Corporates and Environment

Deforestation-Who are to blame?

Deforestation-Who are to blame?
-Dr. Susan Sharma

We all love our children ....and grand children.  We make assets which we bequeath to our next generation.  But if someone told you that we are overusing the natural resources in our lifetime leaving little or none for the generation next,  does it surprise you?.  Or shock you into action?   No amount of air-conditioning and purifying can protect a human being if the air she breathes outside is loaded with aerosols(particulate matter).  The ROs (Filtered by reverse osmosis) of the world cannot protect her from polluted waters which enter her blood stream through vegetables grown with polluted water, milk coming from cattle who have no drinking water available.  

"It is no longer feasible to think of production processes delinked from clean environment as a resource.  .....If a clean environment is used up and degraded during production in one time period, less of it will be available in the future.   So if the current generation of consumers uses up its quota, future generations will have to do with polluted rivers and degraded land resources.  " says Jairam Ramesh on  intergenerational equity.   

Who is to blame for the systematic deforestation of tropical forests?  All of us, it would seem.


 While the world is busy lauding the Fortune 500 Companies,  an NGO called Global Canopy Project (funded by UK) has drawn up another list -Forest 500-listing the power brokers of zero deforestation.

The Forest 500- for the first time- identifies, ranks, and tracks the governments, companies and financial institutions worldwide that together could virtually eradicate tropical deforestation.    Here is a quote from the website of

"The majority of tropical forest loss and degradation is driven by the production of just a handful of globally traded ‘forest risk’ commodities: namely palm oil, soya, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper. These commodities move along complex supply chains – from producers, to traders, processors, manufacturers and retailers – ending up in over 50% of packaged goods in supermarkets worldwide. Through these commodities, we are all part of a hidden deforestation economy."

Where does India figure in this scheme of things?

India plays an increasingly important role as an importer of forest risk commodities.  According to, India is the largest importer of both palm oil (especially crude palm oil) and soya products from tropical forest producer jurisdictions. In 2012 and 2013, it was the world’s largest importer of edible oils, purchasing 8.3 million tons of palm oil and 1.3 million tons of soya bean oil (as well as 1.2 million tons of sunflower oil).  Around 90% of all imported and domestically produced palm oil is used in cooking and food production rather than for biofuels or in the production of personal care items, as is the case elsewhere.  While India itself is a significant soya producer (fourth globally in terms of hectares under production),  it also imports large amounts, with 16% of soya oil exports from tropical forest countries destined for the Indian market.  As with palm oil, imported soya oil, which is primarily imported from Brazil and Argentina, is mostly used as cooking oil.  

To make up for a severe domestic timber shortage, India is also a major importer of timber products. These are primarily in the form of unprocessed logs and in recent years, almost a third of all tropical roundwood has been destined for India. It has been estimated that up to 17% of tropical timber imports to India may be of illegal origin. 

In the case of deforestation, Indians are guilty of fuelling demand for "forest risk" commodities, it would seem.  


Sandmining in Morni hills (Chandigarh) has resulted in large scale degradadtion of forests-Photo Susan Sharma

(Dr.Susan Sharma is the founder of

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