Tosa Maidan is a high-altitude landscape of undulating meadows and is made of three prominent meadows: Pathra, Guttemarg and Badshamarg. It is nestled in the Pir Panjal mountains in district Budgam. The forests of Tosamaidan range have been facing extensive destruction due to rapid urbanisation, illegal logging, illicit construction, and human greed. The rich fauna is threatened due to poaching, encroachment, deforestation, fires and other human caused destruction. Human-wildlife conflict is increasing at an alarming rate and the major driver behind this conflict is deforestation and habitat loss.
Deforestation is a major environmental issue, affecting many forests in Kashmir as well as globally. The deforestation rate is indeed alarming and serves as a wakeup call for every one of us to acknowledge the worrisome situation that has been caused by human development and exploitation of forest resources. By looking at the chopped trunks of cedrus species one can imagine the devastation done by the local people and this has been going on for a long time but no one cares. The wild animals that used to live here before not only lost their habitat but also their lives due to food scarcity. Deforestation is threatening forests and wildlife and the capacity to provide economic and ecological services not only for sustainable local livelihood but also for ecosystem and climate equilibrium on the Earth. The services that forests provide, like carbon sequestration and release of oxygen, have gone.
Deforestation not only accelerates human suffering but also causes soil erosion that directly leads to decrease in biodiversity. The green gold has been looted since long and the authorities are still to react while the poaching and timber mafia is doing booming business. The recent episode of a bear attack on a man in Budgam is the result of habitat loss and deforestation. The next day the bear was declared as dangerous and people were united to kill it.
The effects of deforestation can be felt by everyone who breathes air on the earth and can be felt especially by those who live in oxygen scarce environment. The cutting down of forests in Tosa Maidan not only impacts the wildlife but affects the soil and water quality in the immediate area. The land is still there but with less number of tress, less species of trees and animals. Tosa Maidan not only lost trees but its overall aesthetics. The beauty of the place used to attract thousands of tourists but that has all gone. Artists used to visit such places for peace and new ideas but nowadays only jungle smugglers are present within with a sharp axe. The profit-driven society of modern times is hardly concerned about the impact of deforestation. By cutting down the forests present along the Tosa Maidan range, the rate of runoff and soil erosion has increased. The runoff and soil erosion lead to water pollution and mineral leaching which is an irreversible process. The runoff also accelerates the process of denudation.
In past decades the meadows of Tosa Maidan have been intensely bombed by military actions that have caused a string of human and ecological causalities. A number of locals and activists came together to launch a movement under the name of Tosamaidan Bachao Front and they worked a lot to improve the overall health of Tosamaidan. The river present in the vicinity of Tosa Maidan used to receive waters from glaciers throughout the year but nowadays the glaciers present in higher altitudes are receding and these rivers are turning dry. The rice production of the area is also affected due to water scarcity and the reasons behind it are evident. The nomadic people of the area are mostly responsible for deforestation and wildfires. They cut down forests and sell it at low costs as the availability of stock is not limited and some people from the forest department also extend help in smuggling for some bucks. The authorities should strictly deal with smugglers and should frame strict laws to deal with offenders. Forest authorities should promote awareness programmes among the people and should select volunteers from the society to safeguard the forests. These natural resources are our treasure and it is our duty to save them from exploiters. It is also very unfortunate that some sections of society are exploiting the natural resources and the majority of people are unperturbed. It hardly takes five minutes to cut down a tree but it takes years to grow a tree.
There are people who are promoting afforestation and reforestation programmes around the world. All the religions speak about the conservation of nature and consider natural resources as sacred. But we are neither religious nor morally upright as we keep cutting down of forests. Forests play an important role in supplementing global food and if we do not conserve forests we are losing resources that sustain us and eventually the day is not far when we will die of hunger or in some natural disaster.
The writer is an MSc in Environmental Science. [email protected]