By Ankita Gupta
Taking a stand, to preserve forestland!
The International Day of Forests is celebrated on the 21st of March each year, as per a green initiative by the United Nations General Assembly. The day aims to raise awareness on the importance of forests in our lives. Countries are encouraged to undertake campaigns on a local, national and International level to protect trees and forests globally.
The theme this year is ‘Forests for Sustainable Cities’. It fixates on the role of trees and forests in urban areas to regulate temperature and moisture, provide food and shelter, and purify the air we breathe. Our diverse forests bind us as a community and foster welfare on an individual level.
Revisiting our roots
India is home to some of the most beautiful forests in the world. Imagine the dense wildlife of Gir, the lush green mangroves of Sunderbans, and the verdant Nilgiri biosphere. That’s jaw-dropping scenic beauty, right? Now imagine a blazing wildfire coursing through our precious forest reserves, razing every last leaf to the ground. It is painful to even think about such a disaster!
There might not be an alarming imminent danger, but the truth remains that our forests are under threat. Forests are amongst the first casualties of the mushrooming human population. Each passing day brings news of timber exploitation, animal poaching, natural disasters, and illegal mining.
Conserving our forests, saving our lungs
Forests are our lungs—they are vital to our survival and health. They play an extraordinary role in biological and geo-pedological functions which are crucial to our existence. Trees provide us with oxygen and work as natural air-conditioners. We depend on forests for livelihood, medicine, fuel, food, and shelter. Yet, we are merciless towards them. Our greed has turned forests into wastelands. Every day, our planet loses about 356 square kilometres of forest reserve! It has become critical to save forests.
However, there is still some hope—India has a one percent increase in forest cover according to The Forest 2017 report released by the Forest Survey of India. However, at the present 21.5 percent forest spread, our nation still falls dismayingly short of its 33 percent target. Our contemporaries seem to be faring better. Bhutan has a forest belt of 72 percent, whereas Costa Rica has reversed deforestation and achieved a 54 percent mark. It is important to note that pit-and-plant approach to afforestation (popular with our Forest Ministry) is not a sustainable solution for fragmented or shrinking forest habitats.
‘Green infrastructure’ for sustainable cities
This year’s aim of creating ‘Forests for Sustainable Cities’ resonates with our quest for ‘Smart Cities’. Urban forests can help in carbon sequestration and reduce the heat island effect, which is common in concrete cities. Trees provide urban relief by arresting pollutants detrimental to health and air quality. Hence, they are an indispensable part of our ‘Green Infrastructure’ that improve our micro-climate, natural environment, and quality of life. On this International Day of Forests, we can do our bit in building sustainable cities—by taking a leaf out of our environmental textbooks and planting a tree each!
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