Hydrological Implications from Increasing Forest Cover in Agriculture Dominated Central India
~ By Satvik Parashar
A recent study lead by Dr. Benjamin Clark explores the association of groundwater recharge and infiltration for different proportions of forest cover and agricultural land in the Central India Highlands (CIH). The evapotranspiration (ET) trade-off hypothesis helps us understand how forests and croplands differ in the ways they collect and release water. Forests have higher infiltration and ground-water recharge, but also have a higher rate of evapotranspiration. On the other hand, in paddy croplands, infiltration and recharge is slow, but they have greater depression storage and reduced ET loss when compared to forests.
The study was conducted in the Central Indian Highlands spanning the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The landscape contains nearly 8% forest and around 88% agricultural land. It is drained by five major rivers, namely Ganga, Narmada, Tapi, Godavari, and Mahanadi
Figure 1: Central Indian highlands with the five major basins delineated. Forest cover is shown in green while agriculture is in yellow derived from the European Space Agency (ESA) Land Cover 2010 data reclassified. The inset map shows the sampling area for infiltration tests and the final sampled locations. The color of the sample locations represents the land cover.
The study used hydrological modelling to determine groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration loss for each land use type and for different proportions of forest cover. Forest cover percentage ranged from 5% to 75% with intervals at 5%, along with additional two values of 2% (approximate current minimum for some basins) and 33% (India’s target COP21 NDC). Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) was used to understand the groundwater scenario for each land-use class. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Kfs is a measure of the ease with which pores of a saturated soil permit water movement. Teak plantations had the highest Kfs value of 23.2 mm/h and cropland had the least value of 6.7mm/h. Forest had a value of 20.2mm/h. Suggesting that forests and plantations allow have a higher rate at which water can move deeper into soils to replenish ground water. However, this does not account for water lost from plant use in these environments by ET, which the models need to subtract to provide management inferences. Two pathways were used to determine the hydrological impact of forest cover in CIH:
1. The first pathway analyzed hydrological change when basin mean forest cover was increased in an arbitrary, unplanned manner.
2. The second pathway involved analyzing landscape hydrology, when forest cover was increased by converting non-paddy agriculture land, so as to optimize groundwater recharge.
Firewood, Forests, and Fringe Populations: A Socio-Economic Exploration of LPG Adoption in India
Credit: Sarika Ann Khanwilkar
The latest Voluntary National Review Report (VNR) 2020 of India states that India has fully adopted the SDG framework and has aligned its development priorities with the Global Goals and mentions that Government of India’s flagship program, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) launched 2016 to combat the dependence on biomass for cooking, improving women’s health and empowerment has already achieved its target of enabling 80 million households to access LPG for cooking as of September 2019.
However, multiple studies undertaken recently have discovered that while PMUY allowed for LPG access and affordability, the program did not monitor LPG use after adoption. In order to determine the impact of the PMUY for rural households, Sarika Khanwilkar (Columbia University and NCCI member) and other co-authors of a studied the socioeconomic and environmental drivers of cooking fuel choice and firewood collection in rural Indian households living near forests in the Central Indian Landscape. They specifically assessed the influence of LPG ownership over time on seasonal household firewood collection patterns.
~ By Satvik Parashar
A recent study by Sandra Baqui´ from Columbia University and co-authors (including some NCCI members) assesses the effects of internal migration on poverty alleviation and reduced pressure on forests. Migration can, in theory, diversify income sources and increase asset ownership for a typical central Indian rural household. It can also contribute to forest restoration as a livelihood practice that is not dependent on forest extraction (compared to NTFP collection or cattle grazing). The study tests these very hypotheses with an extensive survey across rural central India.
The study was conducted in villages of central India, spanning the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, across a total geographical area of ~ 25 million hectares. Villages within 8km buffer of the forests were selected. They were split on the basis of distance from the town and then again on the basis of distance from the road, creating 4 groups. Total 5000 surveys were done in the 500 selected villages (10 households per village) equally distributed among the 4 groups.
Measuring the Efficacy of the NCCI – How We Might Move Forward with Our Goals in Central India
~ By Satvik Parashar
Conservation on a holistic level that maintains biodiversity as well as local livelihood requires collaborations across scientists, local people, decision-makers and practitioners. Such strategy engages NGOs, researchers and governments within what is called a Science, Policy and Practice Interface (SPPI). This calls for the involvement of a socio-ecological network that drives collaborations between trans-disciplinary organizations and measures the effectiveness of the knowledge gained through this collaboration, for multiple goals. Our network – the NCCI is one such network, and a recent paper by Amrita Neelakantan, Kishore Rithe, Gary Tabor and Ruth DeFries discusses the institutional context within which NCCI operates and indicators that could measure our work in the future.
The familiar Central Indian Highlands cover an area of more than 450000 sq. kms, spanning the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The landscape consists of several Protected Areas (PAs) and Tiger Reserves (TRs), and is home to a variety of flora and fauna.
Central Indian Highlands and protected areas landscapes. (a) India and location of the Central Indian Highlands (CIH)region across three states (Yellow and orange polygons depicting parts Madhya Pradesh (MP), Chhattisgarh (CH) and Maharashtra (MH) states) as well as PAs (green polygons). (b) Forest cover (dark green) in the region with embedded PAs (lighter green polygons) show corridors between the PAs
~By Pakhi Das
Extreme climatic events and variability are on the rise around the world, with varying implications for populations across socio-economic conditions. The recent assessment report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in July 2021 has reiterated the urgent need to develop climate resilient strategies to safeguard the health, prosperity and wellbeing of billions of people across the world. With some communities more dependent on natural resources than others, it has become more important now than ever to study the extent to which the changing climate affect various people from various socio-economic settings and develop strategic plans to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. A recent study by Pooja Choksi and collaborators examines seasonal migration as an livelihood strategy given current climatic variability amongst the vulnerable populations living in forest-fringe villages of the Central India Landscape (CIL).
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||