Depletion of forests has been a serious environmental problem in India, specially in rural India. When dense forests become less dense or open due to gradual loss of trees, it is called degradation of forests. When dense or closed forest in cleared and converted into land without three cover, the process is called deforestation. In other words, deforestation means clear cutting of forest. Various human activities have caused deforestation and degradation of forests.
Causes of Deforestation and Degradation.
Various causes responsible for deforestation and depletion of forests are associated with human activities we can list them as follows :-
Population growth: Increasing number of people is creating increasing demand for forest products. The demand for timber of furniture and construction industries, wood pulp for paper industry, medicinal plants for pharmaceutical industry are increasing. Further forests are being converted into agricultural lands and lands for human habitation. It is because growing human population demands more food and area for dwelling.
India has the largest cattle population in the world. Significant of this cattle population depends on forests for fodder. Small cattle like goat and sheep do considerable damaged to trees while grazing in forests and on pasture land.
Demand for fuel wood: Rural households living near forests collect fuel wood either for domestic use or for selling in the market for income. Trees failed for fuel would cause loss of forest cover. Fuel wood sold in urban markets is a chief cause of urban air pollution because urban poor of low income who cannot buy LPG or Kerosene use them in chullas.
Rural unemployment and poverty:
With the growing number of poor households in rural areas, specially tribal areas, who live off the forests for self-consumption and income, the forests have been over exploited. Various forest products such as fuel wood, timber, tender leaves, wax, honey, medicinal plants are collected and sold in the market for income by the rural poor.
Effects of Degradation:
There are numerous effects of degradation of forests. They bring about climatic changes and mostly affect the agricultural sector. Some of the effects of degradation are as follows:—
Erosion of soil:
The loss of forest cover causes soil erosion in the hills and mountains. As roots of trees hold soil in high attitude areas, with the felling of trees, soil gets loose. Wind and water erode fertile soil. Stone and builders become loose causing land and mud slides in hilly mountainous areas during the rainy season.
The loss of forest cover is responsible for global warming. Certain gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides that trap solar heat have accumulated in the atmosphere, causing rise in atmospheric temperature. The rise in atmospheric temperature melted polar ice causing rise in the level of water in seas and oceans. The rise in the sea cause flood in many areas. Had there been forest cover, the trees would have absorbed such gases.
Loss of bio-diversity:
A forest is a place where we find various plants and animals. It is a store of genetic resources various plants and animals. It is a store of genetic resources. Various forms of life become extinct with the loss of forests. The loss of variety in plants and animals in the loss of bio-diversity. The loss of genetic resources harms nature and subsequently us.
Loss of moisture in soil:
Dense forest attracts a lot of rainfall. Rain increases the moisture content of the soil and replenishes the stock of ground water. But without rainfall the water content of the soil is reduced substantially. In the hilly areas with no forest cover most of the rain water flows down as runoff because of the slope and less of it goes into the soil. Flowing water causes soil erosion and the soil looses moisture. Scarcity of water-is a severe problem in the hills where forest cover has been lost.
Now we know that forests are vital in our life. It is our foremost obligation to protect them from degradation and destruction caused by human economic and implementing activities. Though education and publicity, afforestation, use of alternative source such as LPG in rural areas instead of wood etc. shall definitely improve the situation.