It is a well-known fact that forests are being eradicated at a speed which is unimaginable to a common eye. And ever since it has been identified and acknowledged globally by different organizations and institutions, lots of large and small scale forest conservation projects started across the world. The most common commotion is to plant more trees. The situation grew graver over the period of time and only tree plantation wasn’t enough. So, it was figured that we do need to plant trees but the plantations should be strategic, specific and should result in fully grown trees to regenerate the bionetwork around us. And gradually planting trees took shape of afforestation and reforestation and several projects were started all over the world including India.
The need of today is to increase carbon capture and carbon sequestration, decrease soil degradation, have better and regular rain cycles and improve biodiversity anthropogenically, in order to normalize our planet’s environmental disbalance. Afforestation and reforestation are looked upon as the most viable and effective solution to this. Afforestation is creation of forest cover in a land where there are no trees. Reforestation is a solution to increase the density of existing forest covered land, especially to recover the patches where trees got cut down. Both processes help to mitigate the climate change situations, reduce air pollutants, and reestablish the ecosystems and natural habitats.
India is a country with extreme geographies and weather conditions and hence the biodiversity of the country also varies. We have Himalayas to oceans and deserts to dense rain forests and world’s second largest population to feed as well. And it is implied that our contribution to ecological disbalance is also significant. Indian government has been working on this through various schemes since 1951. Centrally several schemes and projects were running but in 2000-2001 all the afforestation and reforestation projects in India were integrated to form National Afforestation Program Scheme at the same time to keep the focus on decentralizing the implementation plan. NAP is being implemented through the 2-tier structure of the forest department at the division and village levels. The programs has core components like forest planning in terms of places, variety of plants as per geography, key focus areas like increasing forest density and plantations in barren lands and awareness and training programs for the villagers or locals so they live in coordination with the nature around them.
The history of Forest protection and conservation in India goes back to organized revolutions like Vishnois in Rajasthan, The tribal communities in MP, Chhattisgarh, North-eastern states and islands like Andman’s and LakshDweep. Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act was passed in 2016 to wisely release the money collected as a fee from the companies that remove the forests to construct buildings, to be utilized for reforestation by forest department. Green India Mission by 2020 was also established in 2010. So there are several afforestation and reforestation projects in India that are initiated and are being implemented by government of India. But then there are so many other not for profit and for profit organizations, which are dedicated to restoring the biodiversity in the country. Organizations like Chirag, and Alaap are working specifically on the cause alongside the government in the state of Uttarakhand.
Then there are individual environmentalists like Sundar Lal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva, Anadish Pal, Chandi Lal Bhatt, Sugatha Kumari, Maneka Gandhi who have initiated and executed several drives across the country and then there are some new age change leaders like Vijay Dashmana and Shubhendu Sharma. Dashmana consults the local authorities on developing biodiversity in and around urban areas in Haryana and Rajasthan. And Shubhendu started Afforestt that created so many forests in the country. The major challenge that we face in our country is the unavailability of authentic primary data about the real time impact and results of all the projects that are being implemented through out India for afforestation and deforestation.
For afforestationand reforestation projects, a lot of resources like funds, work and efforts of governmental and non-governmental bodies, individuals and companies working for the cause, are being invested in the mission of Green India but a lot of good work gets missed out because either it is not reported properly, or its implementation fails. We miss either on the planning part or on the implementation aspect. But what we majorly miss upon is taking up the responsibility that we are losing forests in because of forest fire and in the name of development. “Forest cover in the country has increased by about 1 per cent, according to the biennial State of Forests Report 2017 released this year, but Niti Aayog says 21.23 per cent of the land is under forest cover.” DTE Reports. It also reports that in December 2018, “The Supreme Court on December 11 expressed its displeasure on being informed that no proposal even after 12 years has been received for 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries for declaring areas around them as eco-sensitive zones and directed MoEF to declare an area of 10 kms around these national parks and sanctuaries as Eco Sensitive Zones.”
While there are numerous afforestation and reforestation projects are being implemented in India and some real good work on the ground is happening, let’s not miss out on the larger picture. The mechanism is in place to check the progress and numbers in this regard but ratio of increase in forest canopies and the increase on the different factors like dense forest canopies and very dense forest canopies is a matter of concern. We should look at the results by and large while we celebrate small achievements and growth. We also need to understand our roles in in helping various organizations and government to implement these projects. It’s our collective responsibility to create clean and green country to live in. Not just us but our future generations too need the to breath and live healthy life.