From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Forest landscape restoration
This month is time for Van Mahotsav, which literally means “celebrate the forest”.
Why tree planting matters
- According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), deforestation and forest degradation contribute around 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- The total area occupied by primary forests in India has decreased by 3.6%.
- Tree planting comes with varied environmental and ecological benefits.
- Forests are integral in regulating ecosystems, influencing the carbon cycle and mitigating the effects of climate change.
- Annually, forests absorb roughly 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
- This absorption includes nearly 33% of the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels.
- Livelihood: Forests are a boon for local communities and their livelihoods by functioning as a resource base for goods and services.
- Enrich soil fertility: According to academics from the World Resources Institute, forest ecosystems enrich soil fertility and water availability, enhancing agricultural productivity, and in turn the rural economy.
- Prevents erosion and flooding: Tree planting prevents erosion and stems flooding.
- Sustainable forest crops reduce food insecurity and empower women, allowing them to gain access to more nutritional diets and new income streams.
- Agroforestry lessens rural-to-urban migration and contributes to an increase in resources and household income.
- Planting trees is deeply linked to the ‘wholistic’ well-being of all individuals, the community, and the planet.
Afforestation through forest landscape restoration
- Typically, governments have relied on afforestation and reforestation as a means of establishing trees on non-treed land. These strategies have now evolved.
- Focus on forest landscape restoration: The focus is now on forest landscape restoration — the process of regaining ecological functionality and improving human welfare across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
- Community participation: Forest landscape restoration seeks to involve communities in the process of designing and executing mutually advantageous interventions for the upgradation of landscapes.
- Nearly two billion hectares of degraded land in the world (and 140 million hectares in India) have scope for potential restoration as forest land.
- Ensuring diversity of species: A crucial aspect of this process is to ensure the diversity of the species while planting trees.
- Natural forests with diverse native tree species are more efficient in sequestering carbon than monoculture tree plantations.
- Planting diverse species is also healthier for local communities and their livelihoods.
- An international study published earlier this year in the journal, Science, found that diversifying species in forest plantations has a positive impact on the quality of the forests.
Programs and initiative for forest restoration
- The span 2021-2030 is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, emphasising efforts to restore degraded terrestrial ecosystems including forests.
- Bonn Challenge: In 2011, the Bonn Challenge was launched with a global goal to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- India joined the Bonn Challenge in 2015, pledging to restore 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.
- An additional carbon sink of 2.5 billion-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through forest and tree cover is to be created by 2030.
- There are a myriad government programmes such as Compensatory Afforestation, the National Afforestation Programme, the National Mission for a Green India (Green India Mission), the Nagar Van scheme and the Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme to name a few.
- The Green Skill Development Programme is for the youth who aspire to attain employment in the environment and forest sectors.
- Forest restoration in India faces hurdles in terms of the identification of areas for restoration, a lack of importance accorded to research and scientific strategies in tree planting, stakeholders’ conflicts of interest, and financing.
- To be successful, forest landscape restoration must be implemented proactively, bolstering landscapes and forest ecosystems to be durable and adjustable in the face of future challenges and societal needs.
- Involvement of stakeholders: It also needs the involvement and the alignment of a host of stakeholders including the community, champions, government and landowners.
- Participatory governance: The restoration of natural forest ecosystems can be strengthened through participatory governance by engaging stakeholders.
- Taking into account socio-economic context: Vulnerable forest-dependent communities should be factored in, and any effort should be tailored to the local socio-economic context and landscape history of a region.
In today’s world, forests need to be celebrated more than ever before. Simultaneously, more forests need to be created and restored.