Climatic change in the Himalayas will impact bio-diversity and will have several other serious effects. In order to combat this climate change, Joint Forest Management can be effectively used, according to environment expert Umesh Dwivedi.
Says Dwivedi, “Himalayas contain unique flora and fauna with many endemic species. Climatic changes increase the rate of extinction of species particularly endemic and threatened species. The risk factor in the Himalayas is very high because the flora and fauna are very sensitive to climatic changes particularly species in sub alpine and alpine zone are very vulnerable as they cannot move any further.” He says it will have a serious impact on agriculture based economy and food security. Early flowering and ripening of fruits may have an adverse effect on pollination patterns. This will impact the eco system productivity thereby affecting food security.
He is concerned that climate change will also impact the hydrological cycle, particularity in regions where water supply is dependent on snow melting. River flow will increase during the monsoons and decrease in summer which will affect ground water recharge and water availability to people as well as water accessibly to the plants. Climatic change will also impact wetlands in the Himalayas which provide potable drinking water to the mountain people and have spiritual and cultural value apart from attracting the tourists.
According to him, joint forest management may provide natural climatic solution which is also cost effective. The forests are the key to climatic change and global warming solution. Checking deforestation and restoring the forests and improving forestry practices with definitely reduce carbon emission and check global warming. The afforestation will also improve forest based products and strengthen food security and reduce carbon foot prints.
Talking about the indicators that climate change is a reality in the Himalayas, Dwivedi gives a list of indicators in a research paper written by him on the subject. These include warm and pleasant winter in the Himalayas, early flowering – rhododendrons and magnolias now flower in February instead of April, early ripening – Kafal (Syzygium tatragonium) fruits are available in February march instead of May-June, apple orchards have shifted to higher altitudes in Himachal. Further, the orchids are shifting upwards. They are very sensitive to climatic change and its quite evident in Sikkim Himalayas. Forest fires are very rampant all over the Himalayas. There has been an increase in hazard frequency like floods, landslide, intense rain fall and drought- the rain fall patterns are also changing. Other indicators include rapid reduction in glaciers; pests, vectors and exotic species invading Himalayas with climatic change increasing the transmission of malaria and dengue in the lower region of Himalayas; mountain farmers are growing spring vegetables in winter.
Ecological restoration of denuded forests is not possible without the involvement of the forest dwellers. Therefore a number of support activities aimed at income generation can be undertaken. These can include mushroom cultivation, poultry and compost making.
Plantation of fuel and fodder species, plantation on degraded land, medicinal crops as inter-crops, patrolling of forests against grazing, felling and taking away forest produce can go a long way in checking climate change. The mountain people should be encouraged to utilise their traditional knowledge to use forest resources without destroying them. They get their livelihood from the forest including fuel, timber, fruits and medicinal herbs. Unfortunately, due to rapid increase in population and developmental activities, the mountain forests are depleting very fast and therefore it is important to protect and preserve the mountain forests with the involvement of the forest dwellers.
“The forest department must take their well being into account. The forest dwellers can participate and be actively involved in these efforts. They can be stakeholders. This will lead to a great reduction in illicit felling and theft of forest produce,” says Dwivedi.