Sunday, August 12, 2007



Reforestation is not going to help much
Different diseases may rise

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Are we already seeing the effects of global warming in Jharkhand State. From last several years Jharkhand is facing extremes of the climate. In year 2005and 2006 Jharkhand had spells of excessive rainfall. In the month of February and March 2007 Jharkhand faced heavy rainfall followed with hail storms which is unusual in Jharkhand at this time. We have faced extremes of climate in very quick interval this year till now. Few years earlier people of Jharkhand used to keep away the blankets and warm clothes in the month of March especially during Holi festival. But this year every thing was unusual. Big sizes of the hails indicated big turbulence in the upper atmosphere. Hail storms affected many parts of the state. This happened because temperature increased earlier above the normal in the month of February which is not a normal phenomenon.
On June 13th more than 15 people were killed due to lightning including 5 children. Recent researches has shown that global warming is the major cause of such phenomenon. One of the major cause of global warming is carbon dioxide. Models have been developed that predict atmospheric increases in carbon dioxide. One such model predicts that a doubling carbon dioxide could increase the amount of lightning occurrences by 30-77%. With the growing effects of global warming, potential increases in severe weather will certainly result in more lightning activity leading to more damage to human life.

In 1960's and 1970's peoples of Ranchi (the then summer capital of Bihar Jharkhand united) rarely used fans even in summer seasons. This facts can be justified by the following statements published in Ranchi Gazetteers in the year 1970- " The climate of the Ranchi plateau is cool and pleasant. It is only during the month's of April or May that the temperature rises occasionally. The general elevation of 2,180 feet above sea level gives it a uniformly lower range temperature than the plains."

According to the report maximum temperature rises above 40 degree centigrade in the last month of April or May but only for few days. But at present in Ranchi the trend in rise in temperature starts from March itself. And now use of A.C. and cooler is very common.
Jharkhand is already facing storms, flash floods, droughts, heat waves, drastic increase in disease transmissions, etc. This doesn't mean that Jharkhand has not faced this phenomenon earlier but now the fact is that this is happening frequently. All this indicates that global warming or in other way it will be more justified to call as Regional Warming, is slowly sowing its impact on Jharkhand.

In Jharkhand Warming may caused primarily by the very foundation on which modern civilisation is built- the burning of coal and oil.

There is no doubt that climate is changing in Jharkhand and we are responsible for it by emitting green houses gases like carbon dioxide and methane in larger amount.

Since 1970 mean temperature is rising with little variation. This doesn't mean that this warming phenomenon is recent. Earlier too Jharkhand has passed through different phases of warming. It happened million years ago. Jharkhand has already passed through different climatic changes in the geological past. From cold to hot and dry. This has been researched by different geologists in different coal basins of Jharkhand where the evidences of the climate changes are found in the rocks. Global Warming is natural phenomenon but now it is being triggered by the civilisation.

In Jharkhand main source of increasing carbon dioxide is burning of fossil fuels, especially coal through Thermal Power Plant. Coal fired electricity generation gives rise to nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas.

A 1,000 (one thousand) megawatt electrical coal-fired power station burning coal has typical fuel requirement of almost 3.2 million tonnes of black coal a year. Burning of brown coal would require 9.3 million tonnes of fuel. Each year the 1000 MW coal-fired power station produces about 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide , perhaps 200,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide.

In Jharkhand thermal power generation capacity is 1260 MW which includes Patratu Thermal, Tenughat Thermal and Bokaro Thermal. If they are working in full capacity you can imagine how much carbon dioxide is coming in our atmosphere from the last 40 years i.e. from the year of working.

The figure is dangerously high i.e. more than 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If we calculate the total 40 years ± 5 years it crosses to more than 280 million tonnes. Only relief is that Jharkhand coal contain less sulfur. So the contribution of sulfur to the atmosphere is less.

Even the coal burning in the open coal mines like that of Jharia, Dhanbad, North Karanpura coalfield is contributing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. So we can easily imagine the serious conditions regarding drastic climatic changes in the Jharkhand due to this carbon emission.

When the electricity comes from coal, every kilowatt hour of it results in about a kilogram of carbon dioxide being emitted.

With higher temperatures there is more energy driving the Jharkhand climatic systems which in turn causing more violent weather events.

One dreadful fact regarding carbon dioxide is that a large proportion of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere remains there, warming the planet, for around 200 (two hundred) years.

The other green house gas giving threat to Jharkhand is Methane. It is some 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It is being contributed through the leaks from the coal mines containing Methane gas. Ranchi and other cities in Jharkhand many open and abandoned areas are being used as landfills which are also the main contributors of Methane gas to the atmosphere. Even the termite mounds which are common in Jharkhand contributes Methane gas, but they are known to be natural sources not Anthropogenic. Methane's residence time in the atmosphere is approximately 12 years.

Earlier in Jharkhand forest played major role in absorbing excess carbon dioxide and balancing the temperature difference. But unfortunately due to deforestation in large scale in Jharkhand may have increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere many fold. Today the remaining forest areas are unevenly distributed. Bokaro has only 4.4% of area under forest. Similarly Sahebganj has only 2.31%, Dhanbad 12.72%, Deoghar 9.5% and Ranchi only 23.37% of area under vegetation.

At the Survey and Settlement (1902-1910) the area under forests in the Ranchi districts approximated to about 2,281 square miles, i.e. about 32 percent of the total land area of the district. At the Revisional Survey and Settlement (1927-1935) this area shrank to about 1,956 square mils, i.e. 27 percent of the total land area. Thus during a period of 25 years, 325 square miles of forests had disappeared. When the forests were notified under the Bihar Private Forests Act,1946 and demarcation was done only about 1,065 square miles were found under forests in this district. Adding 213 square miles of reserve forests to this, the total area under forest in this district came to 1,278 square miles. Thus in course of a decade over 600 square miles of forests disappeared. Now it has reached upto 23 percent and gradually decreasing further.

This doesn't mean that deforestation is causing warming phenomenon. Fact is that with deforestation green house gases especially carbon dioxide is also increasing. Earlier these forests use to trap excess carbon dioxide to some extent which balanced the temperature.

The lower percentage of forest cover in the districts has been influenced by the nature of land as well as by the human interference in the form of mining activities and industrial-cum-urban development. In Sahebganj, Pakur and Godda districts, the forest has not been spared even on hills. The Damodar Basin has also recorded remarkable depletion of forest cover because of wanton cutting of forests, exploitation of mining areas and development of urban localities. The forest in this area is confined to the north and west.

Now comes the motor vehicles which is also contributing green house gases in the form of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide etc. After the formation of Jharkhand motor vehicles have increased many fold. The districts with the largest number of registered vehicles in Jharkhand are East Singhbhum with 2,75,121 followed by Ranchi (2,15,794) and Dhanbad (1,72,033).

Ranchi topped the list of increase in vehicle registrations in 2001-2002, the largest in buses, cars, taxis, jeeps, two-wheelers and three wheelers were recorded in Ranchi.

East Singhbhum was number two districts in buses, cars, jeeps, two wheelers and three wheelers. But the maximum number of trucks increased in Dhanbad (344), followed by Giridih (244) and Hazaribagh (191) during 2001-2002.

Most part of the place in Jharkhand is a plateau area having heights of 400 meter to 800 meter above the mean sea level. Such height receives more solar radiation than plains. Generally it is in the form of sunlight and whose warmth we can feel. The place will have stable temperature so long as there is an approximate balance between the energy received from the sun and that returned to space. In Jharkhand State excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere prevents some of the extra energy going back to space. This phenomenon increases the temperature of the place either for short period or sometimes for long period.

Effects due to this warming:

Major health problems may spread in Jharkhand due to gradual warming in the State. They are likely to be severe and many many people are going to be affected.

The health effects can be divided into two categories: direct and indirect. Direct effects will result from direct exposure to the weather extremes that climate change will cause, for example: heat stroke, death or injuries due to storms and also some times flash floods in different drainage basins, rivulets and rivers. In year 2006 we saw the fury of Damodar river near Rajrappa temple were most part of the temple was submerged and many shops were gutted.

Indirect effects will result from subsequent changes in environment and ecosystems- for example: the spread of vector borne diseases into new areas, nutrition problems resulting from crop faliure and even the mental health problems which may result from social and political dislocation.

Regarding direct effects, death from stroke, various cardiovascular illness and influenza in particular may become more common during extremes of weather.

Malaria (mosquito borne disease) is already on rampant in very big area in Jharkhand affecting millions. Due to the warming it is no doubt that this disease will multiply and spread in new areas. In year 2006 many cases of Dengu fever was also reported in the State which was never reported earlier.

Other diseases which may threat the people of Jharkhand are Lymphatic Filariasis, Guinea worm, etc. Old and children are to be worst affected.

Different water borne disease is already on the rampage and is increasing gradually. The new threat may be Cholera, often assumed to be a largely a disease of the past. Water related diseases like typhoid, hepatitis A, diarrhoeal diseases are likely to multiply and spread too. One obvious, but often overlooked, consequence of the health problems which climate change is preparing to visit on us, is the financial cost of dealing with the problem.

Continuous depletion of ground water and increase of contamination in the water of different rivers like Damodar, Swarnrekha etc. are also the outcome of this warming. As the temperature rises the water evaporates speedily decreasing the water level and quantity and thereby increasing the toxicity.

Many sensitive ecosystems, however, may disappear in the face of hotter, dryer conditions. Changes are not expected to be evenly distributed through out Jharkhand. Night will be more warmer. Some animal and insect species may migrate or vanish as the climate warms. Many wild plant and medicinal plant may go extinct. Many scientists have reported that nitrogen oxide in carbon dioxide enriched air reduced the growth of several horticultural species. Scientists found that, with tomato, 1 ppm (parts per million) nitric oxide reduced the photosynthesis rate by 38%.
How can we reduce the threat of Climate Change.

Once greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, most are therefore 50-12- years. So a delay of even a decade or so in reducing these emissions can make it much more difficult and costly to slow the rate and momentum of global warming and avert or lessen the more extreme consequences.

One way is to plant trees to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unfortunately studies indicate that a reforestation program in which each person in the world planted and tended an average of 1,000 trees every year would offset only about 3 years of current carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Also, this is only a temporary approach because the rate of removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis decreases as trees mature and grow at a slower pace. In addition, trees release their stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere when they die and decompose or if they catch fire.

So reforestation in Jharkhand is not going to solve this problem in great amount. Now it is essential to find out the other possibilities to reduce the increased carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Alternative methods for generating electricity other than thermal power plants are nuclear plants as there is no emission of carbon dioxide from such plants, or to establish hydro electric plants or geothermal plants.

This research report has been prepared by
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi
Fellow Member Geological Society of India
Lecturer in Department of Environment and Water Management
J.N. College, Ranchi University.
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