Daily Hot Topic

Topic : Alarming Loss of Trees in Indian Farmlands (2019-2022)

GS-3 Mains : Environment Conservation 

Revision Notes

  • Study Reveals: A recent study by researchers suggests a concerning loss of trees in Indian agricultural lands.

  • Scale of Loss: Nearly 5.8 million full-grown trees disappeared between 2019 and 2022.

  • Agroforestry in India: Traditionally, India has practiced agroforestry, integrating trees into farmlands.

  • Examples of Agroforestry Trees: Mahua, coconut, sangri, neem, babul, shisham, jamun, etc.

  • Benefits of Agroforestry:

    • Carbon Sequestration: Trees act as carbon sinks, mitigating climate change.

    • Improved Crop Yields: Trees provide shade, wind protection, and regulate microclimates, benefiting crops.

    • Reduced Flood Risk: Tree roots absorb excess rainwater, minimizing flooding.

    • Groundwater Recharge: Improved water infiltration helps replenish groundwater.

    • Additional Income: Trees offer fruits, nuts, and medicinal plants for income generation.

Reasons for Loss:

  • Shift to Monoculture: Conversion of diverse agroforestry systems to monoculture agriculture (e.g., paddy fields) leads to removal of large trees.

  • Perceived Low Benefits: Farmers may view the benefits of agroforestry trees as outweighed by maintenance costs or effort. This can lead to deliberate tree removal for convenience or profit.

  • Water Scarcity: In water-limited regions, farmers remove trees to install borewells or irrigation systems for additional water access.

  • Natural Mortality: Tree deaths due to wildfires, fungal infections, insect infestations, and droughts are natural occurrences.

Agroforestry in India:

  • Area Under Agroforestry: Around 8.65% of India’s total land is dedicated to agroforestry.

    • 56% of India is farmland, and 20% is forest.

  • Top States: Uttar Pradesh (1.86 million ha), Maharashtra (1.61 million ha), Rajasthan (1.55 million ha), and Andhra Pradesh (1.17 million ha) have the highest concentrations.

  • Government Initiative: The Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (Har Medh Par Ped) Scheme (2016-17) promotes tree plantation on farmlands to increase income and climate resilience for farmers.

Looking Forward:

  • Importance of Accurate Data: While India’s tree cover has increased, reporting methods only account for gross losses, not separate tree gains.

  • Natural Tree Loss: Some tree loss is natural, and cutting trees can be part of agroforestry management. Not all lost trees relate to climate change or human actions.

  • Shifting Practices: Mature trees in fields might be removed for cultivation of new trees in separate plantations, which may have lower ecological value.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/nearly-6-million-trees-disappeared-from-farmlands-in-three-years-says-satellite-mapping-study/article68187264.ece

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