Telangana losing forest cover rapidly
The world observes the International Day for Biological Diversity today, commemorating the rich and varied life forms on the earth. The theme for this...
As much as -1.41 per cent net change in forest cover has been reported between 2009 and 2011 in Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuary in Khammam alone which is alarming. Most of the forested tracts of Telangana lie in the Godavari River Basin and this region needs immediate conservation
The world observes the International Day for Biological Diversity today, commemorating the rich and varied life forms on the earth. The theme for this year is ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’, which reflects the larger sentiment perceivable throughout the country and in the rapidly changing diaspora.
At the local level, sustainable development attains even greater importance as each one of us in the new State of Telangana aims for this goal. The United Nations has earmarked the period of 2015-2030 to move towards establishing and attaining sustainable development goals and has emphasised on further integration and maintaining biodiversity in the post–2015 development agenda.
The gravity of the matter concerning biodiversity, factors threatening the very existence of life and the measures needed to mitigate such losses deserves serious thought from the society. As humanity’s fate and existence is tightly linked with biodiversity, we cannot afford to be ignorant or pretend to be so.
Our callousness will not only result in the extinction of numerous life forms directly or indirectly, but also result in destruction of prime habitats, increase pollution levels, poison the air, water and food, which will eventually lead to the fall of human beings into oblivion.
The significance of the diversity of life forms in sustaining humanity has been known since pre-historic times. Since the industrial revolution and advancement in science and technology, this understanding seems to have vaporised resulting in an unprecedented negative change that hsa been overshadowed by the gifts of technological advancement.
We have realised the consequences of this loss about half a century ago and since then efforts are on to strike a harmony between biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Today we need to understand that no progress can be made by humanity by destroying other living organisms. Scientific observations throughout the world have been providing evidence about the distinctive aspect of developmental activities resulting in extinction of species at an unmatched rate.
Why is biodiversity important to humans?
Biodiversity is the variety of life forms living on earth. Traditionally, it encompasses diversity at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. But in general sense it refers to the species richness, that is, the number of species in any given area. The world is home to 8.7 million species among which we, Homo sapiens, are one.
Biodiversity is important to human survival as we depend directly or indirectly on many species. At a larger context biodiversity provides us with ecosystem services without which humanity’s existence will be jeopardised. The services provided by biodiversity can be broadly categorized into a) provisioning services involving production of renewable resources such as food, wood, fresh water; b) regulating services those that lessen environmental change including climate regulation, pest / disease control, etc. and c) cultural services involving human value and enjoyment including landscape aesthetics, cultural heritage, outdoor recreation, spiritual significance, etc.
Threats to biodiversity
Biodiversity is under threat, if the factors that threaten continue to be present in future, many lifeforms will succumb and become extinct. Among the various causes that threaten the biodiversity the major ones are habitat destruction (involving individual or cumulative effects of overconsumption, overpopulation, land use patterns, deforestation,pollution including air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, and global warming or climate change), introduced and invasive alien species (such species are more tolerant to habitat and climate changes and intrinsically able to competitively replace native flora and fauna), genetic pollution (many endemic species are being lost due to natural hybridisation due to introduction of non-native species), and overexploitation resulting from human population growth.
Status of biodiversity in Telangana
By virtue of its geographical position, Telangana is located in the centre of the Deccan plateau in basins of two great rivers in the region. Owing to this it is endowed with a rich and unique species diversity that evolved millions of years ago and has eventually given rise to many new forms that have colonised other parts of India.
Nearly 5,800 species of living forms ranging from bacteria to bison live in Telangana. A majority of the biological diversity of the State is affected by high levels of chemical abuse in agricultural fields. Developmental activities and inorganic agricultural practices are taking their toll and living forms such as fishes, amphibians and other small microorganisms are becoming locally threatened and extinct in many places.
The forested tracts of Telangana, covering about a quarter (25 per cent) of the total geographical area of the State, are the last resort for conserving the rich biological diversity. Alas, these too are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate for agriculture and other developmental activities. Official figures indicate that the forest cover has changed negatively in some of the protected areas.
For example as much as -1.41 per cent net change in forest cover has been reported between 2009 and 2011 in Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuary alone. This is alarming. The forested tracts in the State are in the Godavari River Basin and this region needs immediate conservation attention. Most of Telangana’s biodiversity exists here and we cannot ignore this area. We need to achieve a resonance between biodiversity conservation and development by adopting State-level Sustainable Development Goals as is expected.
Scientific monitoring indicates that the populations of most of the species of animals are declining. These declines left unchecked will eventually lead to permanent loss of the species from a given region. Indian Bison, Adavi Dunna or Jangli Kulga as it is locally known, can be taken as an example to drive in the point. In the 1960’s, this species was reported to be very common in the forests of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts in the Godavari river basin.
Infections caused due to increased interaction with local livestock has decimated its population throughout its range and today it is restricted to small pockets in Kawal, Eturnagaram and Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuaries. It is now high time that every citizen involved puts in their efforts to conserving our rich and diverse biological heritage not only for our pride but also for more pragmatic reasons as ensuring the safety of our species and ecosystems as a whole, and to make Telangana an altogether better place to be.
The author is an expert member of the Telangana State Biodiversity Board. He works for the wildlife biology and taxonomy lab, department of zoology, Osmania University
By:Dr C Srinivasulu