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Natural Resource Degradation

Introduction

Natural resources are the assets or materials that exist naturally for humans to consume and are present all around us. The trees, rivers, oceans, and land surrounding us, are all essential parts of our lives, without which survival would be hindered. But we do not realize the importance of these blessings, and directly or indirectly harm the environment by our deeds. This is what is called the ‘degradation of natural resources.

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Natural Resources

The resources that occur naturally for our consumption are termed natural resources. Humans further modify these resources to produce goods or services. There are nonrenewable resources, like minerals and fossil fuels, and renewable resources, like plants, animals, soil, and water, which are naturally self-renewing if managed well. All these natural resources have immense economic value, apart from other benefits, and we need to conserve these forms of wealth.

Some of the naturally occurring resources we have include timber, oil, gas, freshwater, coal, and other minerals. If these resources are not taken care of they become degraded, and a huge economic loss, as well as loss of species that are dependent on these resources, is faced.

Degradation of Natural Resources

The degradation of natural resources occurs when families and industries carry out activities for their socio-economic well-being, which affect these resources (Degradation of Natural Resources, 2008). Their actions may not be intentional, but whatever they do poses potential harm to the environment and the species that are dependent on natural resources. One of the worst aspects of the degradation of natural resources is that a vast number of species get endangered due to the mishandling and dilapidation of numerous resources.

Natural beauty, which is a thousand times better than any painted scenery, needs to be conserved, and we have to be very cautious not to harm the forests and lakes surrounding us, which are home to millions of species. Even a single action of ours can harm and prove fatal if we are ignorant of our environment and its conservation (Pant, R. & Khanduri, R., 1998).

Human Activities Which Affect the Environment

There are some actions which humans carry out, which in turn affect the environment, but most people are unaware of these. They are as follows:

  • Burning of fossil fuel which is producing great amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is also producing more sulfur and nitrogen.
  • Natural circulation of nitrogen and phosphorus is hindered due to the use of fertilizers in agriculture.
  • Irrigation in agriculture and industry has affected the freshwater system.

By altering the methods used for agriculture and other such activities which affect the environment negatively, we can collectively save natural resources and their dependents, and promote healthy living around the globe.

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Globalization and Economic Activity

The exchange of goods across various distant places across the globe is termed globalization and is a significant term used by many, in this millennium. The economic activities between places are on the rise, and everyone is focusing on trading with the maximum number of countries, using cross-over strategies, to expand existing corporations. The increase in globalization is dependent on the interactions amongst nations, and the technology that assists in the execution of these economic activities. Every country in today’s world is attempting to sell its natural resources to other parts of the world, to benefit the economy, and produce profits (Mackinnon, D. & Cumbers, A., 2007).

Everything in today’s world is becoming universal, with the help of computers and information technology. The world has become a global village, where each individual is corresponding with others, with the use of such technology. It is also important to consider the economic, social, and political decisions that affect globalization, to shape up the world today (Perrons, D., 2004).

The world seems to be shrinking due to globalization (Johnston, R., Taylor, P. & Watts, M., 2004). It has become more complex, despite the little space prevailing between places. Every enterprise is under the pressures of time, to make ends meet. The global economy is largely dependent on the interactions of dealers and traders. People go through the strangest activities, at times, to earn money. But there is no choice but to do so, even if it causes harm to them, for example, there are millions of people who are dependent on coffee-growing for their livelihoods despite the harm caffeine produces (Wild, A., 2005).

Our Environment

The environment we live in consists of five elements, namely, air, water, land, flora, and fauna. If one of these elements has deteriorated, the other is affected, thereby making all elements interdependent. Natural resources seem to be exploited, being given the name of economic development. The building of roads and dams, all have to cut down trees and alter large amounts of land, killing millions of species dependent on them, and paying no heed to ecological values. The ecosystem has to experience a huge imbalance, due to the socio-economic growth humans long for. The ecosystem has an automatic system of balancing itself unless externally affected by environmental changes, or due to human activities. Unfortunately, not much attention is being paid to these important factors of life, and people are just selfishly cutting down trees, etc., and have no disconcerted in doing so (Pant, R. & Khanduri, R., 1998).

Natural resources can be regenerated, but the rate at which human activities are harming and destroying Nature is unable to be met naturally. This is the reason for the ecological crisis that is taking place in certain areas of the world. The greed that has taken people by storm in today’s world is responsible for ecological imbalance (Pant, R. & Khanduri, R., 1998).

Natural Resources in Nepal

Nepal is a South Asian country, with a diverse landscape. It houses the famous Mount Everest and has a lot of the Himalayan mountains range within its territory, providing scenic beauty to the country. Mainly, Nepal’s economy relies on agriculture and the industries that are a result of the agricultural gains.

The natural resources prevalent in Nepal include heavy forestation, which is an essential part of Nepal’s economy. The Himalayan region provides an enormous amount of forests. The problem lies in the fact that there is a lot of deforestation going on in the Himalayas, which is affecting the economy of the country (Pant, R. & Khanduri, R., 1998).

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Certain social institutions are responsible for the forests and the activities about them. These include laws, and government policies, to help the stability of the supply and demand of forest commodities (Wallace, M., 2006). Foreign aid is expanding and the institutions are being changed, with the rise of the population. Many policies are being proposed for forest conservation, but it will take a long time for implementation and improvement in strategy accomplishment.

An attempt is being made to perk up the management of forest resources and increase the production of fodder and fuelwood. The government has not been able to manage forest reserves well in the past, which is the reason for a pitfall in the economy.

Forests and Associated Policies in Nepal

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and does not possess the assets needed for the conversion of forest resources like fuelwood, to commercial energy sources. Another factor that creates a hindrance is the changing climate, which does not allow for a smooth flow of demand and supply in the local forest.

The economy is assisted to an extent due to the open border with India, where forest products are sent. There is a need for the production of fuelwood to such an amount that may meet the needs of the growing populations, both humans and animals. Most of the current policies prevalent in the region include strategies to increase the amount of fuelwood and fodder being produced. This is an important aspect of community forestry and is being implemented by local and foreign aid.

One other policy that is being practiced is the provision of forest products such as timber and fuelwood produced in rural areas, to the urban areas. This has aided in the preservation of forest reserves of the urban areas (Wallace, M., 2006).

At times, there are corrupt acts taking place to achieve objectives of the forest policies, like the attainment of taxes in the form of timber, charcoal, or fuelwood. The natural forests of Nepal used to be their wealth once upon a time, but all of this has evaded with time.

Use of Forest Reserves

The Nepalese population uses the resources attained from the forests for a variety of purposes. These include,

  • Cutting fuelwood for burning
  • Cutting fuelwood and fodder for heating purposes and for feeding livestock
  • Forest land is cleared up for agricultural purposes
  • Forests are cleared up to keep trees from growing
  • Forests are cleared up to grow grass.

Unfortunately, the forests are being depleted at large, and if this continues, in a few years, the forest area will be converted into the barren land, due to the decrease in crop growth.

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Rainfall in Nepal

There is substantial rainfall in the Himalayan region between June and September. The entire region has a vast variety of altitudes, due to the natural push of the Himalayan Mountains and hills upwards. These varying altitudes cause certain geological variations, which cause landslides. The possibility of landslides increases with the arrival of the monsoon season, thereby causing large amounts of land erosion (Wallace, M., 2006).

This erosion is the most serious environmental problem of Nepal, but there can be nothing done to avoid it, as it is caused by naturally occurring calamities. Man can hardly do anything to save the environment from natural disasters.

Nepal’s Declining Forest Resource

There is a strong link between Nepal’s poverty, economic state, governmental policies, and the destruction of land and water resources (Natural Resource Management, 2001). For human existence, it is essential to have access to natural resources such as land and water. Nepal lost its forests around two decades ago due to the increase in the demand for wood, with the growing population (Natural Resources).

The most consumption is that of fodder from the forests because most homes in Nepal contain livestock- people have kept animals for grazing, which require large amounts of fodder. Fodder demand is the greatest pressure on forests, with large numbers of grazing animals awaiting their diet.

The preference for buffaloes over cattle has also laid an impact on the increase in fodder demand. The reason being, that buffaloes are better at producing good quality milk and meat with the intake of low-quality fodder. The overgrazing of these animals is a major source of degradation of forests, causing land in the forest area to flatten, and resulting in erosion.

The energy consumption in Nepal is quite low. Fuelwood is the main source of energy, and will probably remain to be an important source for the people for many years to come. There is a lot of domestic use of fuelwood, like heating and cooking. But as the population is on the rise, and there is the insufficient provision of fuelwood to meet the daily needs of the people, they are switching to other forms of energy, like dung cake consumption for producing fires in their kitchens (Wallace, M., 2006). The declining forest resources have forced people to alter their means of energy gains in their homes.

The use of fuelwood varies from region to region. The urban areas of Nepal use lesser fuel wood due to the availability of other sources of commercial fuel. Also, those hilly areas which require more heating will automatically require more wood to burn. Another factor that affects the cost and consumption of fuelwood is the cost of transportation. The gathering of wood takes a long time. The wood collected is transported to other urban areas, thereby influencing the price due to transportation.

Fuelwood Alternatives

There are certain substitutes for the use of fuelwood. However, they are not easily available for energy provision. Hydropower is the only source of Nepal’s commercial energy, but the construction costs are massive, and division is limited. Hydropower can’t meet the needs of the ever-rising rural population (Wallace, M., 2006).

The urban population is slowly switching over to the consumption of low-pressure gas, and kerosene, and electricity. But such I sonly in those few homes who can afford the high rates of these alternative energy forms. Most of Nepal’s population consists of villagers, for whom it is impossible to change over to other forms of energy, then the use of fuelwood. If they meet a shortage of fuelwood, they will start burning fodder, which in turn will affect the intake of the grazing animals, or they will burn dung cakes, which will affect agriculture, as the fertilizers will be reduced in quantity. The only choice there is to produce more fuelwood somehow, to meet the intensifying demands of the rising populace.

Degradation of Forests in Nepal

There have been changes in the environmental outlook of Nepal, and great changes have been made especially in the Tarai region. Degradation has taken place over here, leaving the remaining areas with forests and shrubs. In some areas, the conversion of forests to agricultural areas is only for short periods and may turn back to forestation again. But the Tarai region that has been converted to agricultural land cannot return to forests, even if it is unable to produce crops- then that certain area is just wasted, and unproductive.

The depletion of forests is an old practice, but the demand for the fuel and fodder that is provided by these forests has increased with time. To meet these demands, it is important to cut the forests, and with every passing year, the demands are becoming more and more difficult to meet (Wallace, M., 2006).

The management of the resources is essential for meeting the rising demands. The trees grown in private areas are also of utmost importance, as they reduce the pressure laid on forests for fuelwood and fodder. These trees can also help to provide resources for meeting people’s needs and should be considered essential contributors.

Degradation of Land Affecting the Economy

The landslides in the hills aforementioned are a menace to Nepal’s economy. The flooding that has occurred in the past due to the heavy flooding caused by the after-effects of natural calamities is a major element of land degradation, which has strongly affected the economy (Karkee, K., 2004).

Forest fires are also one big cause of natural resource wastage. The two types of fires that occur are intentional forest fires and accidental forest fires. The intentional fires are set to produce good growth of grass following the rainy season. The accidental fires are caused by picnickers who throw away their lit cigarettes or by other such human carelessness (Pant, R. & Khanduri, R., 1998).

Steps to Improve the Economic and Social Conditions Affected by Deforestation

There are still hopes to replenish whatever has been lost in Nepal, through human inconsideration and other factors.

  • Agroforestry can be promoted to refill lost land. If there is existing agroforestry and is successful, it can be promoted to other areas wherever required.
  • The community forestry groups can be encouraged to take care of certain areas of forests. They can easily manage and behold certain allocations, which will prevent deterioration of the land covered by forests, in turn saving many species.
  • Forest leasehold schemes can be promoted, which will work well for the conservation of forests.
  • Technical support can be provided to private landowners, to prevent the prevailing conditions of the forests, and look after them.
  • Environmental education needs to be imparted to the general population, to create awareness of what they are doing to the ecosystem and the economy and overall standard of living, by their deeds.

Conclusion

By creating awareness of the factors that have sadly depleted Nepal’s economy, measures can be taken by the people themselves, to preserve their natural resources, especially forests. They are the biggest contributors to the economy but have unfortunately faced a crisis over the recent years, due to human negligence. If little attention is given to the shortcomings of the people, the economy can be revived and the people can attain a better standard of living for themselves.

References

  1. Degradation of Natural Resources. 
  2. Karkee, K. Forest degradation in Nepal: Institutional context and policy alternatives 2004. 
  3. Johnston, R., Taylor, P. & Watts, M. Geographies of global change: remapping the world 2004. Web.
  4. Natural Resource Management in Nepal.
  5. Natural Resources.
  6. Pant, R. & Khanduri, R. Ecological Degradation Due to Exploitation of Natural Resources and Development 1998. 
  7. Wallace, M. Forest Degradation in Nepal: Institutional Context and Policy Alternatives 2006.
  8. Wild, A. Cofee: a dark history 2005. Web.

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