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Disappearing Forests of Uttarakhand

By: Aanchal Sharma

Waking up in the morning going for walks seeing trees swaying around with beautiful fresh fragrant air. Air-filled with the essence of all the trees entering our lungs immediately boosting our immunity, giving us a good morning healthy glow.

Our parents tell us how life was more organic and healthy when they lived amid nature. However, today we wake up with honkings of trucks traffic cars and motorbikes and soot in our lungs.

Image Source: News 18

We now don’t breathe oxygen, we breathe nitrogen, carbon monoxide lithium-sulfur dioxide. We are all filled with chemicals and pollutants. Those chirpy birds that once sat on those fragile branches are no longer our visitors. 

But how did it all happen? How did we get so far away from nature?

Some years ago, Dehradun was full of trees of neem, guava, mango trees. If you were living in Dehradun, you didn’t have to buy fruits. Instead, you leisurely pulled one out from any of the branches near you.

There were birds coming down from the Himalayan snow region during spring. Today, the same city holds so many barren complexes on the graves of many fruit trees or home of many beautiful birds. Those bushes cleared away to build flats that lie empty. Those trees all sacrificed for so-called ‘Development’ and at what cost.

Neem, Eucalyptus, etc trees have antiseptic antioxidant antiviral properties.
Earlier, people planted these herbal trees around their villages to protect themselves from viruses and harmful mosquitoes. Some years ago, all Eucalyptus trees were cut down to widen the highway.

Forest land is fast decreasing in Uttarakhand

Not only this, but an Old banyan tree was also chopped, killing 200 stork birds living in it. The tree was chopped to make way for the highway project. Are we that blind?

The sheer madness of making large complexes to get quick money has really devastated our fragile ecology. Building high rises in earthquake sensitive zone. Making roads through the protected forests saves time but this has had a disastrous impact on the wildlife of its region.

Due to encroachments, forest land is fast decreasing. Poachers and Timber smugglers are going unchecked add to that the lackadaisical approach towards the stringent laws governing the forests has led to the decline in overall forest cover of the state.. Where are we heading?

This isn’t it! These statistics and plans will show you how little our authorities think about the importance of forests. Uttarakhand forest diminished with a difference of 778 sq km, leaving the total cover in state to 24,295 sq km. The revised assessment of the 2015 survey has reported 24,272 sq km cover in the state.

Trees chopped down for All Weather Road Project

The work on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, All Weather Road, for connecting four shrines-Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri, began during this period, for which over 80% of nearly 50,000 trees have already been chopped along the route.

Image Source: AP PHOTO/ANUPAM NATH

Under the Rs 12000-crore project, an 889-km road network will be built in eight districts in the state. The Centre has set a deadline of 2019 for completion of the project.

A tunnel, 15 big flyovers, 101 small bridges, 3,596 culverts, and 12 bypass roads will be reconstructed for smooth transit. 29 landslide-prone zones, which pose blockage to traffic movement, will be made secure.

Act smart and take action

When I was visiting Badrinath, I saw so many little boys driving JCBS and digging holes in the mountains. There were no engineers governing them. They were just doing what the ears or local contractors instructed. This means disturbing the very fragile eco Himalayan zones.

We are felling trees chopping forests, for what? For floods to happen again?
For landslides to happen again? We have to act smart and take action.

On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.” That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.”

The only way to stop pollution is to plant trees. Anybody can plant a tree. It is economical and stays for generations to come. You can plant it anywhere. Not only will it provide fresh air but it will give a home to many birds and little animals.

The common dialogue of anybody cutting a tree is “we will plant a new one” but it’s not that simple. It takes 200 years for a tree to grow and a lot of care otherwise it cannot survive even for 2 years let alone 200.

So, it is easy to destruct but difficult to create. Nature has created lungs for our dwellings in the form of forests and trees are our only option for a healthy future for us and the generations to come.

(Aanchal is a dentist by profession. She is a nature lover, currently writing a book on environment. She believes in equal rights for animals and preservation of ecology. Her Instagram and Twitter.)

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

Aanchal Sharma

Aanchal Sharma

Dentist, environmentalist, writer. Editor of a local online news portal, author of comic fictions

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