A report that blames trees for water crisis. Or does it?
A new report of the uk's forestry research programme (frp) has stirred a hornet's nest. Called From the mountain to the tap , the report uses evidence from 12 countries to incriminate trees and forests for water shortages. Large scale afforestation and big irrigation schemes result in land use changes, which, in turn, affect the availability of both blue water (which flows to rivers and aquifers) and green water (which returns to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration), the study concludes.
While the culpability of large irrigation schemes for groundwater depletion is quite well known, heaping blame on afforestation projects is contentious. The report explains: "Large-scale afforestation schemes very often involve plantations of exotic and evergreen species."
A gullible media lapped this up and added to the confusion. For example, the uk daily Telegraph noted, "Millions are wasted on trees that reduce water", while the New Scientist stated, "Planting trees may create deserts" (see 'Trees are bad,' Down To Earth, September 15, 2005).
But should forests and plantations be used interchangeably? Definitely not, say experts. "Plantations, especially monocultures, cannot be termed as forests. The latter hold a complex, dynamic integrated system of flora and fauna: trees of different species, sizes and ages, as well as other vegetation such as grasses. Plantation on the other hand reduces the function of a forest into something simple and artificial, such as the cultivation of timber of industrial profit," explains an expert on the condition of anonymity.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.