As per a WWF survey, 12 to 15 million hectares of forest disappear every year from the face of the earth and this rate is equivalent to the disappearance of 36 football fields per minute. India was once covered by dense forests, habitat of a variety of wildlife. But the development in the other sectors of the country and emergence of India as a rapidly developing economy has led to deforestation in a massive scale. Here it is necessary to mention some utilities of the forest.
• Forests are the habitat of 70% of the wildlife residing on land. Deforestation makes these wild animals homeless and thus vulnerable to poachers and other adverse situations.
• Forests act as an important agent for absorbing the green house gases like carbon dioxide. The rapidly increasing global warming is one of the direct consequences of the deforestation.
• The trees in a forest perform the important role in maintaining the water cycle.
• The forest soil is moist due to the canopy of the trees protecting it from direct sunlight. Deforested areas subjected to direct sunlight may soon turn into arid deserts. Besides, forests play an important role in soil conservation.
In our country deforestation is still a common practice. Sometimes deforestation is essential to increase agricultural land. However, fact remains that India is the largest consumer of fuelwood (80% of the rural and 48% of the urban population) which is another major cause of deforestation. Added to this is the timber mafia, working in collusion with the forest officials, indiscriminately felling trees. Even responsible authorities like the NHAI had been alleged of felling a considerable number of neem trees, for constructing an 18 hole golf course. The ill effects of deforestation have finally jolted the Government into undertaking afforestation projects on a massive scale.
Afforestation projects of the Government in Jharkhand:
The Harit Divas (31st August, 2013) in Jharkhand was inaugurated this year with the planting of 10.42 lakh saplings, a joint effort of the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) and the Forest and Environment Department. Students belonging to grades XI and XII also actively participated in the program. The program also consisted of planting 100 saplings in 15,000 schools (middle and upper). The students planted the saplings and the responsibility of maintenance of a particular sapling was vested upon the student who planted it. As per the declaration of the JSPCB President Manishankar, “Our aim is to make the students aware of the threat to the environment”. 1000 Army Jawans, about 15,000 students and several NGOs will be the part of this program to replenish the depleting forests in the Jharkhand area. While the JSPCB will secure public support for the program by putting up 300 hoardings and 1000 banners to improve public awareness, PCCF, Jharkhand, AK Malhotra promised immediate replacement of the saplings upon their demise with fresh ones. The participation of the Forest and Environment Department will be one of consistent providing of saplings. Industries, who are mostly alleged for disrupting and polluting the environment planted 2 lakh saplings in their premises on the Harit Divas. This move of the Government to restore the environmental balance through planting of trees and involving the public and the students in this noble endeavour is really a commendable step.
Afforestation projects of the Government in Himachal Pradesh:
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh promised a quick release of a fund of Rs 277 crore, earmarked for afforestation projects that have been misdirected to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority of India (CAMPA) by the Ministry of Defense. While chairing an inspection meeting of the state forest department, the Chief Minister also gave a green signal for the pending projects like the ratification of the chilgoza pine project with a budget of Rs10 Crore and the sea-buckthorn project with a budget of Rs 35 crore. He further directed the forest department to lay stress on the replenishment of greenery in the state.
Afforestation projects of the Government in Bokaro:
The Bokaro forest officials are seriously concerned about the desultory felling of trees for expanding illegal mining operations and fuelwood that has seriously bereaved the district of Bokaro of its natural greenery. Accordingly the forest officials have outlined a plan of planting 2 lakh saplings on the sides of the road, headlands and in the infecund, deforested stretches throughout the district. As per the statement of the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), K Manish Arvind, “There will be plenty of trees in the coming years. Last year we planted 15 lakh saplings in various parts of the district while this year our target is to plant 2 lakh saplings”. It is a shortage of personnel that is compelling the forest authorities to plant a lesser number of saplings. The areas for the said project have already been demarcated and the forest officials will soon start the preparation for the planting of the sapling. 120 hectares of land across different blocks like Chas, Chandankyari and Gomia have been chosen for the said project. Different road routes will be bordered through planting of saplings which will involve installations of 8,000 gabions on the roadsides. Saplings chosen to be planted include aawla, gamhar, shisham and teak. The DFO has requested the Bokaro Steel Plant to refurbish the greenery in the urban areas.
Afforestation projects of the Government in Punjab:
In a statement issued by the Forest Minister of Punjab, Surjit Kumar Jayani declared forest departments’ plan of planting 4.75 crore saplings throughout the state in the current monsoon. A fund of Rs 70 crore has already been earmarked by the State Government for the said project. The Forest Minister further revealed that to meet the requirements of this project, the state nurseries have been utilized to produce 5 crore saplings and outlined his plan of increasing the forest coverage of the state from the current area of 7% to a total coverage of 15%. As per the results of the survey overseered by the ‘Forest Survey of India’ (a central agency), Punjab had successfully achieved 100 square kilometers of afforestation. Jayani added, “Let trees become a part of our family, the pride of the village and cities and let us create such an environment”. He also goaded people to form a special union with the oldest tree of the locality and celebrate the birth of a girl child by planting 5 saplings.
He further added that in a joint effort with the rural development board, the project of planting saplings will be undertaken in all the villages, under the MGNREGA scheme of the state. 90,000 hectares of land has been demarcated for the plantation drive after elaborate inspection of 9,145 villages. The existing 408 forest guards of the department will be vested with the responsibility of the newly planted saplings and 100 more forest guards will be drafted in the near future.
The basic reason for deforestation in our country in the rural areas is lack of awareness. But lack of an alternative source of power like electricity compels them to resort to wood as a major source of fuel. Along with this, the expanding operations of the timber mafia are also another primary reason for deforestation. And indiscriminate felling of trees in the name of development is by far the biggest cause of deforestation. The Government must address these issues strictly and take compensatory measures for the lost greenery. Before felling a tree we must remember this quote by Anton Pavlovich Chekov, “a tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential.”