Deforestation (From Emile KAHOUN, Lycee Yadega)
In the wake of last September's flood disaster in Bangladesh, which left up to a third of the population homeless, scientists are warning that continued destruction of the world's forest will trigger(1) an increasing number of similar catastrophic floods. The destruction of vast forest areas of Nepal, Northern India, and Bangladesh has been a major factor in the floods that have plagued Bangladesh in recent years. Forests help prevent flooding by holding the soil in place and absorbing much of the rain. Forests also supply much of the oxygen essential to life on earth.
Tropical forests, the most important surviving woodlands, contain about two thirds of all plant animal species. At the present rate of deforestation, an estimated 15 percent of all species could disappear within the next two decades.
The area of tropical forest denuded between 1955 and 1980 is equal to that cut down during the preceding two centuries. During this 25-year period in Africa an estimated 3.6 million hectares of tropical woodlands were cleared annually for timber (2) and agricultural use. In tropical Asia, some 1.8 million hectares were cleared between 1976 and 1980. The Himalayan covering Northern India, Nepal, and Bangladesh- had lost 40 percent of its forest a by 1980. And high rates of deforestation have been recorded throughout Latin America - particularly in Haïti, Brazil, and Central America. In Haïti over 20 percent of the forest cover has been stripped, and deforestation continues.
The deforestation problem is particularly acute in developing countries. Until the late 1960's developing nations viewed their forests mainly as a source of income to be used in the manufacturing and government sectors. As forests were cleared, soil erosion and salinization have increased. Coastal habitats have been destroyed, severely affecting local fish populations. Much of the deforested land has been marginal -not suited to annual crop production - but has been brought under cultivation with lasting harm to the local environment.
The U.S government, concerned about the rapid disappearance of the world's forests, has made forest conservation a major goal of its foreign assistance programs. In 1987, the Agency for international Development applied over 56 million dollars to 146 forestry projects in 46 developing nations.
It took nature ages to produce the great forests of the world. It takes man only moments to decimate them. Preserving what remains of this precious natural heritage should be among the highest priorities of all governments and all people.
Excerpt from Voice n°31 (February / March 1989).
(1) to trigger: to bring about a chain of events
(2) timber: wood for building.
1) What, in your won words, are the effects of deforestation on floods? (2 marks)
2) How is the survival of species threatened by deforestation? (3 marks)
3) Referring to the text, what do you learn about the causes of deforestation in developing countries? Are there any other reasons you know of? Justify your answer (4 marks )
4) "It took nature ages to produce the great forests of he world. It takes man only moments to decimate them". Explain and comment. (5 marks )
5) Deforestation is a threat to the world. Referring to the text, is there any solution to the problem? What is done in your country to counteract it? ( 6 marks )