Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Rainforest destruction went up by 12% in 2020, says report

2020 was meant to be a landmark year in the fight against deforestation because many companies, countries, and international organisations had pledged to halve or completely stop forest loss in 2020
By Jayashree Nandi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 31, 2021 11:34 AM IST

The primary forest loss globally was 12% higher in 2020 compared to 2019 and the resulting carbon emissions from this are equivalent to the annual emissions of 570 million cars, or more than double their number on the US roads, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has said in a statement. As much as 12.2 million ha tree cover was lost in 2020, which included 4.2 million ha, or an area equal to the Netherlands, from tropical primary rainforests, according to University of Maryland data released Wednesday on WRI’s Global Forest Watch (GFW).

The statement said 2020 was meant to be a landmark year in the fight against deforestation because many companies, countries, and international organisations had pledged to halve or completely stop forest loss in 2020.

Tree cover can refer to trees in plantations as well as natural forests. Tree cover loss is the removal of tree canopy due to human or natural causes, including fire. The data does not take tree cover gain into account and is therefore not an indication of net change.

Also Read | How MGNREGS transformed rural India in an environmentally sustainable manner

Brazil topped the list of countries with the highest primary forest loss—1.7 million ha in 2020. It was over three times the loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which recorded the second-highest loss. The majority of humid primary forest loss occurred in the Brazilian Amazon, where it registered a 15% increase compared to 2019.

Indonesia’s rate of primary forest loss decreased for the fourth year. It is only among a few countries to do so. Indonesia also did not feature among the top three countries with primary forest loss for the first time since WRI’s record-keeping began.

Data from GFW suggests India also lost a larger area under tree cover in humid primary forests in 2020 (20.8 kilo hectares) compared to 17.3 kha in 2019. From 2002 to 2020, India lost 349 kilo hectares of humid primary forest, making up 19% of its total tree cover loss in the same time period. The total area of humid primary forest in India decreased by 3.4% during this period.

The forest loss data is significant in view of the Covid 19 pandemic that has killed over 2.7 million people, as per the World Health Organisation. The rise in zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 is linked to loss of biodiversity and forests, public health experts and scientists have said.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, in its report in 2019, said zoonotic diseases are significant threats to human health, with vector-borne diseases accounting for approximately 17 % of all infectious diseases and causing an estimated 700,000 deaths globally per year. “Emerging infectious diseases in wildlife, domestic animals, plants or people can be exacerbated by human activities such as land clearing and habitat fragmentation,” the report said.

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