nor do they show any interest to know about it. Furthermore, some people work under the assumption that the world is forever present for providing them and fulfilling all their fancies. Therefore, there is a competition between humans and all other species present in the world over natural resources.

In “Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies”, while explaining about these driving forces of deforestation, Sumit Chakravarty and others, quote Pearce and Brown thus:

1. Competition between humans and other species for the remaining ecological niches on land and in coastal regions. This factor is substantially demonstrated by the conversion of forest land to other uses such as agriculture, infrastructure, urban development, industry and others.

2. Failure in the working of the economic systems to reflect the true value of the environment. Basically, many of the functions of tropical forests are not marketed and as such are ignored in decision making. Additionally, decisions to convert tropical forests are themselves encouraged by fiscal and other incentives.

DSC_7139One of the most important consequences of deforestation is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This increase in carbon dioxide will lead to increased trapping of heat on the earth surface and hence increasing the temperature of earth’s surface. Therefore, the decreasing forest cover can be directly correlated to global warming; which will further lead to climate change that will cause heat stress, floods, draughts, crop-failures, water scarcity etc.

Other harmful effects of deforestation include destruction of biodiversity, decrease in soil fertility and decreased ground water levels. Deforestation will also impact the world economically and socially. Water and food scarcity will induce more migration and food wars. Many indigenous people will also be devoid of their forest homes, hence causing a destruction of their entire culture.

The best measure to tackle growing deforestation is to strictly monitor felling of trees and to plant new trees. The reforestation programs will have long-term positive impact on the globe. At the same time, the rate of deforestation must be brought down. Brazil can be a good example, which has reduced deforestation in the Amazon. Controlling population growth can be another effective measure.

Massive awareness campaigns to increase awareness about forests and sincere efforts by various governments across the globe can definitely bring down the deforestation and may even slowly increase forest cover.

Next Story

Giving Local Communities Responsibility to Manage Forests Could Help Ease Poverty, Deforestation

Identifying a mechanism — community forestry — that can credibly reduce carbon emissions at the same time as improving wellbeing of the poor is an important step forward in global efforts to combat climate change

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ease poverty, deforestation, poverty solution
FILE - Trekkers hike through a densely forested area near Ghorepani, Nepal, Oct. 23, 2014. VOA

Giving local communities the responsibility to manage forests — which are shrinking worldwide — could help ease poverty and deforestation, scientists said Monday in what they described as one of the largest studies of its kind.

Researchers examined more than 18,000 community-led forest initiatives in Nepal, using satellite images and census data from the South Asian country, where more than a third of forests are managed by a quarter of the population.

Giving Nepalese communities the chance to look after their own forests led to a 37 percent drop in deforestation and a 4.3 percent decline in poverty levels between 2000 and 2012, they said in a paper published by the journal Nature Sustainability.

“Community forest management has achieved a clear win-win for people and the environment across an entire country,” said lead author Johan Oldekop, an environment lecturer at Britain’s University of Manchester.

poverty solution, deforestation
Cutting down forests can also harm livelihoods and cause tensions, as people compete for fewer resources. Pixabay

Deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change after fossil fuels, accounting for almost a fifth of planet-warming emissions, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a 2018 report.

Trees soak up carbon dioxide from the air as they grow, and release back stored carbon when they burn or rot. Cutting down forests can also harm livelihoods and cause tensions, as people compete for fewer resources.

“Nepal proves that with secure rights to land, local communities can conserve resources and prevent environmental degradation,” Oldekop said in a statement.

Worldwide numbers

Yet indigenous peoples and local communities legally own only about 15 percent of forests worldwide, according to a 2018 analysis by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global land rights coalition.

poverty solution, ease poverty, deforestation
Identifying a mechanism — community forestry — that can credibly reduce carbon emissions at the same time as improving wellbeing of the poor is an important step forward in global efforts to combat climate change. Pixabay

The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover in 2018 — the equivalent of 30 football pitches a minute, said an April report by Global Forest Watch, run by the U.S.-based World Resources Institute.

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The researchers who studied Nepal said other countries should try to follow its example by allowing local communities to manage forests as a way to cut emissions, while lifting people out of poverty. The study said Mexico, Madagascar and Tanzania had similar community-led forest initiatives.

“Identifying a mechanism — community forestry — that can credibly reduce carbon emissions at the same time as improving wellbeing of the poor is an important step forward in global efforts to combat climate change and protect the vulnerable,” said co-author Arun Agrawal from the University of Michigan. (VOA)