DEHRADUN: Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary, ministry of environment and forests, said at the inauguration of the 19th Commonwealth forestry conference that began at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, on Monday, that India’s forest cover has improved in comparison to the world average. “The world over, average per capita forest cover has declined from 0.8 ha to 0.6 ha per person but in India, a net increase of 1.82% forest cover has been registered in the past 30 years,” Jha said.
He pointed out that the country had 24% forest cover with 7 billion tonnes of carbon sink — a natural reservoir that absorbs carbon and helps counter the effects of global warming. “We have to add 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes to the carbon sink by 2030. This will be done by planting trees outside the forests near highways or in agro-forestry sector,” the secretary said. Former director general of forests SS Negi who was also present at the conference, said that the target of increasing the sink would be met by growing 100 crore trees over a period of ten years. “Around 1000 trees would be planted on one hectare outside the forests,” he said.
“Protection of forests is important for reducing disaster risk and greenhouse emissions. Governments, the private sector, local authorities, NGOs, and indigenous people — all need to work for it. Recent research has shown that the cash and non-cash incomes of the rural poor depend to a very high degree on what the forestry and environmental professionals now call the ‘ecosystem services’ provided by varied forests. Protecting forests, therefore, not only makes sense for reducing disaster risk and greenhouse emissions; it also makes pro-poor sense,” the governor said.
Addressing the gathering, John Innes, chairman, standing committee on commonwealth forestry reminisced that the conference had come back to India after almost 50 years. “It is a matter of coincidence that the forestry sector was changing at that point of time then and is again on the verge of change, given the challenges of climate change and meeting the sustainable developmental agenda.”