| Participants at the meet. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Oct. 26: Experts from SAARC countries discussed how to tackle degradation and depletion of forest cover at a three-day meet at the Rain Forest Research Institute (RFRI) at Sotai, 14km from here.
In the meeting that concluded on Thursday, experts from six of the eight SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries — India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka — deliberated on Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts and risks to different forest types in South Asia.
The meeting, organised by SAARC Forestry Centre, Bhutan and the RFRI, discussed depletion in forest covert because of population, climate and other factors and the strategy to tackle this.
Sangay Wangchuk, the director of SAARC Forestry Centre, Bhutan, told this correspondent on the sidelines of the meeting that three things were under discussion. “The first are the issues pertaining to climate change in relation to forestry, second what each country is doing — that is the adaptations under way, and third is the way forward.” He said common and individual strategies would be worked out on the basis of factors highlighted by the experts.
Regarding problems faced by Bhutan, Wangchuk said his was one of those rare countries where as a rule 80 per cent of the land was still under forest cover. “We have nearly 80 per cent of our land under forest cover, our population density is low and, therefore, resilience to climate change is very high.”
“Regarding Maldives, the prediction was of rising sea levels, which would adversely affect the smaller islands and depletion of coastal mangrove forests and coconuts. In Nepal, the human population had almost finished off the forest area in the Eighties but after realisation of the disaster they were facing in the last 30 years they successfully revitalised these depleted areas through community forestry management,” he added.
Regarding the Northeast, the institute’s director, N.S. Bisht, presented a talk on Impacts of anthropogenic and climate factors on forest degradation and goods and services in the region.
Bisht said though the forest cover in the region was high — about 70 per cent compared to other parts of the country — the percentage of very dense forest was very less, about 1 per cent in Meghalaya, three per cent in Nagaland and 25 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh.
“The people here are very dependent on forest produce like fuel, fodder, timber, bamboo and medicinal plants, but there is not sufficient produce for all. Population growth has led to depletion of the forests, which has adversely affected underground water recharge,” Bisht said.
He said despite the high rainfall, Aizawl, Kohima and Cherrapunjee were facing shortage of water. “There is more run off of rainwater as trees help in recharge.”
“Bamboo and hollong, once cut, could not grow back as other invasive useless species took over the land compounding the problem. One such example was the growth of wild bananas with large stony seeds which were of no economic use,” he added.
This situation also prevails in Knuckles World Heritage Forests in Sri Lanka.