“He who plants a tree
Plants a hope”.
~Lucy Larcom, “Plant a Tree”
Picture on left is the Peach Sapling planted by me on 27.08.14 and on the right is as on 22.02.16
Three trillion is the latest estimate of the planet’s tree population, published in the September 2015 issue of ‘Nature’, an international weekly journal of science. Although this number exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way, it has also been estimated that 15 billion trees are cut down each year. Europe, India and eastern China have lost much of their original forest cover along with the African forests due to increase in human activity and climate changes. Forest in Southeast Asia has changed drastically and from 1970 to 2009, Thailand and Vietnam lost 43% of their forest cover, Cambodia and Laos lost 22% and 24%, respectively and if the trend continues, more than 30% of the regions remaining forest will be cleared by 2030. However, a study of NASA’s Landsat satellite program’s four years data i.e. 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010 by Do-Hyung Kim and other remote-sensing scientists at the University of Maryland in College Park led to the conclusion that net forest losses, often due to the clearing of land for agriculture, increased sharply from 2000 to 2005 and then decreased by around 7% from 2005 to 2010. This analysis of forest losses and gains during the 20 year span gives hope. Further, studies have shown that deforestation in Amazon Basin due to the sincere efforts of Brazil has dropped by roughly 75% over the past decade. The countries with highest tree density are, Finland 72,644 trees per sq km, Slovenia 71,131 trees per sq km, Sweden 69,161 trees per sq km, Brazil 35,288 trees per sq km, Canada 32,055 trees per sq km and UK 12,264 trees per sq km. interesting another information that has been in circulation in the social media is the term ‘Trees per person’ i.e. the total number of trees divided by the population of the country. The global average comes to around 422. Canada with a total 318 billion trees has 8,953 trees per person is at the top of the list followed by Russia with 641 billion and 4,461 trees per person. The most populous country China with 139 billion trees and 102 trees per person fares much better than India, which with 35 billion trees has just 28 trees per person.
Tropical rainforests store more than 210 gigatons of carbon and deforestation is the cause of 15% of carbon emissions. Further, trees release oxygen when they use energy from sunlight to make glucose from carbon dioxide and water. It is estimated that, a mature tree which is 12 m tall and weighs two tonnes, including the roots and leaves it produces 100 kg of oxygen per year.
A human being requires around 740 kg of oxygen per year which translates into the need for around seven or eight trees per person. So, the situation is alarming for us.
According to a Central government report, Assam, India has lost 2 sq km of forest cover from 2011 to 2013. The report stated that of the 78,438 sq km of the State’s total geographical area, 27,671 sq km is covered by forest, which was 27,673 sq km in 2011. An interesting facet is that the very dense forest cover has remained the same at 1,444 sq km of area, the area covered by moderately dense forest has decreased by 59 sq km to 11,345 sq km and area covered by open forest has increased from 14825 sq km in 2011 to 14,882 sq km in 2013, an increase of 57 sq km and so the overall decrease is 2 sq km of forest cover. A recent news item published revealed that in the BTC, a total of 39,750.86 hectares of forest land was under encroachment. In spite of regular news item of tree felling in the reserve forests, the authority concerned have failed to undertake measures to check the massive felling of tress. Similarly, about 1.36 lakh trees were chopped down to build a 670-km stretch of the East-West Corridor in Assam. But, replacement trees in the newly laid highway are virtually none as large stretches bore no tress. According to the study carried out by environmental NGO Green Globe as against the norms of planting 999 trees for every km of the highway – 333 median plantation and 333 in each of the avenues, only median plantation was carried out in about 10 per cent of the highway stretch. Further their study also revealed that in some stretches most of the saplings planted have already died as no barricading was provided to protect the planted saplings.
The decrease in forest cover has led to man-animal conflict and loss of life and property due to man-elephant conflict at different part of the state has become a regular issue. One of the main reasons of deforestation and increased man-animal conflict is the increase in population leading to encroachment of forest land. Government schemes of tree plantation have till date not been able to yield results due to lack of effective implementation plan. In, most of plantation drives undertaken, the conversion rate of these saplings transforming into trees has been so poor that one can easily conclude that the scheme launched and successfully completed could only accomplish the intention of creating a record only. Only a few of the saplings have transformed into tress which may in real sense provide us with the necessary oxygen, reduce carbon di oxide, provide shade, fruits, wood and also prevent flooding and erosion; i.e. the importance and the basic benefits of a tree. It is seen that in most cases, in spite of providing protection to the planted saplings, they do not survive mostly due to the inadequate protection and after care measures, like regular watering and providing with the necessary manure etc. It has been observed that in most of the cases of plantation drives by the side of roads, the few samplings that survive are mostly due the care taken by the nearby residents. These categories of people due to their love for trees and also because of the fact they care from within, nourish the saplings and ensures that they stay alive to grow into trees. Their maxim is in line with the saying of Warren Buffett, ‘Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.’ Plantation drives undertaken through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) Employment generation schemes of Government of India, have failed miserably as the saplings to be planted lie uncared for several days before being planted. So, by the time these saplings are planted, they are already dead. In spite of the government coming with such beautiful schemes which serves the twin purpose of employment generation and environment protection the end result is still questionable.
Taking a cue, it may be beneficial if the people from the locality where a plantation drive is scheduled are made equal partners in the process. They may be entrusted with the job of planting saplings, taking care and finally ensuring that these saplings transforms into tress. For their effort, apart from the expenses incurred, they may be recognized by means of awards which may be cash incentives also. Involvement of women and children will prove more effective in such a venture. Assam is blessed with a very fertile soil which allows seeds to germinate with ease and thus seeds may be planted instead of saplings. This will reduce the expenses a lot, improve the conversion rate and also reduce the scope of corruption in the long run. Another cue may be taken from the ‘Swatch Bharat Abhijan’ where the corporate entities and PSUs were roped in. Similarly such entities may be allocated areas for plantation, the outcome of which has to be seen as full grown up trees over a certain time period. Schools and colleges may also be asked to have a certain number of tress in line with the available area compulsorily. It’s time to think differently and act for creation of a green sate in true sense for the benefit of our future generations.
As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.’ As a responsible citizen let’s act too.