The loss of forest cover has exacerbated the effects of climate change, opening the door to flash floods and soil erosion. Consequences are lesser crop yields, negative impact on local economies and disruptions of food supply patterns on a wider scale.
Humanity must launch a multi-pronged offensive to beat climate change. Tree planting can be one of those prongs. According to a recent official report, over 23% of the total forest area in Jammu and Kashmir is facing degradation due to various factors.
The geographical area of Jammu region, according to official data, is 26293 square kilometers. Out of it, 12066 square kilometers (45.89% of the geographical area) is forest. The geographical area of Kashmir region is 15948 square kilometers out of which 8128 square kilometers is the forest area (50.97%).
As per the Working Plans of J&K, a total of 4520 square kilometers of forest area is under various stages of degradation and has been recommended for rehabilitation. The official report underlines that some of the forests which were earlier well-stocked have also been degraded over a period of time and are required to be rehabilitated under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).
As per the official document, the forests are under tremendous pressure to meet increasing demands for fodder, grazing, small timber and other forest produce due to rapid increase in human and livestock population.
The human population of J&K has increased from about 1.01 crore in 2001 to 1.25 crore in 2011 recording a decadal growth of 23.71%”.
The degradation and loss of forests threatens the survival of many species, and reduces the ability of forests to provide essential services.
Jammu and Kashmir has been known for its greenery all over the world. People have been for ages depending on forests for timber and other services for construction and nourishing herbs besides other numerous benefits.
The effects of degradation of forests are already visible due to accelerated soil erosion, flash floods, silting up of reservoirs, loss of biodiversity and reduced forest productivity.
There seems to be a lack of appreciation of the unseen benefits of forests but the already existing impact is for everyone to perceive. Efforts should be to save and protect the forests.
There is an urgent need for a targeted investigation to assess the extent of tree cover loss along with the creation of a decentralized system of forest management.