Monday, November 28, 2022

Disappearing forest cover exposes NE to erratic climate shifts

While the effects of climate change are far-reaching across the world, Indias northeast region comprising eight states, would also bear the brunt in the near future despite 65 per cent of the regions 2,62,179 sq km geographical area being under forest cover, experts said.
However, according to India State of Forest Report 2021 (ISFR 2021), the forest cover in the 140 hill districts of the country has shown a decrease of 902 sq km (0.32 per cent) with all eight states of the northeast region also showing a decline.
Experts predict that besides the gradual decline of the forest cover, urbanisation, increasing pollution in the urban areas of the northeast, reducing water bodies and various other factors along with the worldwide climate change would not spare the picturesque region.
They said that the climate of the mountainous northeast region of India is changing with the rainfall patterns over the region in the last century being considerably altered, resulting in its overall drying up.
Various official and unofficial studies revealed that between 2001 and 2021, the northeast region witnessed the highest loss of forest cover.
As per the Climate Vulnerability Assessment in 2018, among the eight northeastern states, Assam and Mizoram have been identified as the states most vulnerable to climate change.
Tripura based Centre for Aquatic Research and Environment Secretary and environment expert Apurba Kumar Dey said that as the effects of climate change are sweeping and multifarious, the government and all other stakeholders in close association with the people must jointly come forward to address the situation.
“Tribals, poor and vulnerable people, farmers are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. From rice to tea, farming across the board has been affected by variations in temperature and rainfall, causing distress to the concerned people directly and the others indirectly,” Dey told IANS.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research principal secretary Dr Sankar Prasad Das said that extreme events of climate change including excessive rainfall, frequent floods, increase in the number of dry days and rainless days, repeated cyclones and hailstorms in a short period are more challenging and disastrous.
“Though overall rainfall pattern in the region has not yet changed much, the distribution of rainfall has changed in the region. For some of the effects of climate change including rising temperatures, science and scientific arrangements are ready to tackle the situation for the next many years, but for the extreme events of climate change, we are not prepared,” Das told IANS.
He said that there are many crop varieties developed to sustain the rising temperatures and floods in a limited sphere.
Das said that in India only 50 per cent cultivable land is under irrigation while 35 to 40 per cent cultivable land in the northeastern region is irrigated.
“Despite numerous challenges and problems, India last year exported 22 million tons of rice while the country has 316 million tons of excess foodgrain production,” the scientist said.
Head of northeast India’s biodiversity conservation organisation ‘Aaranyak’’s Water, Climate and Hazard Division Dr Partha Jyoti Das said that the Bharalu, Mora Bharalu, Basistha, Bahini, Pamohi, Khanajan, Kalmoni, and Bondajan are some of the prominent rivers and streams that drain the cityscape.
The Deepor Beel, Borsola, Sarusola and Silsako are the main wetlands that act as storm water reservoirs of Guwahati city.
“It is noteworthy that several of these water bodies are hydrologically connected to each other meaning they carry and contribute water to one another. In the case of some wetlands, the inter-connecting channels have disappeared due to unpragmatic construction and land development.
“Rapid urban growth and development accompanied by a significant rise in population has dramatically transformed Guwahati’s landscape, environment, natural resources, demography, and society in the last 50 years,” Jyoti Das said.
He said the unplanned growth of the city, both horizontally and vertically, has put tremendous pressure on its natural resources and environment, witnessed in widespread encroachments and human occupation of the fragile hill slopes, reserved forests and decimation of water bodies.
“The increasing environmental degradation of Guwahati city has led to the slow and steady death of many of its rivers, streams, wetlands, and natural storm water reservoirs.
“The urban water bodies of the city are facing grave threats from pollution, ecological degradation, and physical decimation,” Jyoti Das stated.
The forest cover in the hill districts of the northeastern region has shown a decrease, as per the ISFR 2021 report.
Arunachal Pradesh, that has 16 hill districts, has shown a loss of 257 sq km forest cover compared to the 2019 assessment followed by Assam’s three hill districts (- 107 sq km), Manipur’s nine hill districts (- 249 sq kms), Mizoram’s eight hill districts (- 186 sq km), Meghalaya’s seven hill districts (- 73 km), Nagaland’s 11 districts (- 235 sq km), Sikkim’s four districts (- 1 sq km), and Tripura’s four districts
(- 4 sq kms).
Sujit Chakraborty, IANS

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