N. Munal Meitei, Environmentalist
On an average, 18 million hectares of forest i.e. one eighteenth of the size of India are destroyed every year which amounts to 5.5 billion trees. About 2,400 trees with the size of a Football ground of rich forests are cut down each minute. Deforestation is also ongoing in many of the conflict and post-conflict affected countries. The drivers are diverse, but we have a common lost, the loss to our environments.
In 2020, there was a sharp increase in forest loss in most conflict-affected countries, which in some can be tentatively linked to COVID-19, either through economic hardship or organised crime taking advantage of distracted institutions. In total, during this pandemic, across world’s conflict-affected areas, the forest loss were increased by 10% to 3.2 million hectares with the woody biomass lost in tropical areas only amounts to approximately 1.1 mega tones of CO2.
Conflicts over natural resources are among the key peace and security challenges of the 21st century. With the right approach, cooperation in management of natural resources can offer these affected countries recovering from the fragility and conflict, an opportunity to achieve stability and trust while re-building the livelihoods and economies.
The Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) is a global initiative in fragile and conflict affected regions with objectives to promote peace, ecosystem restoration and build trust between neighboring countries through trans-boundary environmental co-operation in sustainable land management, including the forests. This Initiative is also designed to promote cooperation between countries to rehabilitate degraded ecosystem in post-conflict locations while promoting peace and confidence.
The PFI was launched on 10 September 2019 during the 14th session of COP 14 of the UNCCD held in New Delhi. This could be a flagship plan for supporting outreach to the right audience through global campaigns, and communicating strong and compelling narratives on the linkages between ecosystem restoration, including sustainable land and forest management, and peace and security, with a view to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
The growing demand for natural resources – in particular to productive land and water – combined with environmental degradation and climate change, serves to intensify competition between countries and communities over resource access, ownership and use. Natural resources are set to become key drivers in a growing number of disputes, with significant consequences for international, regional and national peace and security.
However, integrating management of environmental resources with peace building activities can provide the pathway to lasting security and sustainable poverty reduction. Understanding risks and opportunities associated with access to natural resources can help decision makers manage natural resources in ways that create jobs, sustain livelihoods and contribute to economic growth without creating new grievances or significant environmental degradation.
After the Korean War, the whole of mountain areas surrounding the cities were deforested and degraded. But more than 10 billion trees were planted in Korea since 1973 by the efforts of the numerous ordinary citizens through the strong leadership, people’s willingness and participation that Korea Forest Service took the lead role in the economic growth.
The goals of the Peace Forest Initiative are Zero hunger through agroforestry, Well-being vide forest recreation, Clean water with watershed management, Green Energy with natural resources, Climate action with mitigation and adaptation and Conservation of Biodiversity. The goal also covers to offer countries recovering from violent conflict an opportunity to achieve stability and trust while re-building livelihoods and with shared natural resources while promoting peace and cooperation.
Peace Forest Initiative also aims at addressing the issue of land degradation in conflict-torn border areas and would go in alleviating tensions and building trust between communities living there and between enemy countries in particular. This initiative also aims to create a number economic gains, such as increased production of non-timber products, food security and health, reduced soil erosion, disaster risk reduction, improved watershed management and carbon sequestration.
Our state Manipur is also a victim of environmental degradation for being in a conflict area. After the communal riots in 1992-93 and with the sporadic incidents, we have lost a lot of our rich forests and natural resources. Large scale poppy planation and indiscriminate felling of trees in hills are spreading just like a pandemic all over the state. In every Band & Blockades, trees are the victims. The ongoing development Projects in the state have tarnished the greeneries of the lofty hills. While the slogan for War against the Drugs is trying to move out of the tables and doors, the state has lost hundreds of square kilometers of our rich forests pulling us in an environmental dilemma and into the status of a Second Golden Triangle. Though, we proud of having 74.38% of our geographical areas as forest, the qualities and growing stock of our so called forests are very poor.
Therefore, let’s learn anything that tends to save our Environment and Forests. Without our timely action and initiatives, we will not be able to protect our environment and wildlife for the future generations.