Bhagirathi Mohanty

Tragedy Action Others


Bhagirathi Mohanty

Tragedy Action Others

Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven

6 mins

It seemed Juli and her mess mates were flowers of a garland, never parted from each other but bound in a strong endearment. The companions didn't treat Juli like an ordinary damsel; she was above their estimation. They gave up the habit of calling her "Juli madam." Instead, they responded to her with "Ji."

Juli, in contrast, didn't make them obey for personal causes. Day after day, she insisted they work unanimously for the country's sake. She narrated to them, "According to the Wild In Data report, the bereavement of forests from 1999 to 2000 was 38.40 km², and between 2015-20, it increased to 6,684 km². According to the World Food Organization, the loss of forest in India on average is 6,680 km² per year. It is second in the world. Thus, a famous organization, Global Forest Watch, indicates India has lost 23,300 km² of forest between 2000-2023. There are different reasons for deforestation increasing to 101 million hectares to 10,100 km². It is estimated that it's not wildfires that destroy jungles but urbanization on a wide scale, extension of national highways, railways tracks, dams, canals, shifting cultivation, and clearing forests for coffee and rubber. One thing is crystal clear: natural forests and coverage forests are decreasing at an alarming rate. As a result, 51 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted due to huge deforestation."

Juli reacted sorrowfully to deforestation and discussed with her mess mates how they could stop desertification and make people aware of planting trees to increase forest coverage and rainfall. Due to climate change, there is less rainfall. Trees play a significant role in boosting rainfall. She said, "Trees release water vapor into the air in a process called transpiration. They release extra water in the form of vapor from small holes in their leaves known as stomata. That water vapor rises into the atmosphere, forms new rain clouds, and returns to earth as rain. Because of deforestation, there is a 1-2mm reduction per day in rainfall during the end of the monsoon in the Ganga Basin and northeast India. Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is the region with the least rainfall in India. 

The territories receiving less than 20% rainfall are Western Rajasthan, Punjab, Northern Kashmir, and the Deccan Plateau. The towns/cities Bhuj (Gujarat) receive 34% cm; Barmer - 30 cm; Bikaner - 29.2 cm; Ganganagar - 25.9 cm; Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert receives less than 10 cm annually. Ladakh, Jammu, and Kashmir are states nestled in the lap of the majestic Himalayas. Ladakh remains unaffected by the monsoon rains. The Atacama Desert stretches 600 miles between Peru's southern border down to Chile's central Pacific coast, and the whole area is protected by the Andes Mountain and Chilean Coastal mountain ranges. This blockade prevents rain clouds from moving across the area, resulting in very little to no rainfall all year round."

Juli seemed like the only person who thought 'All the world is our family.' She is only 30 but possesses an ocean of wisdom and knowledge. Out of her salary, she purchases books and reads until late at night. She gathers information about the current world and passes it on to her mess mates. 

Expressing her grief, she conveyed, "Over 100 hectares of forest land have been diverted for development work in Delhi over the past 15 years. Government data shows 384.38 hectares, or 3.84 km², of forest land in the capital is under encroachment. The central government approved development work in the capital in the preceding three years under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA). The Forest Department data showed that only a few of the trees transplanted during this period have survived.

The Forest Conservation Act (FCA) of 1980 is a crucial law to conserve forests and biodiversity in India. It requires obtaining prior approval from the central government for any project or activity that involves clearing forest land. The act helps strike a balance between development and the environment by ensuring sustainable forest resources. But it is a cry in the wilderness," she said.

She continued describing the afforestation program or transplanting trees, which is risky and increases with the size of the trees. Transplanted trees have a 50% lower rate of leaf photosynthesis and transplantation, 80% lower root starch content, and 30% higher loss of xylem conductivity than native trees. The best trees to plant to reduce climate change include oak trees, mahogany, acacia, cedar, teak, blue fescue, and bamboo palm. Peepal trees give 100% oxygen. They emit oxygen round the clock and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ensuring clean breathable air around them. Their unique feature of emitting oxygen throughout the day makes them environmentally friendly.

By stabilizing soil, forests minimize erosion and reduce the impairment of water quality due to sedimentation. Woodlands protect water bodies and watercourses by trapping sediments and pollutants from some other upslope land uses and activities. Forests also help maintain nutrient cycling in the soil. They play a key role in protecting the world's water resources and the global water cycle. Much of the world's drinking water comes from forested areas, and millions of people depend on high-quality forest water flowing from forests. Forests absorb water as direct rainfall from the atmosphere and through their roots from the ground. Soil contains myriad organisms such as earthworms, ants, termites, bacteria, and fungi. This soil diversity helps regulate pest and disease occurrence in agriculture and natural ecosystems and can also control and reduce environmental pollution.

Forested watersheds supply 75% of the world's accessible forest water for domestic, agricultural, and ecological needs. They have numerous social benefits ranging from indigenous people's rights to contributions to sustainable livelihoods, rural development, and local employment. Forests contribute to the livelihoods of some 1.6 billion people worldwide, including 60 billion indigenous people who are fully dependent on them. Fuelwood and charcoal are the main sources of energy for an estimated two billion people around the world. Two billion people also rely on traditional medicines from forests for their health. Forest-based activities such as hunting and fishing provide over 20% of household protein requirements. Non-timber forest products such as fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms are important components of the diet in rural areas, especially for poor households during times of food shortage," she said.

All her mess mates had no mood to listen more and got exhausted. 

Yogesh said, "We thank you for your memory. How strange! You talk about environmental-related things so thoroughly, so vividly! We will talk about the rest after lunch. I wish you would clear my doubt in two minutes."

"Yes, you may ask."

"Can all types of trees be transplanted?"

She said, "No. The reason is that some trees have taproots that go deep into the earth. This type of tree is quite difficult to transplant as you need the taproot to keep the tree alive. Other trees are impractical to transplant due to their size. A hundred-year-old ponderosa has shallow roots but is so tall you'd have no way to transplant it. Shorea robusta, or sal tree, is a deciduous tree with a trunk diameter of 50 meters. The sal tree is widely distributed in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. But these invaluable trees are alarmingly passing away and are non-transplantable."

Juli put a full stop to her dialogue as it was too late to prepare lunch. Her mess mates helped her prepare the vegetables to put in the canister so that in an hour, every item was ready for lunch with a special fish item (hilsa).

Sunday went by, then work shift-wise. Juli and Yogesh had the night shift for the full week. When her comrades returned, they talked the whole day about different problems of their family and the country at large. The week ended, and again shift duty changes, month goes by. Time does not wait for anybody.

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