Forests crucial for our own survival

Forests crucial for our own survival

Carbon sinks: Forests are important because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. File photoOver millions of years, it cooled off and turned into a dry, arid planet. And then, slowly, greenery and life started to appear. With the evolution of forests, the earth became a habitable place, and man and other species started to live in the cover of forests, which have ever since been known as cradles of civilisation. Man and animal have all thrived, thanks to forests.

Unfortunately today, the scenario is changing. Man has decided to take matters into his own hands and has slowly started destroying forests. It is reported that across the world, 88 acres of forest land is disappearing every minute, falling prey to man’s greed.

In India too, the scenario is no different. There was a time when the country was lush with forest cover. Forest area which covered over 30 per cent of the country has now dropped to 20 per cent. The forest area in Karnataka is only 15.5 per cent of the State.

However, there is a ray of hope. There has slowly been a realisation that forests are crucial for the human race, and for the planet. There have been several attempts by various bodies to save the forests. The United Nations recognising this year as the ‘Year of Forests’ is one of them. Forests are biodiversity hubs. They have been categorised into six groups.

They include: moist tropical, dry tropical, montane sub-tropical, sub-alpine and alpine forests. India has all these varieties of forests. While forests are home to several species of life, they have also been of huge use to mankind. Generations of tribal communities have benefited from forest produce including herbs and medicines, fuel, honey, etc. They also serve as natural rainwater harvesting tools; they increase the water table, and absorb carbon dioxide, and release the oxygen that we need to breathe. They also prevent erosion. In the last decade, 9.34 million hectares of forest area has been destroyed.

Forests are being destroyed because of two primary reasons:

natural and manmade. Natural reasons could include forest fires, storms, flood or infestation of pest, but, because they are natural reasons, the forests regenerate. The manmade reasons are the most dangerous. Increasing population has meant that forests are being eaten for agriculture, timber, paper pulp, mining, for construction of dams, for fuel, etc.

This destruction of forests has also affected us in many ways. It has contributed to global warming, has caused droughts, has given birth to new viruses and new afflictions, has posed problems to tribal communities and uprooted their ways of life. The loss of forests has also meant that many important species of herbs are endangered, while some of them have been wiped out altogether. The country has 88 national parks and 499 reserve forests. Also there are 12 bio-reserves for the protection of as many eco-systems. It is important that we protect forests, which are vital carbon sinks, for our own survival.

(The writer is Assistant Conservator of Forests, Mysore.)

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