By Vineeta Chawla:
Earth started as a huge ball of reducing gases consisting mainly carbon dioxide with trace amount of nitrogen and water vapours. Slowly, due to many phenomena like lightning led to the formation of inorganic molecules like amino acids and carbohydrates. These lead to the formation of bacteria mostly in the seas. With this began the slow cycle of evolution which led to the formation of plants and then forests. Forests are witness to the story of earth and also have been an integral part of the story.
Forests saw the birth of humans and supported them, teaching them the ways of life. But today the tables have turned. The forests that once encouraged the humans to grow, are today at the mercy of that race. They provided humans everything from cultivable plants to petroleum products without which we can’t live today.
Forests provide us many services and products. They supply timber products for our homes and industries, they give us wood pulp and gum and many more invaluable products. But the most important are the ones that we can’t estimate the cost of. They supply oxygen and maintain the level of carbon dioxide for the survival of living beings. The ecological services of forests are not only immeasurable but also irreplaceable. Added to this is the fact that they provide home to more than 80% of the terrestrial living organisms.
Considering this we must conserve forests, but it seems that humans are adamant on doing exactly the opposite. In the last ten years the forest area has shrunk rapidly. Even today it is shrinking at a rate of 35 football pitches per minute! The reasons for this are many and varied. Human activities like over-exploitation, plantations, agriculture and grazing, and infrastructure development in forest land adversely affect forests. Among natural causes forest fire is the biggest reason as they can spread rapidly and are very difficult to control. Other factors include floods, diseases and wind storms.
The consequences of such activities affect not only humans but also other animals. Due to decrease in forest cover animals lose their homes and their interaction with man increases and this creates many problems like man-eating tigers, or the recent event of rampage of elephants in the city of Mysore. The environmental problems related with deforestation are well known.
The increase of problems in daily life and even bigger imminent problems has finally awakened the humans. They slowly started the efforts to reverse the effects of the decades of their negligence. To speed up this process and spread awareness the year 2011 has been declared as the International year of Forests. The Indian government is also making efforts to protect and reclaim the varied forests and their diverse flora and fauna. It is also launching many new programs. The key in India is to work with the local people as they have been living near the forests for many generations and know them very well. The Chipko movement is a case in point.
It is about time that the human race realized that their survival depends on the forests and the started working towards it. So everyone please do your share in protecting your environment and saving your planet as every small gesture goes a long way.
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