Eco Restoration and Climate Change in J&K

The transition to a low carbon economy is the most significant investment opportunity of our lifetimes

UN General Assembly has proclaimed this decade, 2021-2030, as the Decade of Ecosystem restoration where in countries have to restore 350 Million hectares of the world landmass and was adopted in Bonn, Germany and is called the BONN challenge. The clock has been switched back by UN so that the young generation make peace with Nature. Now the next is understanding Nature and there by the Ecosystem and then its restoration which can be rehabilitation of our degraded ecosystem and will involve conservation also. This restoration is comparable to green economy recovery which is a huge initiative worldwide - “Ecosystem collapse is Economic collapse.”

How recovery will happen which will lead to restoration. It internally means that we have to remove pressure on our ecosystem and sometimes Nature can recover on its own or apply corrective measures. We must take deliberate steps to move from crisis to healing, and in so doing, we must recognize that the restoration of nature is imperative to the survival of our planet and the human race.

The restoration will enhance the economic condition of the people, livelihood issues, will reverse the climate change and stop the biodiversity collapse. Ecosystem loss has contributed to Global GHG emissions which have risen for three consecutive years. Ecosystem Restoration Fund, if launched will support nature-based solutions to climate change and facilitate the transition towards environmentally resilient, ecologically targeted initiatives covering afforestation and biodiversity conservation and reviving natural carbon sinks; all this could help close the climate emissions gap by 25% by 2030. Replanting with native tree species can also help buffer some of the expected devastating effects of a warming planet likes increased risk of forest fires.

The COVID-19 is a grim reminder of animal and man interaction making conditions ideal for pathogens to spread. This decade coincides with the deadline for the SDGs and the timeline experts have identified as the last chance to prevent a climate change catastrophe. Ecosystem conservation will help in long term prosperity so that ecosystem services such as pollination, flood protection and CO2 sequestration is ensured as the nature should have capacity to do so. The World Economic Forum in its 2020 Risk Report has identified 5 top global risks which are all environmental and include biodiversity loss also. Ecosystem which if destabilised will result in drought, disease, famine, migration which people need to understand. We have to change our consumption methods and production methods.

The transition to shift to a low carbon economy is the most significant investment opportunity of our lifetimes. When anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specified period. Climate neutrality is a state in which human activities result in no net effect on the climate system. Achieving such a state would require balancing of residual emissions with emission (carbon dioxide) removal as well as accounting for regional or local bio geophysical effects of human activities. It’s important to note that biodiversity preservation can go hand in hand with effective climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Financial services companies can also help by incorporating biodiversity into wider financial strategies and by setting biodiversity disclosure, reporting and loss targets – particularly for priority industries that either depend on functioning biodiversity or whose activities significantly affect it. They range from agriculture & food to clothing and from distribution to mining & exploration.To achieve restoration at the required scale, incentives and financial investments must be made in changing the way lands and water bodies are exploited, in research and education.Development, climate change, invasive species, unsustainable forestry practices, diseases and insects, all of these factors and more, endanger the forests that we rely on for so much.

The variety and severity of the threats to our forests means that simply planting trees for sheer numbers is not enough. We have to develop detailed restoration plans that take every factor into account - from the needs of local wildlife to the changing climate in the region.

Forests occupy 22539 sq kms,10.14 % of the geographic area. I do not know whether Forest Deptt has done an exercise to identify J&K's forest position, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves etc. But the estimate of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir had 4 National Parks, 15 Wildlife Sanctuaries and 34 Conservation Reserves, spread across an area of 11,774.50 sq. km. Champion & Seth identified 38 forest types belonging to eight forest type groups, viz. Tropical Dry Deciduous, Subtropical Pine, Subtropical, Dry Evergreen, Himalayan Moist Temperate, Himalayan Dry Temperate and Sub Alpine Scrub.

The “greening” in the context of climate change aims at a combination of adaptation and mitigation on measures, which helps in:

• Enhancing carbon sinks in sustainably managed forests and other ecosystems.

• Adaptation of vulnerable species/ ecosystems to the changing climate.

• Inculcating resilience in the existing forests by various silviculture and forest management intervention.

The Jammu and Kashmir has rich diverse forest resources that plays an important role to preserve the fragile ecosystem and serves as catchments for Himalayan Rivers. A healthy forest cover is essential for long term operation of hydroelectric projects. Forest also provides some environmental services like carbon sequestration, pollution abatement, and amelioration of climate, in-situ conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological species have been replaced by un-palatable species..

Human encroachments into biologically rich forest areas have increased alarmingly, resulting in loss of forest cover and honeycombing of forests. Encroachments into water bodies like lakes are common and have reduced the expanse of lake bed. Anthropogenic pressure on forest areas: Both protected and unprotected forest areas and grazing lands are under tremendous biotic pressure for timber and firewood extraction/ collection. Indiscriminate collection of many native species having commercial value or medicinal importance continues despite protection under various laws.

Ecological restoration helps in recovery of degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystem. The State government wants to take ecological restoration activity particularly in terms of afforestation to respond to climate change. These activities would help influence the carbon budget in a positive way. The eco-restoration plan for climate change mitigation requires following important areas to be incorporated:.

Capacity building and awareness for all levels of stakeholders

Gene bank development for climate adaptable species

Eco-restoration through afforestation and Climate oriented eco-restoration plan

Phenological studies of Forestry, & Flora/Fauna

Study on per capita fuel wood consumption and alternative livelihood .

Study on soil organic carbon of forest area and impact on wildlife.

Repeated extortion and exploitation of ecology has hit back in the form of disasters in India like the recent cyclones like tauktae, Yass and Uttarakhand tragedy. The environmentalists have mulled ruthless human activities responsible for these kinds of natural repercussions taking a toll on human lives, ecosystem, biodiversity and infrastructure of a region. Jammu and Kashmir, being a rugged unstable hilly terrain is also vulnerable to such repercussions. In Jammu and Kashmir, it is observed that the reasons responsible for such disasters are pretty rampant. Influx of tourists and invasive migratory species are challenges. In J&K, the major causes for increased vulnerabilities are:

unplanned construction,

vulnerable socio economic profile,

over and unplanned exploitation of natural resource (e.g. Dal Lake/waterbodies/wetlands or deforestation),

unplanned urban growth,

conflicts, insufficient institutional capacities and higher climate variability and change.

Sustainable development practice that aims at a balanced growth can arrest this regressive trend. We need to strike a balance between addressing the issues detrimental to the ecosystem while enhancing the activities for economic prosperity like tourism, infrastructure building, etc. It develops management measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan glacier and mountain eco-system.

Himalayas, being the source of key perennial rivers. Glacial covers are important indicators of climate change. The glaciers in the Himalayan region have lost ice mass due to melting which has increased the volume of river flow. There are 32,392 glaciers in the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins. These glaciers are important sources of freshwater for northern Indian rivers and water reservoirs. The flow of the rivers in the Himalayan region largely depends on the glaciers.

The glaciers which are pulled towards the earth surface due to the huge mass moves down the mountain slope accumulating debris and rocks on its way. While moving towards south, the gradual rise in temperature causes it to break into pieces. These pieces melt and flow into the river system. The mass of the glaciers vary in a periodical cycle in accordance to the river cycles. The rate of glacial melting is less in monsoon when the rivers carry enough water and rises before and after the monsoon to feed the rivers. Therefore depleting glacial cover would result in scarcity of water through drop in water levels in the major rivers. Millions of people and the biological diversity rely on glacier-fed, Himalayan water sources for their survival. Glaciers usually exhibit properties of mirror and hence reflect back most of the heat incident of them. The layer of carbon alters the property and increases the rate of absorption over the rate of reflection.

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