Woods and trees {Environment}

Context

We must review the strategy to revive forests and move away from monoculture plantations.

What does survey report say?

The Environment Ministry’s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ based on satellite imagery, may present a net positive balance in the form of 24.4% of India’s land area under some form of forest or tree cover, but this is but a broad-brush assessment. According to the report, forest and tree cover together registered a 1% rise over the previous estimate two years ago.

The emphasis in environmental policy to raise forest cover to 33% of the geographical area will yield some dividends. There has been an increase over the baseline cover of 20% at the turn of the century.

Issue

India may be endowed with 16 major forest types, and 221 types and sub-types based on the Champion and Seth classification, but retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation. Latter-day development pressures are also taking their toll.

In its audit of various regions, the Ministry’s report has calculated a cumulative loss of forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal of nearly 1,200 sq km. The impact of such a terrible loss must be seen against the backdrop of the Northeast representing a global biodiversity hotspot.

Solution

India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations that are favoured by even forest development corporations in many States.

Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed.

Few stats

The latest assessment categorises more than 300,000 sq km of area as open forests with a tree canopy of 10-40%. These lands provide the opportunity to bring back diverse, indigenous trees.

Such a measure, combined with a policy against allowing open cast mining, can bring about a renaissance.

Monoculture plantations

In a monoculture plantation a crop of only one plant species is grown. This on small to very large scale, depending on the kind of crop. In such plantations there is hardly any vegetative diversity.

In addition, these plants can be genetically very similar or even the same like for clones.

Advantages

The growth of the crop and the quality of the produce is very homogenous and consistent and crop management is more efficient. Also the output per acreage is maximized and cost per unit is reduced.

Disadvantage

Pests and diseases can build up very fast. Monoculture can also have a negative impact on the environment.

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