Various human activities such as over cultivation, poor irrigation, unrestricted grazing, deforestation and pollution has led to soil erosion, desertification, water logging and soil salinity and has greatly degraded our natural resources. Salts accumulate in water logged fields and inhibit plant growth. Deforestation refers to the clearing of a forested area for non-forest use like agriculture and construction. The National Forest Policy of India recommends that hills and plains should have a forest cover of 67 and 33 per cent, respectively. Despite this policy, deforestation has continued in India due to exponential population growth and tremendous demand for agricultural land.
The slash-and-burn agriculture, commonly known as Jhum cultivation, has contributed to deforestation. In this type of cultivation, farmers cut trees in the forest, burn the remains and cultivate crops on the ash-enriched soil. After cultivation, they move to another segment of the forest and repeat the process, resulting in loss of the forest cover.
Deforestation leads to increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, loss of biodiversity, disturbs the hydrologic cycle, causes soil erosion and in extreme cases, lead to desertification. Therefore, reforestation, a process of restoring a forest that once existed but cleared in the past, is imperative.
Our country has a long history of people’s courage to conserve forests and sacrifice their lives to save them. The Government of India recently instituted the Amrita Devi Bishnoi Wildlife Protection Award for individuals and communities from rural areas who show extraordinary courage and dedication to protect wildlife. The Chipko Movement was a movement led by women to save trees from being cut by contractors. Such participation of local communities in saving and managing forests made the Government introduce the concept of Joint Forest Management in the 80’s. In return, these communities are allowed benefits like collecting various forest products such as fruits, gum and medicinal plants.