80% ODISHA POPULACE DEPENDS ON NATURE FOR LIVELIHOOD
The World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in more than 100 countries.
It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanising individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
‘Connecting People to Nature’, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the earth that we share.
Billions of rural people around the world spend every day connected to nature and appreciate their dependence on nature. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation. Besides, for many people, getting back in touch with nature provides a different experience to enjoy natural features like mountains, valleys, forests, deserts, water bodies, landscapes, flora and fauna. However, over one billion people live in the world’s biodiversity hotspots, areas high in concentration of unique species that are under serious threat from human activity.
Human population generates more waste and pollution than any other living organism on the earth. More demands for day-to-day basic needs deplete natural resources. Demands for natural resources, effects of globalised trade patterns on rural communities, and unequal spread of technological advancements are putting in danger the future of biodiversity and humankind.
Biodiversity is the foundation of life on earth. It is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems which provide us with products and services without which we cannot live. Oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, stable climate and recreation – all have their source in nature and healthy ecosystems. Unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity resources, particularly by developed countries, has serious adverse impacts, both local and global.
Coastal cities which damage their ecosystem can render themselves particularly vulnerable. Odisha is quite rich in natural resources and has several bio-diversity hot spot areas. It has varied and wide spread forests harboring dry deciduous, moist deciduous forests as well as mangroves with several unique, endemic, rare and endangered floral and faunal species. To maintain the eco-balance and protect the flora and fauna, national parks are earmarked at Similipal and Bhitarakanika. Besides, the State has a number of wildlife sanctuaries.
Mangroves in the densely populated east coast of India have been degraded for decades and are still continuing to be degraded due to loss of biomass, overgrazing, fuel wood extraction and conversions.
This has posed many environmental hazards, especially in the coastal belt. Ultimately it has affected the socio-economic status of populace of Odisha in general and that of coastal terrain in particular.
Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the State’s population depends on natural resources to survive. This makes Odisha further vulnerable to climate change impacts. Food security is both directly and indirectly inked with climate change.
In many cases, urbanisation is characterized by urban sprawl and haphazard development of periphery of the town which is not only socially divisive but increases energy demand, carbon emissions and puts pressure on ecosystems. Bhubaneswar was a city with pleasant climatic condition throughout the year. Since last decade, this city is experiencing high population growth, urbanisation and distinct weather condition. Earlier, it had a sound coverage of greenery, but now it has decreased substantially, leading to uncomfortable conditions. Small water bodies and wetlands are increasingly being filled up by multistoried buildings.
The effects of climate change have been observed since last few years in Bhubaneswar. Bhubaneswar is currently witnessing several modern buildings and high-rise apartments to accommodate its growing population. The development activities in the city have led to large-scale deforestation, an increasing volume of traffic, pollution and temperature rise. The city’s expansion and lots of concrete structures are also the reason for microclimatic change over the years. Besides, the biodiversity rich locations such as green areas and water bodies are being converted to residential and commercial land use without giving due regard to open space and green corridors.
The Chandaka-Dampada Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1982 to provide shelter to a population of elephants that was an extension of the Satkosia-Athgarh-Kapilas population. The sanctuary is home to leopards and other wildlife. The sanctuary was once connected to the forests of Athgarh and Kapilas through a narrow corridor on its northern side.
This allowed elephants to cross the Mahanadi river to reach these forests and return the same way. By the passing of time, the corridor across the Mahanadi had been blocked. Chandaka is now an island within an urban sprawl. The haphazard growth of the real estate industry in Bhubaneswar is the biggest threat to Chandaka and Bharatpur forest.
The entire Bhubaneswar Development Plan Area (BDPA) is gifted with tremendous natural resources in the form of rivers as well as areas with dense vegetation/forest such as Bharatpur forest area and Nandankanan Wildlife Sanctuary. In the CDP, the entire river belt zone has been proposed for recreational land use with green buffers running all along the river embankment, thereby forming a continuous green corridor. Scattered green space within the compactly built up area may act as a continuous patch of green, widening at the edge of the city into the green belt and then into a rural landscape, establishing a coherent relationship between urban and rural areas.
The current decline in biodiversity represents a serious threat to human development. Biological resources constitute a capital asset with great potential for yielding sustainable benefits. Protected areas that are created to preserve biodiversity are in critical condition due to excessive anthropogenic pressure. Urgent and decisive action is needed to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems for sustainable management and use of biological resources.
Many decisions made by city inhabitants directly affect biodiversity in the city and beyond. Biodiversity issues must be included in cities’ formal work programmes and action plans. Greenways may be designed as a planning strategy for multi purposes including ecological, recreational, cultural or other purposes compatible with the concept of sustainable land use.