Forest destruction and individual contribution in conservation
No forests, no trees… No water to drink.. Destroyed the shelters, of all the animals. Gone, The aliveness of earth and so are the human….
Scary, is it?
“Forest destruction” and “save the forests” are topics that we often write, talk, see and hear. We do point out to politicians, government officers, lawyers, how things should be, what laws should be there.., etc., but have you ever wonder “what I can do?”.
Some of you may have. But on the other hand due to the negative feeling of “what difference would it make” may have turned you back.
In order to understand this issue better, let’s discuss;
Who is responsible for forest destruction? residents? or outsiders?
I have been to discuss with those people who live inside the lands declared as forests or by the forest margins. The concept was to identify their needs and do justice to both the forest and these people. Initially my feeling was if we provide them with jobs away from forest resources, forests can be saved. Because they do claim forest resources, to make an earning, build their house, to cultivate, obtain food, beverage, medicine,.. etc. Yet, who can trust the greediness of human mind?
I heard stories; from people who reside there since ancestors time, they had a history so they are not ready to leave the properties at any cost. On the other hand, I heard from people who come to these lands just to cultivate, obtain the harvest and abandon the land. Still, to save from officers they plant perennial trees to prove the ownership and permanent residence. From a fisherman who catch one or two fish to earn the daily living. From men who got arrested for cutting a tree to make a door or roof for the house.
I also felt the close bond between these people and the forest. They have traditions bound with the forest. They used its resources in a sustainable way. They took out only what they needed for their living, the rest was left inside the forest, to be recycled. They collected fallen dead branches of trees and made space for new plants to grow. They knew about trees and how to extract medicine without destroying them. They knew the animals, their routines and if they had to hunt, to hunt without affecting the whole population.
But, even these communities are not lack of destructive minds too. Some people grab the forest lands, sell them to outsiders and grab more land. Some would cut acres and acres to cultivate and the trees are sold. Some extract sand to sell, from river banks making the bank unstable. They destroy trees to extract more and more medicines possible, so that they can earn more. Politicians make these people cut massive amount of trees, in the name of development or establishing projects. They extract soil to make bricks in business scale, without permits. They spread fires to aid in hunting and to harvest the newly rising buds of a certain plant. they scrape off all the branches of a certain tree in order to obtain the maximum amount of its fruit.
So what consequences do these people face today? Mainly the human-elephant conflict. Can’t help it because, People entered the lands of elephants, made establishments, made barriers in elephants’ routes. The elephants would anyway peek in. According to the residents, there is another reason; the elephants shifted from other areas where development projects are running, are the most violent type. Scientifically, this can be explained. These poor animals only want to go back to their birth place and on the way they get frightened by the presence of human and attack for self defense. Also, they like fast food. So, if they smell a room filled with rise or flour, they eat it and come there again and again to obtain their food faster! There are solutions came out through various researches, yet not applied in everywhere. Thus, have become one of the biggest threat to the lives of some forest marginal residents today.
Other problems include; threat to cultivation from other wild animals such as wild boar/ peacock/ monkey.., lack of a legal document for the land, lack of water sources for cultivation and domestic needs, lack of jobs and thereby need to earn from forest resources which is a legal offence and thereby get arrested or fined.
So, where has it gone wrong? what have we missed? and how can we make things right?
In a bigger picture, looking at the situation on a third angle, residents of forest vicinity are merely “cat paws”. They only do it. But the real drivers stand outside. There are outsiders who buy these products and encourage them to collect more and more, there are outsiders who make these people spend on alcohol then run out of money sooner and thereby collect forest resources at a higher frequency, there are outsiders who offer good rates for these lands so that they prefer selling them rather than keeping it for themselves for cultivating, there are outsiders that have massive monocultivations inside forest lands while officers turning a blind eye towards them…. there are many such drivers that cause forest destruction through the residents.
Then, what have we missed here? we have obviously missed to care for the needs of these residents, we have missed the fact that they too have the right to live a life with all the facilities and that’s what being used by the outsiders who depend on forest resources.
Officers, never let go of a chance to punish a villager for cutting down a tree for housing need or to make a fence for cultivation land but pay no heed on massive scale extractions. Cannot blame them either, for they are only trying to do their job which is to protect the forest from anyone who violates its boundaries, otherwise there will be no forest remain. Yet, how can we justify this against who have been living in those lands for years, and merely have done any harm on its diversity and have no other place known for them to go?
Individual contribution towards forest conservation
I do believe that rather than going to change the world and change the system, its easier to change the individual habits. So that one day all these individual spirits can change the bigger picture. Then, what can an individual citizen do to protect forests.
- Plant trees as much as possible. Gardening is an interesting subject. Besides, even if you live in a flat you can still have a garden. Hydroponic, indoor gardening, terrariums, bottle planting… etc. there are number of creative ways to plant. For personal benefit and for the benefit of carbon cycle on earth.
- Teach children about forests, their importance and values. That they are lives too, who co-exist with human.
- Make the children care for animals, teach them that human are not superiors, we have to share everything on earth with animals too. In the end, children are the future who run the world.
- Do not encourage the destruction of forest resources by buying products; made with animal skin, rare plants, rare animals.., etc.
- Show your opposing when and where there is a destruction is going on. Inform the authorities, write them. If it’s a massive project, respond to the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports, tell them why you oppose.
- Show some concern. Help forest marginal community to develop a self employment or contribute to those programs in your capacity.