International Day of Forests: A collaborative effort to help save our forests
Forests play a crucial role in India’s rural economy, with an estimated 350-400 million people depending on them for their livelihoods.
By Ramnath Vaidyanathan
The world is facing a global crisis precipitated by large-scale deforestation and environmental damage. Reckless human activities have aggravated the climate crisis, raising a big question mark over the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that 10 million hectares were cleared each year globally between 2015 and 2020. Closer to home, India lost 132 kha of natural forest in 2020 alone, according to Global Forest Watch, a global platform that monitors forests. and changing patterns.
Forests are linked to almost every aspect of sustainability. Depletion of forest cover accelerates climate change, impacts wildlife, dramatically reduces land quality, leads to increased soil erosion and resulting runoff.
Another sad reality is the loss of forest-related livelihoods due to deforestation. Forests play a crucial role in India’s rural economy, with an estimated 350-400 million people depending on them for their livelihoods. Forest degradation will have a massive impact on forest dependent communities.
be the change
Sustainable forest management and the wise use of natural resources play a crucial role in combating climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conservation of forests and the sustainable production and consumption of forest products is the theme of this year’s International Day of Forests. The day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of forests and urges countries to undertake efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees.
Sustainable management requires concerted action by government, business and individuals. While state and central governments can create and enforce strict regulations to protect and conserve forests, individuals need to be more aware and vigilant, and make informed consumer choices to save forests.
The role of business is also essential. Indian companies need to take a multi-pronged approach to reducing their impact on forests, and it all starts with making forest-related disclosures to the Carbon Disclosure Project and establishing a baseline.
Organizations must work together to minimize their impact on the forest value chain and ensure traceability. According to a study by the MIT Sloan School of Management, consumers may be willing to pay 2-10% more for products from companies that have greater supply chain transparency. Although this may be difficult since many forest products are traded internationally, companies could ensure greater transparency and work closely together to ensure judicious use of raw materials.
Finding alternatives can also help minimize the impact on forests. Several companies limit their use of natural cotton and silk, instead using recycled fibers in their fabrics. Alcis Sports, for example, offers clothing made from recycled PET plastic bottles. Another method could be to create artificial forests to source raw materials, in addition to using them as carbon sinks.
Establishing the baseline of flora and fauna populations and monitoring them over time will help organizations assess the impact of their operations. Several organizations already have afforestation programs as part of their CSR initiatives.
ITC’s reforestation program, which has helped extend green coverage to more than 926,600 acres, is a shining example. The conglomerate helps farmers convert their unproductive land into profitable pulpwood plantations, using specially bred clonal saplings to grow in harsh conditions.
Similarly, over the years, Tata Power has planted over 100 million saplings of native and endemic forest species found in the Western Ghats in the catchments of its hydropower projects at Maval and Mulshi in Maharashtra.
Mahindra Group’s award-winning Project Hariyali initiative has also seen nearly 18 million trees planted since its launch in 2007. Science-based tree planting practices have ensured an impressive 96% survival rate of trees planted.
As a responsible company with a commitment to communities embedded in its DNA, Godrej maintains one of the largest private mangrove forests in Maharashtra, which acts as a carbon sink, provides a natural flood barrier for Mumbai and protects several native species of flora and fauna. The Group’s watershed projects in drought-prone areas across four states have also had an interesting ripple effect. The increased availability of water has not only improved farmers’ livelihoods, but has also regenerated the natural ecosystems in these areas.
Much is done; much more is possible. But through it all, the focus must remain on preventing the degradation of our existing forest ecosystems. These limited resources have evolved over millions of years and are irreplaceable.
As the world continues to face unprecedented challenges, forests are at the forefront of crises. So it’s up to us, companies and individuals, to make a collective effort to act against deforestation and ensure sustainable production and consumption.
(The author is responsible for environmental sustainability at Godrej Group. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)