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Emphasis on forest conservation and management under the MDG 7- Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Ensure environmental sustainability_Goal 7Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in the year 2000 with set targets to be achieved by 2015. Poverty reduction and achieving sustained development is the top agenda in setting MDGs. The Millennium Development Goals recognize that environmental sustainability is a part of global economic and social well-being.

There are eight MDGs and ‘Ensure Environmental Sustainability’ is the seventh goal among them. This goal has four targets and it is set to be bring about environmental sustainability in the form of natural resource management such as water conservation, increasing forest cover and conserving existing forest, water pollution control and providing safe drinking water to the masses. It helps to create stringent environmental laws and regulations and provide its incorporation in respective national governments.  It also aims to prevent exploitation of natural resources such as forests, land, water, and fisheries which is often harming the most vulnerable people in the world who depend on natural resources for their livelihood.

Goal’s targets and indicators;

There are four targets and ten indicators set under this goal.

Sr. No Goal targets and indicators;
Target 7a Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
Target 7b Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
Target 7a and 7b Indicators:
7.1 Proportion of land area covered by forest
7.2 CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
7.3 Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
7.4 Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
7.5 Proportion of total water resources used
7.6 Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
7.7 Proportion of species threatened with extinction
Target 7c Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
7.8 Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
7.9 Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
Target 7d Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
7.10 7.10 Proportion of urban population living in slums

Importance of Forests in achieving MDGs targets 

Forests are crucial for maintaining ecological balance in the ecosystem and also a home for millions of species. They have extreme importance in soil conservation and are hence in top priority list of natural resource management. Forest is the main source of livelihood for approximately 240 million of the world’s poor in developing countries. Forest products like wood and non wood products provide cash income and create jobs in remote areas. Estimated 40-60 million people are benefiting from direct and indirect employment from forestry practices.  Wood products like timber is not the solo produce from forest, instead there are lot of non wood forest products like fruits, fibres, herbs, honey, dyes, etc that are being harvested. Apart from providing direct values, forest is the main source of life surviving gas i.e. oxygen and also provides numerous environmental benefits such as watershed protection, nutrient cycling, pollution control, micro-climatic regulation, carbon sequestration, etc.

Forest conservation is the top priority

MDG facts about the forestsAs per the Millennium Development Goals 2011 report, Asia and Europe shows 2.2 and 0.9 million hectares of net gain in forest cover respectively in 2000-2010 while Africa has no change in net gain of forested area. On the other side, Africa lost 4.1 and 3.4 million hectares of forest cover in between 1990-2000 and 2000-2010 respectively. Comparatively Asia shows less loss in forest cover which is 0.6 million hectares in between 1990-2000 but it is significant as compared to the existing forest cover.  Most of the forest loss is still occurring in countries in the tropics, while the net gain is mostly found in countries in the temperate and boreal zones. Considering the importance of forests, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness of sustainable management, conservation and development of all types of forests UN adopted ‘Forests for People’ is the theme for the Year 2011. It shows the dynamic relationship between forests and the people who depend on them.

Indian scenario

India is a developing nation with around 21 % of land area under forest cover (FSI 2007). India is one of the 12 mega diversity countries in the world having vast variety of flora & fauna, which collectively account for 60-70% of world’s biodiversity. Agriculture contributes major land use followed by forestry sector. As per the FAO estimate, Most of the remote villages are surrounded by forest areas and about 300 million tribal and other local people depend on forest for their livelihood. Around 70% of India’s rural population depends on fuel-wood to meet its domestic energy needs.

Importance of community involvement in forest management

Forest degradation affects local economy of the region and hence it could become a major constraint on future growth and development in most of the developing countries like India. Deforestation is linked with unsustainable development especially when the economies like India where the major population depends on forestry and agriculture for livelihood which connects them socially and culturally.  In 1988, Government of India came up with The National Forest Policy to envisaged people’s involvement in conservation, protection and management of forest. The National Forest Policy aimed to provide forest produce to the indigenous people for sure.  It emphasized on the rights of local people and created framework for that. It was followed by the government’s support to the involvement of nongovernmental organizations in forest management practices where involvement of local people is top priority. Community partnership became the rising agenda with the main flow of forest management and resulted in a new concept Joint Forest Management (JFM). JFM recognized that participatory management of forests is a key to sustainable development with the active support of local organizations and people’s participation. (Know more about recently launched ‘Green India Mission’ under the ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ by Government of India)

Deforestation and forest degradation contributes to GHG emission

Change in Forest Area between 1990 and 2005 in thousand square kilometersForests play an important role in the global carbon cycle and contribute in carbon sequestration- a process of capturing carbon dioxide into their biomass through photosynthesis. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, convert it into glucose with the help of water and sunlight and use it for their growth. The process of carbon sequestration can be reversed as when the plants decay or burn, carbon dioxide is released again in the atmosphere. As per the estimates of Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), deforestation alone causes around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions globally which is more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector and is said to be the largest single source category in the developing world.

Deforestation and forest degradation mainly occurs through infrastructure development, such as construction of dams, urbanization, industrialization etc., agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that preventing the release of carbon into the atmosphere from deforestation and forest degradation can be a climate change mitigation option.

Read more about;

Afforestation and reforestation CDM projects

Global carbon cycle under the impacts of LULUCF activities

Reference and further reading;


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