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MAR 2020  
Feature
21st Century: The Age of Deforestation?

Amazon

The world’s largest tropical rainforest, Amazon is renowned across the globe for its biodiversity. Considered the ‘Lungs of the Planet’ because it produces over 20% of the world’s oxygen, today, it is under threat. Danger looms large over this tropical rainforest because of deforestation that can be mostly attributed to agriculture as well as cattle ranching. This famous forest, a huge reservoir of carbon, is dying a slow death and turning into a dry forest. Needless to say, this will have wide-ranging implications as far as climate change is concerned. Apart from impacting the pattern of rainfall experienced in South America, this will exert extreme pressure on wildlife found in this part of the forest. Making matters worse is the fact that forest fires that have had damaging effects in the past, have increased massively by 80% since 2018. These forest fires that were initially started to clear lands for agriculture and cattle rearing have become a recurring phenomenon since the 1970s. The forest cover lost in flames will take at least two decades to regenerate. It is about time that we understand the gravity of the situation and make collective efforts to combat environmental degradation in this region, which is a lifeline in our ecology.

Peru

Environmentally, Peru holds a very significant position on the world map. With more than half the country being a forest, it boasts of being the tenth most forested country globally! The thick green cover also makes it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Forests, biodiversity, and the rivers hold a very important role in the lives and livelihoods of Peruvians. These forests have carbon storage capacity. The treasure trove, however, is under threat because of illegal deforestation. The fragile ecosystem is affected by activities such as agriculture, commercial mining, and road construction. Illegal logging has become a prevalent feature that has left the world aghast. The loss of tree cover means, it is the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Peru. The growing environmental threats are also affecting the country’s vibrant wildlife. They remain mute spectators to this sorry state of affairs. 

Brazil

Home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest country, Brazil’s ecology has been affected by increased forest loss. In the past, Brazil had made headlines for its conservation policies and efforts to fight climate change. However, the new government that came into power introduced laws and measures that retreated from protecting the world’s largest rainforest. In 2019, Brazil was in news for all the wrong reasons. Data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research revealed that deforestation increased by 88% in June 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. For economic development, areas that were earmarked for protection were flung open for commercial activities such as mining. Many of these lands were even converted to agricultural lands and cattle ranches. Environmental laws that had been enforced to protect the forest are being relaxed. The rainforest has also become an epicentre of violence with many environmentalists being killed during the year. The indigenous communities have been putting up a brave front to defend their tribal land rights. At the same time, environmentalists have voiced their views without reservations.

The government’s stance has earned the ire of eight former environmental ministers who have severely criticized the anti-environment policies. Internationally, the incumbent government’s decision to remove protected area status for more than 1 million hectare land has been criticized. The European Union, Norway and Germany, in particular, have called for strong actions and threatened to stop millions of dollars given as conservation funds for Amazon. With forest fires spiking, scientists fear that deforestation could reach a point of no return. On 20 August 2019, the city of Sao Paulo witnessed a daytime blackout because of forest fires which prompted many to voice their concerns on social media. Platforms like Twitter were inundated with #PrayforAmazonia as shocking images of forest fires were circulated on the Internet. Almost 3 lakh people retweeted the hashtag. Despite all such protests, Brazilian forests are dying a quick death. As deforestation surges, indigenous people are increasingly living in the constant fear of displacement.

Indonesia

Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world, and therefore, farmers have been constantly clearing vast areas of jungle for agricultural use. The raging fires in the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo have created toxic smog blankets even in neighbouring countries of Singapore and Malaysia. Deforestation of these rainforests is also causing habitat loss. Orangutans, Sumatran elephants, and tigers are endangered species and these fires are putting even greater risks on these animals. Studies have found that forest fires have resulted in lack of food for the orangutans, causing them to starve. The smoke emanated from the fires also has an adverse impact on their immune system. Reduced food availability is affecting  the reproduction cycle of female orangutans. 

As per a statement by the United Nations, forest fires have put the lives of 10 million children under life-threatening conditions. During the fire season, airports and schools were shut down. People were forced to seek medical treatment and they wore masks to protect themselves. The Air Pollutants Index has sounded a cautionary note for the island country that is yet to pay heed to the wake-up call and act proactively.

Australia

The Australian catastrophe needs no introduction. Many lives were engulfed because of the recent wildfires in the country (including those of firefighters). Towns have been swallowed by the burning flames and many have been left without a roof over their heads. The wildfires have also had far-reaching implications on habitat. Though it is hard to put a finger on the number of wildlife that has been engulfed because of this disaster, estimates suggest that it could well exceed 1 billion! Of them all, koalas have been the worst hit with most of them deprived of their habitat. It is said that many species could well be on the verge of extinction if the situation continues to be this severe.

As far as the environment is concerned, the bushfires have pushed the carbon dioxide levels to a new high (if you’re looking for a number, it is over 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide) that is beyond imagination. Thus far, the situation has only been swinging from one extremity to another and if reports are anything to go by, the worst is yet to come.

As Australia lives through the nightmare, the world helplessly looks on, reflecting on what the future holds for it.

A Hopeful Future

Amidst the gloomy tales of deforestation, there are heart-warming stories of forest resurgence that ignite humankind’s hope for a better future. Though a handful, these stories of triumph are inspiring testimonies of human will and determination.

India

While major forests of the world suffered in agony in 2019, India celebrated its contributions to the environment by increasing their green cover. The country had managed to expand the green cover by 5199 km2 (the size of Delhi and Goa in conjunction) in just a span of 2 years (beginning 2017). The carbon stock of India also witnessed a spurt of more than 40 million tonnes. The mangrove cover in the country too saw a rapid rise since it increased by 54 km2. The Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala reported the highest increase in green cover in descending order. The Northeast, however, lagged behind as most of the states reported a decline in forest cover. This, however, did not hold true for Tripura and Assam. The Environment Minister has attributed this steep rise in the forest cover to various factors, such as tireless efforts towards conservation, afforestation, and various government policies both at the state and at the national levels. The Paris Agreement and the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana proved to be instrumental steps towards this direction.

Nepal

Not many know that the forest cover in Nepal has experienced a stupendous growth, which can set a precedent for other countries. From just a little over 25% in 1992, the forest cover in the country jumped to 45% in 2016.

The success story of Nepal, it is believed, has been scripted by enthusiastic local communities. Forestry initiatives led by the communities resulted in a decline in illegal loggings. The villagers took it upon themselves to increase the forest cover and, thus, spearheaded various tree plantation campaigns, the outcome of which is there for all to see. The credit also goes to the government in power in 1950 that passed on the responsibility of conserving the region’s forest wealth on the able shoulders of local communities.  

On the occasion of ‘World Forest Day’, it is hoped that readers will give serious thought and take critical actions to deal with the current forest crisis in order to envision a greener and better world.

Namrata Gulati Sapra is a passionate freelance writer whose interest lies particularly in art, literature, environment, and spirituality. She also enjoys writing about the Indian Army.

   
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Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013


The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at
http://www.csptoday.com/india/awards-index.php or by e-mail to [email protected]

Contact:
Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]