Satellite photograph of deforestation in progress in eastern Bolivia. Worldwide, 10 percent of wilderness areas were lost between 1990 and 2015. Source: Wikipedia

Deforestation is the removal of tree or forest cover from a particular land without the intention of reforesting. After the Industrial Revolution the deforestation rate increase to meet the local demands. There are many effects of deforestation, some are (hydrologically, economically, environmentally, biodiversity). But the deforestation in the Amazon forest is the main concern of today.

Causes of Deforestation

The main causes of deforestation or reasons for deforestation are

  1. Clearing of forest land for agriculture

In the beginning, human beings lived in the forests and when they began to take up settled agriculture small gaps were cleared for raising food crops. Gradually as the population grew the demand for land went up and more and more forest areas were cleared for agriculture. This continued unabated for several centuries and the forest cover shrunk drastically.

2. River Valley projects

Hundreds of river valley multipurpose projects have been taken up after the industrial revolution for transportation and other purposes. These projects also to generate electricity, provide water for irrigation and prevent floods. However, in spite of the immense benefits of the projects, they cause deforestation in the following ways :

  • Loss of forest due to submergence under the reservoir
  • Loss of forest land due to construction of approach roads, housing colonies for staff and labor, godowns and other miscellaneous purposes
  • Loss of forest land for rehabilitating people displaced as a result of these projects

The provision of compensatory afforestation has come in for criticism as environmentalists feel that the natural ecosystem lost cannot be created elsewhere particularly with respect to the biological diversity. The major part of rain forest is in the Amazon forest which leads to rainforest deforestation.

3. Settlements

Almost all human settlements of today including towns and cities were once forests. Clearing of forest for human settlements continued till the beginning of this century after which the pace slowed down considerably. However, even in recent times, forests have been cleared for human settlements and industrial complexes without the provision for compensatory afforestation.

4. Roads and rail lines

Road and rail lines are usually laid after clearing forests. This has been a standard practice since earliest times and even today forest land is used for the construction of roads and rail lines. In the hilly areas a fairly large forest area has to be diverted for roads as the forest area is relatively more and besides the actual area for road a much larger area is destroyed as hill road involve cutting of the slopes. Moreover the debris of road construction is thrown in forests lying downhill of the construction site.

5. Electric lines

High powered electric transmission lines are taken over forest area as a result of which all vegetation has to be cleared beneath them. This is another cause of deforestation, particularly in the hills.

6. Other developmental works

Forest area is cleared for other developmental works such as

  • Canal and irrigation channels
  • Fruit belts in the hills
  • Schools and colleges
  • tanks and small reservoirs

Factors favoring the Deforestation of forest land

A number of favor the diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes. These are

a) Easy availability: Forest land is easily and readily available particularly in the period before the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 (INDIA). In cases where non-forest land is selected for developmental works, its acquisition and payment of compensation is a lengthy process. Considerable litigation in courts may be involved and this takes quite some time. This easy availability of Forest land also leads to the deforestation.

On the other hand, forest land belongs to the state which is initiating the developmental project and it is easy to get this land. Use of forest and also keeps down the cost and time required for completion of the project. The procedure involved in the use of forest land is less cumbersome even if the exemption has to be taken under the Forest Conservation.

b) Lack of awareness: There is a general lack amongst planners and the general public about.

  • The importance of forests
  • The role played by then in our economy
  • Need to conserve forests
  • The protective influence of forests
  • Complexity of forest ecosystem, the destruction of which will cause an irreversible loss
  • Role of forests in the everyday lives of the tribals and people living in rural area.

It is this lack and perception that results in forest becoming the easiest land for any purpose be it a river valley project, road or any other developmental scheme.

c) Low productivity: Forests have low productivity in commercial terms. As matter of fact, for long forests were termed as unproductive jungles. The protective functions of forests were realised by planners only a few decades back

d) Lack of economic appreciation: For a long time only the direct economic benefits of forests were taken into account with no emphasis being laid on the indirect economic benefits such as meeting the fuel and fodder needs of the teeming millions and also benefits such as carbon sequestering.

There are many bad impact of deforestation, so we need deforestation solutions earlier before we lost everything.

For more also Read lecture notes on Forest Management


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