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‘Forests may become wastelands and species wiped out due to changing climatic conditions’

Source: Imphal Free Press

By Babie Shirin

IMPHAL | Dec 31

As per an analysis carried out by Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) under the sponsorship of the ministry of Environment and Forests, about 8 percent of forest grids are projected to undergo changes under the projected climate change scenario with possibilities of shifting forests boundaries. With the change of climatic conditions, there are high possibilities of forest areas becoming wastelands and for certain species to become extinct due to unabilty to cope up with the changing climatic conditions. Giving preference to INCCA analysis, this IFP reporter interacted with chief conservator, Manipur Forest department, Mahindra Pratap who expressed that forest areas have to be conserved as it is not only a biodiversity hotspot but also it serves as a carbon sink to reduce greenhouse gas effects. The forest ecosystem might be vulnerable on account of the altitudinal and latitudinal shift of the species of the forest ecosystem on account of the increased occurrence of forest fire, diseases and invasive species, he said. A forest area is a ‘carbon sink’ that will help in reduction of carbon dioxide in process of photosynthesis, it will reduce greenhouse gas and prevent climate change, he informed adding they act as the main portion of purifying pollution in air. Cutting trees for fuel is a great loss to the forest; burning, cutting trees simply for shifting cultivation is a double loss, he said.  The forest department has rights to conserve only the forest reserve area which is about 1,467 square kilometres out of 8.42 percent of the total forest area, he further informed adding there has been a major portion of unclassified forest area of 11,780 km. sq. (67.63 percent) by State forest report 2009, not controlled by department. It is estimated that about 70,000 families are traditional Jhumias constituting about 80 percent of the total tribal population who earns livelihood by practicing Jhuming cultivation, he further informed. And traditional jhuming cultivation is widespread and it has done excessive exploitation of the forest, he added. Forest degradation and deforestation is one of the main causes of climate change. About 60 percent of the carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere could be due to deforestation. He further stated that the impact of climate change affects the natural ecosystem of the State in different ways. It causes a profound impact on flowering and harvesting, and may result in reduction of yield in reproduction season, he said. As some of species might become extinct, it will disturb the food chain system causing loss of another species, and livestock and animal husbandry will be adversely affected, he added. The impact of climate change does not occur immediately; he further said adding it takes years of experiences to bring it on notice. So, the general public, who have no knowledge about climate change, are not aware of the causes, impacts and consequences, he said. The people should be given awareness on the present trend of temperature, rainfall and humidity. Climate change has become one of the major concerns threatening the sustainability of the world’s environment and human habitability, he said. To spread awareness, Manipur forest department has started process of adaptation and mitigation measures, he informed such as National Mission for Green India (GIM) under the National Action Plan on Climate Change which aims at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover. Responding to climate change, the State government has taken up various missions by adopting a combination system of adaptation and mitigation measures. In Manipur, the areas of dense forest and moderate dense forest have been increased by 179 sq. km. and 546 sq km respectively, in comparison to a 2015 report. FSI reported that the increase of 263 sq. km. forest of the state in 2017 is due to extensive protection, conservation and plantation activities taken up by the forest department and regeneration in shifting cultivation areas, he informed. Moreover, trees outside the forest in the state cover an area of 220 sq. kilometres which is about 0.99 percent of the total geographical area of the state. The total carbon stock forest in the state of Manipur is 143.091 million tonnes which is 524,667 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This comes to 2.02 percent of total forest carbon of the country. There has been an increase in area of water bodies which has been measured to 58 sq. km. in 2015 within the forests of Manipur. This indicates the adoption of better soil moisture conservation strategies by the state forest department, he said. He further informed that the government initiatives on making green land funds under centrally sponsored scheme 2017-18 have been released. Total funds released to forest department is 18.15 crore, he said.  To strengthen the forest protection mechanism in the State, the department adopts multipronged strategies, he informed. It also involves communities in controlling forest fires and preventing illegal felling of forests and on the other hand, the department developed necessary infrastructure under Central and State schemes including the cutting of fire lines, he said.  To strengthen the protection network for forest and streamline the regulatory mechanism for movement of forest produce, a bill was moved by the department and it was tabled and passed in Manipur legislative assembly 2018, which would improve enforcement of forest laws in the State, he added.