The rate of deforestation in India has been quite high in the past few years. Diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes has adversely affected the ecosystem. Critically comment. Is afforestation or reforestation a solution to the problem of deforestation?
Diversion of forest land means using the forest land for non-forest purposes like agriculture, mining, hydel power generation, etc. Since deforestation has large scale adverse impact on the ecosystem, the diversion of forest land should be accompanied by compensatory afforestation.
Reasons for forest land diversion:
- Mining activities in the forest areas
- Urbanization and rapid growth of population
- Setting up of various industries
- Setting up of hydroelectric power projects
- Construction of railway lines and tracks through forests
- Using forest land for agriculture purposes
- Encroachment being one of the major reasons
- Building of roads, infrastructure and other various institutions like colleges, schools, etc.
- Since acquisition of agricultural land is a complex phenomena and a time consuming one, therefore the burden is often upon the forest lands for developmental purposes.
- Under the forest rights act 2006, prior consent has to be sought from the forest dwellers for diversion of the forest land but it is often violated and no consent is sought.
Impact of forest land diversion in the ecosystem:
- Dense, mid dense natural forests are important ecosystems and they are destroyed completely
- A number of species thrive in them. Their habitat is destroyed completely.
- Slowly, the species become endangered and eventually extinct.
- There is an adverse effect on the ecosystem of that area.
- The food chain is broken which can be a serious problem.
- Climate change is bound to happen since the entire forest ecosystem gets disappeared.
Afforestation or reforestation is a good option for replacing the lost the forest area. But in that case only the area under forest lost is restored and not the same forest back again.
Statistically, in the last 25years, 2.27% of forest area has increased in India which is indeed a good achievement. But the problem here is that, afforestation elsewhere cannot be a solution to deforestion in a particular place. It is so because:
- The species which are rendered homeless are endemic to one forest. Once, the forest is cut, they shift to some other forest which might not be conducive for their survival.
- The balance in that ecosystem is lost and cannot be completely replaced again.
- Climate change takes place, which is irreversible and it might affect agriculture, lifestyle, etc. of that deforested area and nearby.
- There is disappearance of an entire ecosystem, i.e. the forest ecosystem and it is extremely harmful.
- Even for the tribes residing in the forests, who lose their homes and settlements, eventually lose their cultural identity and distinctiveness.
Diversion of forest lands is no longer an inevitable option for development purposes. With the increase in urbanization and population growth pressures, using forest lands for non forest purposes has become quite significant. But at the same time, we should not forget that the natural forests are rich and valuable resources and must be preserved till the greatest possible extent.