The forest, “if properly managed, can enrich human life in variety of ways both material and psychological.
Poorly managed they can be a source of disruption of the Environment of an entire region”. These sources of disruption, which man created unknowingly in the past, resulted in the extinction of many well developed and flourishing civilizations.
F. Engels (1947) is of the view that “people who rotted out forests in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and other places if they get to plough land never dreamt that they were thereby laying the ground for the present desolation of these countries by depriving them of centre for collection and conservation of moisture”.
M. Shafi (1950) has expressed similar views on the subject when he says, “History tells us that the decay of a large number of prospering nations in ancient times has been due to deforestation.
In Greece, Anatolia, Spain and Iraq the destruction of forests has seriously interfered with their climate and with the moisture content of the soil on which, in the ultimate end, every nation depends. It will not be too much to say that deforestation has done more damage than any war and has resulted in the destruction of the greatest empires. In India the excavations of Harappa and Mohan Jo-Daro refer to the great civilizations which flourished in the Indus Valley, but gradual destruction of forests, allowed the rolling sea of sand to engulf the colony”.
Human beings have been interacting with the forests since time immemorial. Interaction is the mutual action between two biologically active systems, which receives energy from the sun, undergoes photosynthesis, converting this energy into biomass and the other that thrives on the energy so produced i.e., man and animals.
The animals (domesticated ones) interact with the forest directly as well as indirectly. When these animals are allowed by man to graze in the forest they interact directly but when they consume lopped branches of the forest species or grasses cut and brought from the forested areas by men they can be taken as interacting with forest rather indirectly.
Thus, we see that forests constitute one of the prized assets of man which not only moderate climate, reduce soil erosion, regulate stream flow providing biomass to be consumed by its native dwellers, but this resource is a backbone of the modern economy too, as it provides values as fuel, building material, industrial raw materials and many by-products. Unfortunately Himalayas, a storehouse of this resource are experiencing serious ecological disorders. All these ecological and environmental problems of the Himalayas emerge from so-called economic development and anthropogenic transformation of the space.
In addition, in the process of economic development, forests of the Himalayan region would be the obvious victims, as forest products are exploited for diverse purposes of economic transformation, more particularly in the plain areas. But unfortunately all this is done without any consideration of overall natural productivity, sustainability and stability of natural processes.
The importance of forests has a special significance for India where forests roughly occupy 23 per cent of the total area with still different percentages arrived at by the various departments and research organizations, not withstanding out of India’s total forested area the share of Jammu and Kashmir state is only 4.5 per cent. In Kashmir region 56.56 per cent of its area is forested.
The corresponding figure of Jammu is 45.51 per cent. We can say that more than half of the Kashmir region is occupied by the forests while little less than half of the Jammu region has forest cover. Moreover, the forests of the state are second to none in quality and value. The Jammu region, our study area, attracts out attention because the entire region enjoys considerable amount of climatic and altitudinal variations.
Plight of Himalayas is very serious in respect of vanishing forest cover. The Jammu region, the area of present study, lies between 32°17′ North to 34° 18′ North latitude and 73°36′ E to 76°48′ East longitude. The entire area under study is situated in Himalayas where vanishing forest cover is posing serious threat due to this depleting resource.
The entire Jammu region extends from 300 m to 5,000 m in the middle Himalayas. The impact of large scale exploitation of forests in the state as a whole has resulted in degradation of forests. Resultantly, poverty and associated ills have gradually crept into the lives of the people. Mountain ecosystem once densely forested has been drastically altered. In the process the inhabitants are facing a major ecological crisis and economic hardships.
It is in this context that the present study has been conceived and an attempt has been made to study the withdrawal pattern of forest resources which results in this interactive pattern. No doubt the study concerns only about one village but taking the location, climate relief and other environmental conditions of this village into consideration, it can be argued that it adequately represents the middle Himalayan region in which it is situated.
Village Bajarni lies in district Doda, tehsil Doda and is 15 km away from the main city of Doda tehsil. The approach to the village is by bus till Bhagwa after which one has to climb up from the bus stop for reaching the village. There is no other approach to the village except animal transport.
People go to Doda city for purchasing their requirements. The village is situated on a steep slope. There is a big nallah flowing in the village called Laddar Nallah. It is perennial. The source of the Nallah is at ‘Lai Draman’ and finally this nallah joins Chenab River at the base of the hill on which village Bajarni is situated. There are six other non-perennial nallahs within the village.
There are 10 springs and no dead spring has been recorded, which indicates a balanced hydrological cycle prevalent in the area. At the top of the hill on which Bajarni is situated there is a beautiful meadow named as ‘Lal Draman’. It is a beautiful spot at the height of 2,700 m a.m.s.l above which there is a very dense timberline of conifers. The climate of this village is largely temperate.
The entire study is based on primary data collected through extensive and intensive field work.
The aim of the study is:
(i) To analyze the primary data as to peep into the ecological and economic scenario of the people of this (representative) village lying in middle Himalayas of Jammu region;
(ii) To assess the biomass withdrawal and interaction of animal population with forests and the importance of this interaction on the overall ecological condition of the village; and
(iii) To draw meaningful conclusions, so that the study may be helpful in the developmental planning of the village in particular, the surrounding area in general.
The village under study is a very big village with 757 households. Due to constraints imposed by time and resources it was not possible to survey each and every household, hence 70 households during random sampling method were selected.
The basis of the data was thoughtfully prepared questionnaire in which the questions were designed to bring out the withdrawal during interaction of man and animals in the forests. Our empirical study is, therefore, focused on generating data pertaining to the parameters identified i.e., biomass withdrawn from the forests by man in the form of fuel wood, lopped branches of trees and the grasses cut from the precipitous slopes as well as from the enclosed areas especially kept for the purpose.
However, in doing so care was taken to consider the environmental, social and economic conditions influencing the interaction with the forests. The study area enjoys two dry and two wet spells in a year. March to June is the first dry spell which is followed by a wet season from July to September in which rainfall is caused by the monsoon winds. This rainy season is then followed by a dry spell from the late Sept to early December. A wet season prevails from December to March due to western disturbances.
The biomass withdrawn from the forests includes the lopping of the trees for fodder and the cutting of the grasses for precipitous slopes as well as from the enclosed areas specially kept for the purposes. This cut grass is stall fed to animals during the winter season (mid-November to mid-March) when the grazing is not possible, due to precipitation.
The present study has been conceived to assess the biomass withdrawn for the forests from these two accounts as well. It is pertinent to add that the grass cutting process starts from mid-August and continues up to mid-October. However, the grass is cut from the enclosed areas only after it attains its maximum growth in the month of October and yet the people continue to store the grasses cut from the precipitous slopes from August onwards. An assessment of the grass biomass of so withdrawn from the forests has been attempted in the present study.
The assessment of the lopped biomass was made by actually weighing the lopped branches of trees by people, selected as sample cases, for seven days and then working out an average per household per day. However, the samples were selected randomly. On the basis of the average, so worked to, the assessment of the total biomass withdrawn by loping was made possible for the entire village under study.
Grasses withdrawn from August to October are meant for stall feeding to the cattle during the intense winters Although the requirement of stall feeding varies depending upon the number and type of animals kept by a household and yet everybody wants to store as much grass as possible because it finds readily available local market too.
Thus, the storage of grass biomass is independent of requirement and assumes an almost uniform pattern. In such a situation, the assessment was made by surveying the green grass withdrawn by single household. While surveying care was taken to assess as accurately as possible, the volume amount of grass stored.
Thereafter, an average for a household was worked out which when multiplied by total number of households would give us the total biomass withdrawn in the shape of grasses. The data regarding the consumption of fuel wood was generated by conducting intensive field work in the village. The consumptional patterns of wood were observed. Enquires were made and actual wood consumed in different months was actually weighted before being released for the use in the selected households.
All this was made possible by taking into consideration certain households representing different social and economic strata and were thus made sample households in the village under consideration. On the basis an average consumption of fuel wood per household was arrived at which was then multiplies by total number of households to get total consumption or conversely total withdrawal of biomass from the forests as fuel wood. On the basis of the above discussion, particularly with respect to climatic condition, a working schedule for biomass withdrawal was worked out which is elaborated in the Table 1.
Analysis and Discussion:
Wood is the principal source of fuel in the village, rather the only source. Presently when the forests have been cut for the commercial purposes on an extensive basis, the broad leaved species have been heavily lopped for fodder, the pressure exerted by ever-growing population on the demand of fuel and timber has created a new situation.
It is pertinent to state here that the wood in the selected village is also used for heating the houses as it lies above an altitude of 2,200 m from the mean sea level. As the temperature in the village drops to 0°C during the winter month, this therefore necessitates raising the temperature inside the house by using wood as a fuel. This phenomenon leads to higher level of fuel consumption due to the influence of climatic conditions prevailing in the different months of the year.
Before analyzing the withdrawal of fuel wood from the forests it has to be understood that there is a marked variation in the consumption of wood in different months of the year. It has been found that the consumption is lowest (16 kg/day/household) from May to September when fuel is not used for heating purposes. But in April, October to November when heating during the nights, mornings and evenings becomes essential the consumptional level increases from 16 kg/day/household to 24 kg/day/household.
This figure reaches its peak of 40 kgs/day/household during the intense cold from December to March. Thus, the entire consumption per household from May to September (153 days) comes to 2,448 kg while the corresponding figures for 121 days of December, January, February stand at 4,840 kg which is almost two times the figures for 153 days of summer months (May to September). Similarly, total consumption per household in April, October and November reaches, 218 kg for only 91 days (Table 2).
The entire fuel wood used in the village under study is obtained from the forest. Females and children are the main fuel wood collectors but adults males also venture in the time of distress. The summer season is the optimum time for the collection of dry dead wood lying on the forest ground?
But this, being insufficient to meet the requirements, the lopped wood for fodder is added to it and yet, as revealed by the villagers even this fails to meet the entire demand. Resultantly, it becomes necessary for the adults to cut branches of such valuable trees like deodar (Cedrue deodara), Kail (Pinus wallichiana). Fir (abiespinsow) and some of their common broad leaved associates.
The villagers sometimes and when in need, may not hesitate to even cut a very healthy and valuable tree of any species prematurely, they can lay hand and, to meet their demand, contrary to the law established both by nature and man. An assessment of the total fuel wood and in the village under study and seasonal variations in the consumptional behaviour as indicated in the earlier discussion has been assessed in the following table:
The summer and rainy season extend from May to September, with high temperature and mild rainfall. Fuel wood used during this period for the whole village accounts for 18, 53,136 kg. Severe winters that start with the advent of December and extend up to the end of March demand still higher level of wood consumption and during this period, the village consumes a total of 36, 63,880. Thus the total fuel wood consumed by the whole village in a year stands at 7,170.30mtonnes (Table 3).
Lopping is a common practice in the village under study.
The experienced ones make certain consideration for lopping:
(i) Leaf content of branch lopped,
(ii) Length of the branch and
(iii) Age of the branch.
While in the field it was gathered that with the increase in the age of the branch, its leaf content and overall weight increases appreciably and so does its length and hence is preferred. The intensive fieldwork has revealed that this practice is not carried out throughout the year and is restricted to 244 days i.e., eight months. The head loads of lopped tree branches were weighted to assess the actual biomass withdrawn.
The length of the branch measured revealed the variation between 70 cm to 1 m. Every household indulges in lopping activity to provide better diet to the livestock and also to supplement the total requirement of fodder.
Further, it was also observed that the head load of individuals varied appreciably. The data was then collected separately for women (young, middle-aged and old) and men (young, middle-aged and old). It was further observed that only one person for the family was spared for the collection of lopped biomass. The most common tress lopped are oaks of different shades, which are social associates of conifer forests (Table 4).
The average head load per household calculated reveals that 25 kg of lopped biomass is withdrawn per day and in 244 days each household collects 6,100 kg. The figure for the whole village shoots to 4,617.700 m tonnes. This quantity of biomass lopped feeds on an average, the total livestock population of 7,534; this staggering figure therefore is reduced to only 1.75 kg per head.
Grass cutting is another important activity of the village under study. The total number of livestock is 7,534 in the village. The climatic condition allows the animals to graze only for 182 days in a year at the best and for the rest of the year these livestock are stall fed. Though the crop residue in also used as fodder for stall-feeding but is far less than required.
The grasses are not available throughout the year, therefore the villagers look forward towards forests for lopping trees and cutting the grasses available on the slopes of the mountains. However, the grass cutting in this village begins in the month of August and ends in October. Working on the basis of detailed methodology, the quantity of grasses withdrawn from the forest has been estimated to 30 kg/day/household (Table 5).
In 92 days (the grass withdrawing season in a year) each household would, therefore, withdraw 27.60 quintals of forest grass. The total withdrawal of the grass biomass of the village under study amounts to 2,089.32 m tonnes. This quantity of biomass is fed to 7,534 livestock heads of the village under study for the entire period of stall feeding (183 days-when grazing is not possible because grazing period has been taken as 182 days in a year) Then per head consumption per day of grass biomass so withdrawn from the forest comes to only 1.51 kg.
It, therefore follows that it is only partially that the farmer has to depend on the forests for providing fodder to his livestock wealth and has to depend upon other sources like grass cutting from his individual land, kept specifically for the purpose, residue of agricultural crops and the green leaves lopped from the forests.
Finally it has been analyzed that the total forest biomass withdrawal from the village under study under three parameters alone has been 13,874.32 m tonnes the share of fuel wood, lopping and grass cutting has been 7,170.30 m tonnes, 4,617.70 m tonnes and 2,089.32 m tonnes respectively from the total forest biomass withdrawal.
In conclusion it can be said that 13,874.32 m tonnes of forest biomass withdrawal by a single village under limited parameters certainly points to immediate attention. The principal objective of the present study was to understand the material/resource movement in the fragile Himalayan environment where already damage had been done.
The village does not enjoy the resource availability, though the requirement of the people and livestock is on the higher side due to prevailing climatic and economic conditions. Hence, it is pertinent to note that, despite its location within the forest, the degraded Himalayan forest covers bound the Himalayan dwellers to survive in poverty-ridden environment and are deprived of the facility that should flow to them naturally if the forests are properly managed, conserved and used.