The impact of climate change on tribal Communities

adivasi eviction1

India has about 80.9 million sqkm of forest cover, which is 24.62 percent of the country’s geographical area. The total forest cover has been estimated to have increased by 2,261 sqkm in 2019. The location of dense and open forests is prominent in this forest cover. In recent years there has been an expansion of forest cover in different states in India. These states are Telangana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

Tribals inhabit these states. Forest has played an essential role in human life. The first stage of human development begins with the jungle age. It has been mentioned in detail by Rahul Sankrityayan in the book ‘Manav Samaj.’

The association between the tribal and the forest is like two sides of the same coin. The forest provides a comprehensive and holistic system to the tribals in which different aspects of life are included. It provides a significant contribution to enhancing life development. So that human life can be lived in harmony.

The first climate change conference was held in Geneva from 12 to 23 February 1979. At this conference, the chairman, Robert M. White, exposed many facts. The developed countries have looked at these facts, which are visible worldwide. The effect of climate change is also seen in India. Its direct effect is now visible on the tribals as well. Climate change is happening so fast that changes in temperature and rainfall patterns are seen even in forest areas. Due to this, the tribals living in remote forest areas also face many diseases.

Let us take the state of Jharkhand as an example to understand the impact of climate change. In Jharkhand, 32.74 percent of the land area has forests. In 2011, the Jharkhand government prepared a draft State Disaster Management Plan because the state of Jharkhand was also in the grip of various natural calamities, which could not be ignored.

Its impact is also seen in the state’s economy. The effect of drought was observed in 24 districts of the state. The effects of floods are seen in some areas. There are regular incidents of forest fires in some districts of the state. During my fieldwork for the research study of forest produce in different districts of the state, I learned many facts about climate change from the local people who shared much information about climate change. The hills of Rajmahal surround the eastern part of the state. Local people said that some 20-30 years ago, the villagers used to work in these hills to grow medicine after harvesting the crop.

In recent times, the occurrence of forest fires has become common. Due to this, most of the population has reached the edge of unemployment. There were about 450-500 herbs found in these hills. However, many medicinal plants have been destroyed due to unseasonal rains and extreme temperatures.

The local people also said that a medicinal flower had disappeared from these mountains. In order to preserve this medicinal flower, many pharmaceutical companies met with people and told them how to save it. Despite this, the effect of climate change is seen in the high temperature experienced in the mountains. As a result, many other medicinal plants are also getting destroyed.

The state of Jharkhand provides a better climate for lac production. However, in recent years, climate change has been seen in Jharkhand. The local people, during interviews, pointed out that there is not much time difference between the production of Kusmi lac and Baisakhi lac. Besides, due to high temperatures, lacquer pests are destroyed. Apart from this, people used to plant fruits every other year in the forests. Now that this gap has widened, such an effect is visible in the forests of Jharkhand.

The tribal communities used tamarind and mahua as medicines. It is now completely gone. Sudden rains also destroy the medicinal elements of tamarind and mahua, creating many storage problems. Thus, we can say that climate change directly affects the life of tribal society. Along with this, it also creates different types of problems in their lives. Currently, many types of tree plantation work are being done by the government in tribal areas, which is not entirely suitable for forest formation. Because many tuber roots also grow in the forest. Some such plants will not grow in that proportion by transplanting them as it occurs automatically in the forests. It is a tradition based on tribal knowledge. This effect of climate change is also destroying traditional tribal knowledge, which includes the accumulation of crop seeds. Climate change will also destroy the tribals and the ecosystem.

The impact of climate change has increased so much that seasonal wild tuber roots cannot be obtained in such proportion as they used to be. Local people say that tribal people spent about three to four months picking fruits and flowers from the forests. However, it is slowly disappearing.

Dr. Arun Kumar Oraon, Research Associate, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi

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