'Environment degradation enhancing poverty in northeast'

Environmental degradation is a major factor in perpetuating poverty, particularly among the rural poor in the bio-rich northeastern region of the country, experts have pointed out.

Experts on matters relating to the environment and ecology point out that environmental degradation has adverse effects on soil fertility, quality and quality of water, forests, wildlife and fisheries and makes air all the more impure.

“The dependence of rural poor, particularly the tribal societies, on natural resources is self-evident. Women, being directly involved in collecting items of food from nature, are more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of degradation of natural resources,” says a research scholar associated with studying the relationship between the environment and people in general.

In fact, of the two biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in India, the Eastern Himalayas, comprising the northeast is in greater danger than the Western Ghats, experts have long cautioned.

“Northeast India is the bio-geographical gateway to India’s richest biodiversity zone and is unique for its genetic resources. However, the rapid growth in population is creating a number of environmental problems because of uncontrolled urbanization, industrialization and massive intensification of agriculture and destruction of forests,” an environment observer underscores.

“Major environmental issues are degradation of forests, decline in forest cover and degradation of agricultural land, resource depletion (water, mineral, forest, sand, rocks etc), loss of biodiversity and resilience in ecosystems thereby creating livelihood insecurity for the poor,” he says.

The official estimates say, the country’s population will increase to about 1.26 billion by the year 2016. The projected population indicates that India will be the first most populous country in the world followed by China in 2050.

Experts point out that India having 18 per cent of the world’s population and covering 2.4 per cent of the world’s total area is leaving a negative impact on its natural resources. Water shortage, soil exhaustion and erosion, deforestation, air and water pollution afflict many areas.

One of the primary causes of environmental degradation is attributed to rapid growth of population, which affects the environment and its natural resources. Experts say the existence or absence of favorable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of socio-economic development. “Population growth and economic development are contributing to many serious environmental calamities, including deforestation, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Changing consumption pattern has led to rising demand for energy,” the experts emphasize.

The final outcomes of this are air pollution, global warming, climate change, water scarcity and rise in the level of toxicity of water. Forest cover is declining because of harvesting for fuel wood and the expansion of agricultural land. These trends, combined with increasing industrial and motor vehicle pollution output, have led to temperature increases, shifting precipitation patterns, and declining intervals of drought recurrence in many areas.

Civil conflicts involving natural resources – most notably forests and arable land – have occurred in eastern and northeastern states.

Research on population genetics and phylogenetics (study of evolutionary relation among groups of organisms) should be given priority and concerted efforts launched to protect the prime habitats of endemic and endangered primate species, the experts opine.