Forests play a big role to maintain water cycle, provide living space for animals, maintain environmental balance and prevent soil erosion. Without forests, it is not possible to have rains or breathe in pure air for us. But due to explosive growth rate of human population, the need for more land for living and farming purposes is increasing. That is why; forests are being continuously cut for wood, fuel, farming, home and comfort. People are turning the forest into plotted land to build cities.
Forests are very important for the existence of humanity but without taking steps toward rejuvenating them and planting new trees, human beings are destroying existing forests. Deforestation is happening on a faster rate than reforestation, that is, tree plantation is not happening at the speed at which the forests are being cut. If deforestation continues like this, the summer season will become harsher; there will be dry weather all around the year, apart from increase in floods, landslides and storms, etc. By causing negative changes to the environment, deforestation is already affecting human life at a large scale. Thus our little planet called Earth is fast moving towards a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
Major Causes and Reasons for deforestation
There are various reasons for deforestation, some of which are mentioned below:
- Agricultural expansion
A combination of forces is responsible for deforestation and the biggest among them is agricultural expansion. Forests are being cleared on an alarming rate due to rising global demand of food grain and the commodities like soybeans and palm oil. Since the beginning of agriculture, there has been a mass reduction in the forests worldwide for agricultural expansion. As per an estimate, over 40% of the forests have already been cleaned worldwide to obtain land to meet the demands for agriculture and wood. Agricultural expansion has left the world much devoid of its original forests.
Forest areas are eliminated for raising commercial crops such as plantation for palm oil. In simple terms, deforestation takes place because forest land is not financially viable.
Due to this trend, there has been widespread destruction of Savannah grasslands as the Savannah vegetation has been cleaned and the wide area has been converted into agricultural land. The grasslands and trees of temperate tropical regions (e.g. the prairies of North America, and the steppes of Russia) have been cleaned.
Forests have been cleared on a large scale and converted into gardens, agricultural lands. Likewise, forest areas have been destroyed in a big way to expand the agricultural land to eradicate the hunger of the rapidly growing population in the monsoon areas of south and south-east Asia.
- Increasing Urbanization and Industrialization
For the purpose of development work the cutting of trees has been going on for years. Increased urbanization is one of the major causes of deforestation. To meet residential and industrial requirements, such as for the development of housing on a mass scale besides, construction of roads, mineral exploitation and industrial expansion, forests are being cleared on a large scale.
The road expansions also leads to illegal logging, where the people take benefits of doubt and slash down trees without obtaining permission from authorities.
- Growth in Population
Deforestation is taking place at a faster rate to cater to explosive growth in population. Due to rapid increase in human population in developing countries, it has become necessary that the vast areas of forests should be cleaned and farmed so that the needs of the growing population can be met. Demand for timber is increasing day by day. As a result, there is a steady increase in tree cutting. Equatorial mangrove forests are being eliminated by 20 million hectares annually.
More and more collection of wood for fodder and burning wood by the rural masses in developing and undeveloped countries also leads to depletion of forests.
- Diverse Human Needs
Tree and forests have been burnt or cut for centuries to meet various human needs: to obtain wood for fuel, to build houses, boats, match boxes, furniture etc and the requirement of wood for use in many works.
Since the beginning of this century, deforestation has occurred at such a fast pace that many environmental problems have arisen. The greedy man has forgotten that the vast destruction of forests would endanger his own existence.
- Livestock Ranching and Logging
Forests in major parts of the world have already been cleared for livestock ranching, or cattle farming. Cattle ranchers have burned huge tracts of rainforests converting them into pastures for the cattle. They clear vast swaths of forest lands for cattle grazing. Later when the land prices increase, they sell the land and make profit. This kind of deforestation is very common in developing countries.
Forests have decayed due to grazing of animals in the normal density forests of hot and subtropical and dry and semi-arid regions. It is known that in the developing and undeveloped countries of these areas, milch animals feed on bushes, and plants, scattered on the ground and in open forests. They also trample upon the land with their hooves so that plants do not bloom there. In most countries, large herds of sheep have completely wiped out the grass.
Logging is another major driver of deforestation. Some greedy people are indulging in activities leading to deforestation to earn money from wood. Illegal logging operations which are very common in developing countries also destroy the livelihood of the people who depend on forests.
- Changes of Forests into Pastures
Forests have been converted into pastures for livestock for widespread expansion and development of dairy farming in temperate regions of the world, particularly in North and South America and Africa.
- Multipurpose River-Valley Projects
During the implementation of multipurpose river valley projects, vast forest areas are lost, because in the large reservoirs built behind the dams, the extensive area covered with forest is submerged in water, due to which not only the natural forest wealth but the ecological balance of that area is also disturbed.
- Jhum (Shifting) Cultivation
Jhum Agriculture is one of the major reasons for the decay and destruction of forests in the mountainous areas of southern and south-eastern Asia. Under this practice of agriculture, the land is cleaned by burning forests on hillsides. When the productivity of that land decreases, farmers shift to another place, burning the jungle again.
- Mining Operations
The people are cutting forests for oil and coal mining operations as well. Large-scale mining operations, result into major deforestation through clearing of forests. The construction of roads into the forests for such purposes is also responsible for deforestation.
- Paper Production
Paper is made from pulp of trees. Rising consumption of paper and cutting down trees for manufacturing paper throughout the world has already attracted major attention of the environmentalists. In the past four decades, the use of paper has gone up by 400%. It takes twelve to seventeen full-grown trees to make one ton of good quality paper.
- For Fuel
Extensive deforestation takes place due to requirement of wood for fuel.
- Due to Corruption
Forest contractors and forest mafia resort to massive cutting of forests for their ulterior motives. To earn more money, they do large-scale cutting of trees and smuggle the wood.
- Lack of Awareness
Deforestation takes place as people, by and large, lack adequate knowledge about the need to conserve forests.
Natural Causes of Deforestation are global warming, landslides, earthquakes, hail, strong winds, hurricanes, lighting etc also lead to loss of forest cover, apart from fires that erupt in the forests.
Forests are very essential for the existence of life on the earth. They play a vital role in maintaining the water cycle by providing rain. Still, their existence is in danger due to increasing human greed. Deforestation has emerged as a major environmental and social issue which has assumed the shape of a powerful monster. Creating ecological and environmental imbalances, deforestation makes human life miserable. The growing rate of deforestation in itself is a warning for saving the existence of life on Earth. Conservation of forests is important for fresh and healthy supply of oxygen as well as to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment.
Above, we have studied the reasons and causes of deforestation; all-out efforts must be made to find a solution of this growing problem. To live and enjoy a healthy and peaceful life in a pollution-free, healthy environment, the forests are extremely important for us as well as for our future generations. To preserve life and to protect the natural cycle of the environment, besides the protection of animal sanctuaries, we have to prevent deforestation as well as plant the trees on a mass scale.
To stop or check deforestation, we all will have to make combined efforts. We should not ruin the paper and avoid unnecessary use of paper kitchen towels, mouth cleaning tissues etc. Similarly, to reduce the need for tree cutting, we should think about paper recycling. It is in our own hands to save the forests and trees and even such small steps can greatly help in curbing deforestation.