Since the ancient Greeks the son of Adam, has been engaged in the practice of worshiping plants, trees, and agriculture.
Cronus was the goddess grain, agriculture harvest, which symbolized growth and nourishment. Of such importance has trees and natural vegetation been to us.
That time man and nature had developed a very blissful partnership. Every year man worshiped nature and in turn nature served them with good harvest.
But as the population growth began and the demand superseded the supply, coupled with man’s new found technological skills, began a new era of urbanization but what was overlooked was that it was built on the carcass of our mother nature.
Vast stretches of agricultural land were cultivated again and again, and once it was harvested and the soil lost its fertilizing capacity, those fields were burnt down and cleared, and they moved on to the next fertile land to prey upon. This was the origin of early deforestation.
With the advent of population boom, demands started increasing exponentially and the pressure on land increased, men turned to forest lands to cater to increased space and food requirements.
Following this process, coming to modern times we find the same tradition repeating but in a much more devastating scale so much so that the future generations will have almost nothing left in their share.
What is deforestation?
Google defines it as “a clearance or clearing of a forest or stand of trees where land is there after used for non-agricultural use”.
In other words when a man chops down or takes away the life of a tree for his own selfish needs that process is called deforestation.
- The minimum forest cover required to maintain ecological balance is 33%. While the amount we have is a mere 15%.
- Since we have been cutting down trees our oxygen levels have been cut by over 5% in the last century.
- Reduced levels of carbon dioxide causes greenhouse effect raising the earth’s temperature to a great extent. Sudden rise in temperature causes melting of the polar ice caps, which results increase in the sea water level
At the rate of 2.3 meters for every degree Celsius increase in temperature which might bring floods to the whole world and humanity might submerge in its own blue trap
- Increased levels of harmful gases have given rise to various diseases, some diseases as life threatening as cancer.
- Trees play a key role in the seasonal changes. They enhance the moisture content of the air through transpiration. They bring rains. But due to rapid deforestation there have been irregularities in the annual rainfall.
- Crops are dependent on rainfall. Humans are dependent on crops as their life source. Less rainfall brings in famines, death toll rises.
- Due to pollution ad excessive emissions from vehicles as well as industrial processes, the air in the atmosphere gets filled with oxides of sulphur and nitrogen and dissolves in rain water to form acid rain. This acid rain is extremely harmful for trees and also makes the soil impotent.
- Trees provide food, shelter to animals and also provide flood protection by acting as natural embankments.
The major causes of deforestation are
- To create more land available for housing.
- To cultivate timber for furniture, commercial items like paper, industrial resins, essential oils etc.
- Wrong agricultural methods, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers resulting in soil nutrients resulting in non-cultivable land
- Extreme cattle grazing results in loss of rich top soil cover.
- Massive corruption in the government system and various loopholes facilitate indiscriminate felling of trees.
- Trees are cut to fuel the energy resources. In some places where coal is not available trees are cut down to create inferno which in turn boils waters and powers the turbines to produce electricity.
The virginal forests are extremely lucrative to encroachers. The timber wealth provides a ready and tempting reward and so these ‘mafias’ continue their ill-gotten operations.
At this time, about half of the world’s forests have been cleared and it contributes to about 12% of global CO2 growth in the atmosphere. One survey even suggests that about 36 football field’s worth of tree cover is lost every minute.
Various steps can be taken to combat deforestation while we still have time, better late than never.
Even legislative steps have been taken by the Government in the form of Indian Forests Act 1927, National Forest Policy 1988 and various initiatives like the Van Mahotsava started in 1950 to promote afforestation.
Forest reserves like the Gir National Park in Gujarat, Gorumara National Park in West Bengal, Great National Himalayan Park in Himachal Presh, etc. are puny yet commendable steps taken for the betterment of the flora which in turn is an intrinsic requirement of the fauna.
Countries like China have adopted innovative ways to counter deforestation. A law promulgated in China in 1981 requires every school student above the age of eleven to plant at least one tree per year.
Due to this China had recorded the highest rate of afforestation than any country or region of the world, with 47,000 sq. of forest cover in the year 2008.
India has been since long worshiping plants and trees and it is in our culture to protect them. Even Lord Ram, during his fourteen years exile found shelters among plants and trees making huts with them called ‘Panchavati’.
Even the general laws of physics says that “to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction” in the same way if human kind continues to eradicate trees from the face of the earth thoughtlessly there will be a time when mother nature will strike back, and it will be done at the expense of human population wiped off to extinction.
Creating a future that will be nothing but anapocalypse. perhaps it is rightly said “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is today”. Steps that are of most drastic nature is the need of the hour.