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Taproots to help restore India’s fading green cover

Context:

Despite various international conventions and national policies in place to improve green cover, there is a decline in global forest cover.

This is the prime reason for forest restoration activities including tree planting to become increasingly popular – and in forest restoration, the participation of local communities and adequate financing and incentives are essential.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Challenges with management of Forest Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) 2020
  2. Global Forest Goals Report 2021
  3. Forest degradation in India
  4. Steps taken by India
  5. Challenge and solution: Lack of research support
  6. Challenge and solution: Financing

State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) 2020

  • The State of the World’s Forests report 2020, says that since 1990, around 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through deforestation, conversion and land degradation.
  • Of this, nearly 178 million hectares have decreased globally due to deforestation alone (1990-2020).
  • Fire is a prevalent forest disturbance in the tropics. Fire burned about 4 percent of the total forest area in tropics.
  • More than 54 per cent of the world’s forests are in only five countries — the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
  • Among the world’s regions, Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha. Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.

Suggestions in the State of World’s Forests 2020

  • There is a need to transform our food systems to halt deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.
  • Embracing healthier diets and reducing food waste are all actions that urgently need to be scaled up.
  • There is a need for effective governance; integrated policies for interrelated issues; land-tenure security; respect for the rights and knowledge of local communities and indigenous peoples; and enhanced capacity for monitoring of biodiversity outcomes.
  • Ensuring positive outcomes for both biodiversity and people requires a realistic balance between conservation goals and demands for resources that support livelihoods.
  • Countries must move away from the current situation where the demand for food results in inappropriate agricultural practices that drive large-scale conversion of forests to agricultural production and the loss of forest-related biodiversity.

Global Forest Goals Report 2021

  • An estimated 1.6 billion people, or 25% of the global population, rely on forests for their subsistence needs, livelihoods, employment, and income.
  • Of the extreme poor in rural areas, 40% live in forest and savannah areas, and approximately 20% of the global population, especially women, children, landless farmers, and other vulnerable segments of society look to forests to meet their food and income needs.
  • On the economic front, forest-dependent populations have faced job loss, reduced income, diminished access to markets and information, and for many women and youth, a contraction in seasonal employment.
  • Socially, many of these populations are already marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples, least able to access critical socio-economic safety nets.
  • Many forest dependent populations, especially those in remote or hard to reach places, have faced difficulties accessing healthcare or find that government assistance programmes and basic services are disrupted.
  • Pandemic driven health and socio-economic outcomes have increased pressure on forests.
  • To ease their growing vulnerability, many indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as returning migrants and urban workers, have retreated deeper into the woods to seek food, fuel, shelter, and protection from the risks of Covid-19.

Suggestions in the Global Forest Goals Report 2021

  • Sustainably resourced and managed forests can bolster employment, disaster risk reduction, food security and social safety nets, for starters.
  • With regard to global health, safeguarding and restoring forests are among the environmental actions that can reduce the risk of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.
  • The report called for a future course of action that included greater sustainability and a greener and more inclusive economy to tackle the threats of Covid-19, climate change and the biodiversity crisis faced by forests.

Forest degradation in India

  • Out of its 21.9% population living under the poverty line, nearly 275 million people including local tribals depend on the forest for subsistence.
  • The high dependence on forests in India has put immense pressure on forest ecosystem and this has resulted in the degradation of 41% of its forests.
  • Further, encroachment of nearly 1.48 MHA of forest and grazing in nearly 75% of forest area is also linked to the livelihood of local communities.

Steps taken by India

  • To combat reducing forest cover, India joined the Bonn Challenge with a pledge to restore 21 MHA of degraded and deforested land which was later revised to 26 MHA to be restored by 2030. The first-ever country progress report under the Bonn Challenge submitted by India by bringing 9.8 million hectares since 2011 under restoration is an achievement.
  • There have also been remarkable initiatives to involve local people in the protection and development of forests by forming joint forest management committees (JFMC).

Challenge and solution: Lack of research support

  • Restoration, being a scientific activity, needs research support for its success. Whether one goes for active restoration which includes planting or passive restoration with more focus on halting environmental stressors or adopting an intermediate approach of aided natural regeneration, it needs critical examination before putting restoration interventions into practice.
  • Further, much of the research done so far on restoration is not fully compatible with India’s diverse ecological habitats hence warranting due consideration of local factors.
  • So, the relevance of local research duly considering ecological aspects, local disturbances and forest-dependent communities is vital to formulate guidelines for locally suitable interventions and to meet India’s global commitment.

Challenge and solution: Financing

  • Adequate financing is one of the major concerns for the success of any interventions including restoration.
  • The active approach of restoration which includes tree planting and the involvement of communities seeks incentives and rewards and make the whole affair quite cost-intensive.
  • The contribution of corporates in restoration efforts so far has been limited to 2% of the total achievement. Hence, alternate ways of financing such as involving corporates and dovetailing restoration activities with ongoing land-based programmes of various departments can help to make it easy for operation.

-Source: The Hindu

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