Fighting for an Ailing Planet
Forests play a significant role in regulating earth’s temperature and moisture and there is an urgent need to keep them protected worldwide. At present 31 per cent of the earth’s total geographical area is covered by forests. In India, 24.62 per cent or 80.09 million hectares of land of the total geographical area is under forest cover. These figures clearly indicate that India is in dire need of an increase in forest areas to combat the threat of global warming, especially when the country is largely dependent on fossil fuels, a major source of carbon emissions which contributes significantly to global warming.
Over the years, forests in India have ruthlessly been destroyed on various pretexts. At the time of Independence, 49 per cent of India’s total geographical area was under forest cover. By the eighties, nearly 4.5 million hectares of forest land was converted to agricultural land and since the beginning of the new millennium, major portions of these lands are utilised for different purposes. On analysis of the magnitude of forest land that has vanished from India, it will not be an exaggeration to state that destruction of forest land in India is rampant. While forest areas in the plains have been acquired in the name of industrialisation and urbanisation, forest cover in the Himalayas and other hilly regions has decreased either due to construction of dams and hydel power plants or to pave way for tourism, without any attention to the ecological impact of the same. As a result, the country is facing nature’s fury more frequently than ever before.
India has already started paying the price for harming the natural environment of many locations, according to a report published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre the country has the largest number of people displaced by climate-related disasters in 2019, which has affected nearly five million people. Moreover, air pollution may cause nearly 1.2 million premature deaths every year in India, according to the Global Burden of Disease Report. Environmentalists have already warned that the effect of global warming would be severe in India and will likely impact many livelihoods. Global warming may also reduce agricultural production due to erratic rainfall patterns and cause water scarcity.
In order to combat these threats effectively, the world must act collectively. Encroachment of forest lands should be strictly banned along with banning of any new mining activities in these areas, citizens should be educated on the importance of protecting nature and encouraged to plant trees and join environmental programmes. Urbanisation should not be used as an excuse to chop down trees. It must be remembered that natural resources are crucial to the survival of the human race and important steps such as lowering carbon emissions, reducing the use of fossil fuels among others must be simultaneously undertaken. In this context, we need to bring back the ‘Chipko Movement’ spirit to make India green once again by launching a mass social movement against any further destruction of forests. These are important steps to ensure the stability of our beautiful planet.