Tree plantation drives are currently being carried out in many events across the country, like Maharashtra is on an ongoing mission to plant 33 crore trees in the three months of rains from July 1 to September 30. Which in itself is a huge number but comes under the mission to plant 50 crore plus from the following four years. The numbers undoubtedly seem quite pleasing but when it comes to practical effects of such plantation drives they are not so soothing.there have been plantation drives earlier. But they seem to have no effect on the water table or the rains. Marathwada region of Maharashtra fights severe droughts and the borewells are dugged deeper and deeper every year. So the question that arises is, are those numbers as soothing to mother nature as it is to our eyes?? Are they enough to make sufficient or even normal rains??
This subject is more complex to which only planting trees may not necessarily help but waht is needed is planned planting of trees. The relationship between planting forests and water is more complex because, at the local level, catchment studies show that trees actually remove water from the system by transpiring it and making it available to another regions in the form of rains. Hence planting trees in one locality does not necessarily improve the water condition of that locality which creates the need for not just planting trees but planned planting of trees. So, in the above case what Maharashtra is doing to have adequate rains is more like helping other regions of the country or world to get sufficient rains. It is a very difficult task of planting trees in one region and predicting the region where it will affect the rainfall due to wing movements which are not easy to predict or forecast.
Recent studies have shown that the newly appeared greenery in the world post 20th century, is slightly greater than the area of forests lost doing the same period. This, again is not a reason to be satisfied because we should remember that what we lost are full grown forests which help in maintaining the environment, give more oxygen and help in bringing much more rains and what we sow are just saplings which will take years to form forests. India and china together account 1/3rd in this newly appeared greenery. China’s newly green areas constitutes of 42% as new forests and the rest as agricultural land. Whereas the condition in India is still alarming because the new green cover of India is constituted mainly as agricultural land (83%) which in practical will affect negligibly to the improvement of environment and the rains.
In the conclusion, I would say that, justification of clearing old forests should not be allowed by planting saplings instead, this will further deteriorate the present conditions which are severing at a great rate already. We should revise the definition of green cover to measure the newly created green areas and should remove agricultural lands from it because it affects to the environment and rains in a very small proportion. The only way to save the planet and get more rains is to not just plant forests but to stop cutting them, completely.
- Prathamesh Mahajan