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Planting saplings not enough to cut carbon footprint, we need forests: Former IFS officer

At 14th UNCCD COP 14 meeting, experts say ecological restoration is the only way to combat desertification of lands and significantly reduce carbon footprint.

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New Delhi: Government initiatives to plant saplings is not going to help make up for loss of natural forests, former IFS officer B.K.P. Sinha has said.

Sinha was speaking Tuesday on the sidelines of the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14) in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

A faculty member at Amity University in Noida now, Sinha said there was a huge difference between planting saplings and growing natural forests. “It will take many years for the new plants to sequester the same amount of carbon as natural forests,” he added.

Several other experts also spoke at a panel discussion organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and many of them highlighted the effect of government initiatives on carbon emission.

Ecological restoration most important

The Narendra Modi-led government has put a lot of emphasis on tree plantation drives. Last month, the Yogi Adityanath government in UP had set a world record of sorts by planting 66,000 saplings.

In the meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Tree Authority had last week cleared a proposal to cut or transplant 2,702 trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for building a Metro-3 car shed. The proposal came with a condition that thrice the number of trees will have to be planted elsewhere.

Also read: Himalayan cities are looking like garbage dumps with sewage rivers. Modi govt must step in

C.R. Babu, a professor at Delhi university, pointed out that ecological restoration was the only way to combat desertification of lands and significantly reduce carbon footprint.

Babu also explained how ecological restoration was a “young science” that involves selecting plant species according to environmental conditions in order to restore lands. He shared his experiences of “growing a viable forest” in an abandoned limestone mining area in Odisha that was completely barren for 10 years.

“There is now a five-tier luxuriant tropical ecosystem with some trees growing up to 10 feet high,” he added. The area has also become a host to silkworms that the local community uses to harvest tassar (or tussar) silk.

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE, further said that land resources can also act as a carbon sink — where soil has the capacity to hold more carbon than the atmosphere. He explained how deforestation and land degradation accounts for approximately 17 per cent of carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector.

India is hosting the UNCCD’s COP 14 from 2 to 13 September to decide on the course of action to combat desertification. The event is being attended by nearly 8,000 representatives from over 190 countries.

Also read: Liquor bottles & food cans among 11,000 kg of trash found on Mt Everest


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  1. None of these experts have explained how you grow a forest without first having saplings.
    Do they mean grow saplings in protected locations and then move them to the afforestation site after they have grown to some size and attained strength ? It is not clear what exactly these experts want when ecologically restoring sites.

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