Saturday, July 21, 2012

Poor productivity of Indian Forests: Who is to be blamed?

Nearly 23 % of the geographical areas in the India in under forest cover. The conservation of these valuable resources has attained greater importance due to their role is carbon sequestration, climate amelioration and ecological security apart from traditional tangible benefits of timber, firewood, fodder and other Non-timber forest produces.

But if we see the productivity of Indian Forests it is found that the Indian forests are having very very poor productivity. Against the global average productivity of 2.1 million m3/hectare/ year, the productivity of Indian Forest is only 0.7 million m3/hectare/ year.

There are numerous reasons for this low productivity which may range from faulty management, poor planning and implementation, policy changes to lack of investment etc., and to some extent the blame goes to the Forest administrators/managers. However there are few   major factors causing enormous loss to forest resources and its capacity to produce more thereby affecting the productivity like anything.

 Two major factors among these are:

1. Unregulated grazing:

The cattle population in India was 350 million in 1950 which has been reached   to 520 million at present. At least  50% of this population ( 260 Million) depends on the forests for grazing which is mostly unregulated and free in many of the Indian States  which affects not only the regeneration of forest species but also affects the soil quality due to trampling and compacting of soil which  makes the soil more  prone to erosion. It is also confirmed in one of the studies that 78% of forests in India are subjected to heavy grazing, illicit felling etc. The problem is getting worsened every year due to increase in livestock population.

2.Fuel Wood Collection:

Nearly 50% of the demand of fuel in rural India is being met from the adjoining forests. The annual demand of fuel wood is estimated nearly 250-300 million m3. The recorded supply of firewood from Indian forests is only 17 million m3 and there is huge gap of approximately 260-270 million3 of fuel wood excluding the recorded supply. So from where this huge demand gap is being met?  It is only the adjoining forest areas which are subjected to continued extraction of fuel wood on a regular basis adding further miseries to the already degraded state of forests. 

So who should be blamed for this? The fuel wood dependent increasing population having no alternatives of energy sources or forest managers who are having meager resources and poor policy support for appropriate interventions…..

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are exclusively mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency/government.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why do massive tree planting programmes fail ?

Tree planting or afforestation activity is considered one of the most effective ways to counter the multifarious challenges  of environmental degradation. Every year starting from 5th June ( World environmnt day ) we start chanting and advocating the need of tree planting for the environmental protection and amelioration. The month of July (first week) has been earmarked  for the planting  programme in India which is also called as Van Mahotsava (tree festival ). 

I remember  during last 3-4 years there had been enormous activities centering around tree plantations in the name of planting record number of trees in a day, few million tree planting programmes etc. taken up by Corporations /State Governments/organisations. It is yet not known whether all these good numbers of trees planted  have survived ? There is need to take up some realistic  survey or  study to ascertain the efficacy of these ambitious programmes of tree planting.

Let me take a very conservative estimate of even 1 Million or 10 lakhs plants  if survived fully  will cover about an area of 1000 hac ( considering the spacing of 10 met X 10 Met). So even at this conservative tree planting there should have been an increase of 1000 hac every year outside forests but in reality this is not the case.

It is  observed and reported many times  that  most of these programmes of tree planting are not yielding  required results.

There may be many local or specific issues responsible for failure of planting programme but following are few main reasons. 

1.Considering plantation programme as one day activity. 
2.Lack of comprehensive planning  specially regarding  maintenace and protection of plants.
3.Use of substandard seedlings and faulty planting technique.
4.Ignorance and lack of knowledge about site quality including soil type where planting is proposed.
5.Treating the programme as one day affair and not according genuine  priority for environmental protection.
6.Lack of particpation of local prople or communities thereby missing  the opportunity of owning the programme by themselves.
7.Lack of genuine political will and support( including financial )from the Governmment.
8.Non- involvement of other Government departments and treating tree planting  as only the programme of forest deprtment.

The above reasons may or may not be correct in case of tree planting or afforestation prgrammes being umdertaken by the State Forest Departments.

I am sure we can improve the result of sucess of tree planting considerbaly if some of the above mentioned factors are taken care and addressed properly.

Few tips for a successful tree planting  are given in my previous post .Tips for tree planting

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being well informed and highly aware doesnt necessarily gurantee environmental conservation and protection ?

The latest   poll conducted by the Washington Post and Stanford University about the environmantal issue  has  many interesting findings

1.60% of the participants  say weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the past three years than previously, a perception that’s changed little since 2006. Nearly as many also say average temperatures were higher during the past three years than before that.

2.55 percent say a “great deal” or “good amount” can be done to reduce future global warming however  atthe same time, 60 percent of those polled say it will be extremely or very difficult for people to stop it.

3.More than 70 percent Americans oppose policies that would rely on tax increases on electricity or gas to change individual behavior, while 66 percent favor tax breaks to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

4.People don’t see a lot of downside for taking action to stop global warming as only  12 percent say that the things people would do to help stop it would make their own lives worse.

Similarly in another study, conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication , 75% of Americans supported the need of regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant to cause green house effect. More than 60 % of them also expected the US to cut its CO2 emissions by 90 % (by the year 2050) and supported protecting the environment even at the cost of reduced economic growth.

It  is  a known fact the USA is the  largest  consumer  of the resources of the World and having  largest national economy. It  has also a class and society which is highly sensitive and aware regarding the ongoing environmental problems.In such a state of affairs  this should have been an added advantage  for the socities in developed countries including USA  to take  certain concrete  steps at individual level as a remedy to this problem? But in reality this is not the case.So what are those factors  which pull them back from being an active citizen to take the individual step towards this problem ?Is this the fear of little compromise with  their  highly luxurious life style and heavy consumption or  in other words the fear of losing  so called happiness or comforts  from  materialistic world due to  more access to resources ?  

Its yet to elucidate  as to why the people  become a moot spectator and avid comenetator towards these  alarming environmental problems ?

Back home in India we too are occupied with multiplicity of issues and problems.

There is a distinct classs of have nots  (underpriviledged in the sense of access to resources) for whom the prime matter is  to make  both ends meet and their efforts and actions for their livelihood affect  the natural resources  badly besides making them unsustainable.Any intervention in this direction is possible only by providing alternatives to them.Though in many of the instances it has been  proved that the communities who are dependent on the natural resources have devised and preserved their own ways and means to utilize these resoutrces on sustained basis. Its only the web of ever increasing demands of populations that has affected the whole dynamics of balance between man and nature.

Then there comes the middle class with little or more access to resources but that too is  engaged in dilemma of changing survival strategies  and same time busy with improving the happiness levels albeit at the cost of money. Since they also have  also equal right to develop and flourish it may not be wise to expect a change from this quarter .

Finally we have the elite or rich among poors, the class which is shining with the improved GDP and adding to its numbers every year  in the form of millionairess  and billioneres. This class has both the capacities and abilities ( awakened mass) to contribute towards the environmental problems like our American brothers but the biggest question is again when and how?

So what should we expect from ourselves ? 

At least a  small action to start with  as each conservative or recycling action we take, we reduce the impact of Man's negative action on the environment .As  Gandhiji's  said "  "Be the change you wish to see in the world." instead of  waiting for  the Government or  Organistaions  to act?