The evil effects of deforestation  

March 11, 2023 08:30 pm | Updated 08:30 pm IST

The total forest cover in India is about 8 lakh sq km, which is 22% of the total geographic area of the country.

The total forest cover in India is about 8 lakh sq km, which is 22% of the total geographic area of the country. | Photo Credit: AFP

The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that since 1990, 420 million hectares of forests have been lost through conversion to other land uses — agriculture, industrial use and biofuels — in order to feed 11 billion humans by the end of this century.

This will, in particular, affect the tropical regions such as India, China and Africa.

Causes of global warming

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has published the Global Forest Resources Assessment, and points out that 31% of the land on earth is covered by forests. When trees are felled, they lead to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and hence, global warming.

Deforestation increases 11% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4, N2O, SO2, and chlorofluorocarbons).

The Harvard University Public Health Group further points out that deforestation leads to spikes in infectious germs such as those causing diseases such as malaria and dengue, which can adversely affect humans.

Dr. S.B. Kadrekar of the Environmental Society of India points out that not just trees but soil and water too must be saved. A 1% increase in deforestation leads to a 0.93% decrease in the availability of clean drinking water in rural communities that depend on open wells and flowing streams.

Also, trees release water into the atmosphere during transpiration, and this comes down as rainfall. Thus, deforestation has double effects. About 30% of the earth’s land area (3.9 billion hectares) is covered by forests. Yet, in the name of food supply, land use for developmental activities and technology, a lot of deforestation occurs in many countries. 

Situation in India

The total forest cover in India is about 8 lakh sq km, which is 22% of the total geographic area of the country. Of these, the twin islands of Andaman and Nicobar have 87% of the total area.

Dr. Pankaj Sekhsaria points out that the Colonial British set up a port there, in order to export timber elsewhere. The present government is also targeting these islands in order to expand its navy and also to attract more mainlanders to not just visit but even settle down here. So much for saving these islands.

The Himalayan States of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh have about 21,000, 24,000 and 16,000 sq km of forest area, respectively. Yet, the government of India has removed a significant fraction of trees in order to build underpass and overpass highways in these regions.

Likewise, Goa has about 2,219 sq km forestation. Yet, the government there has cut trees with the idea of connecting Mumbai to Goa by a four-lane highway. Around 31,000 trees are being cut by local authorities.

Giant banyan trees 

Likewise, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is set to start the expansion of the 45-km stretch of NH163, from two to four lanes. Towards this, they want to destroy 9,000 banyan trees in Chevella Mandal in Telangana.

These giant banyan trees are centuries old, established by the Nizams and other forest-loving groups. 

In sum, these are some of the evil effects of deforestation, and we should protest.

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