World celebrates International Day of Forests today

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, and around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter. Forests are home to more than 80 per cent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The International Day of Forests is held annually on 21 March to raise awareness of the importance of forests to people and their vital role in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security. Sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations.

The theme of the 2018 is ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’.

The forest cover of India is assessed as 67.83 million hectares which constitute 20.64 per cent of the country’s geographical area. The Centre has recently released the draft of a new forest policy with the focus on commercial use of forest produce, creating green jobs, encouraging private plantations, watershed development, and mitigating climate change impacts through forestry. The new policy seeks to replace the existing forest policy of 1998 and continues to pursue the target set in 1952 to bring 33 per cent of its geographic area under forest cover.

The recent reports show that the country has registered a marginal increase in recent years in green cover– that includes forest as well as tree cover. Despite the increase, it is still hovering in the range of about 24 per cent, much below the set target. The new policy aims to leverage the direct and indirect economic benefits from forests by encouraging the use of wood and forest-based industries, improving the prospects through promoting ‘green jobs’ and ensuring self-sufficiency in timber production. The new draft policy also paid special attention to the emerging threat of forest fire and gave emphasis on its prevention.