Experts say actions by government and people need to save the forest cover.
Nishka Kumari, 7, who is always fascinated by trees and plants, spends her evenings in a garden located in her apartment complex with her father, who explains to her the importance of protecting nature.
“It is important to grow trees because they give you oxygen and are home to lot of birds. A large number of trees make a forest which is home to animals,” she said while speaking to The Observer.
Nitin Kumar, her father, wants Nishika to know the value of trees and, as she grows older, participate in conserving the environment. “While developing a place, we cut down so many trees, not understanding how important they are to protect our resources,” he said.
The Times of India recently reported that Karnataka has lost 64 sqkm of its moderately dense forest, which accounts for 54 per cent of the overall forest area in the state as per the India State of Forests Report (ISFR) 2021, prepared by the Forest Survey of India to assess the country’s forest and tree resources.
Notify forests: Expert
Dilip Kumar PJ, a retired Indian Forest Service officer, said a reduced forest cover would affect a lot of things: ecology and biodiversity, climate and biogeochemical cycles, water, soil and air quality. Asked what steps the government should take to increase forest cover, he said: “Identify good existing forest tracks and notify them as forest reserves or reserved forests under the Forest Act and give protection through forest departments.”
He spoke about the concept of joint forest management during the 1980s where local communities were developed for notified forest areas. “The same could be done for village common lands which could also be used to provide fodder and fuel wood and serve as a buffer.”
Reena Singh, an environmentalist, believes that a reduced forest cover, apart from affecting the environment, will take a toll on the nation’s economy. “Environmental degradation means there will be less accessibility to forest resources like timber, medicines, etc., leading to economic instability. You can already witness the other well-known negative effects — rise in temperature, global warming, etc.” she said.
Asked what the government and people can do to conserve the environment, she said the government can identify areas which have the capacity of having good forest growth and undertake soil and water conservation methods on the land. People should plant more trees on non-forest lands. “People should… increase awareness among others regarding environment conservation.”
Threat to people and animals
Ramesh Belagere, founder trustee and MD of the Foundation for Ecology and Education Development Trust, explained how decreased forest cover can pose a threat to both humans and wildlife. “A depleted forest cover will affect wildlife and lead to more human-wildlife conflicts, leading to a loss of human life.” Poachers will be able to access forests, exposing animals to poaching.
To conserve the environment, the government can bring strict rules and regulations for industries. “Rules and regulations are there, but they need to be strictly followed so that minimum to no harm is caused to the environment.” The focus should be on sustainable development keeping in mind environmental norms. For conservation of the environment by common people, he advised them to follow the 3Rs; Reuse, Reduce and Recycle.
Sujeeth Kumar, 51, who has lived in Bengaluru for five years, is worried that developmental activities are posing a threat to the environment. “At my residential place, I saw cutting of trees to make a parking lot. What disturbed me the most that it takes years for trees to grow and seconds to cut them down without thinking of the outcome,” he lamented.
An article in the Bangalore Mirror said Karnataka has a tree cover on only 3.91 per cent of its land area. Also, Bengaluru has lost 4.98 sqkm of forest cover over the past 10 years. Bengaluru had 94 sqkm of forest area in 2011 which is now down to 89.02 sqkm.