Climate change is all around us and there’s no denying that capturing carbon by increasing forest cover is key in the fight against this crisis. However, there’s a serious issue looming around as some of these forests exist on paper only, meaning they are ‘Phantom Forests’. Why do these so-called fake forests occur? The simple answer is that promises made by governments and organizations have not been kept.
In the Philippines, along the coast of Iloilo, the perfect shallow waters were planted with mangroves as part of the nation’s progressive National Greening Program. However, around 90% of the seedlings died, because the type of mangrove planted was right for muddy creeks rather than the area’s sandy coast. The government preferred it this way since the seeds were readily available and easy to plant.
Another example of the failed restoration of forests has occurred in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, where tens of millions of sprouts were planted in the last few years, but when checked on for new plantations, very few have been found alive.
What can be done to avoid greenwashing and truly help nature heal? Perhaps, the most important step is to stop logging the few remaining old-growth forests. Also, countries need to speed up the process of working to get special wild places designated as protected areas.
If enough old-growth forests can be protected and younger forests are permitted to live long enough to become old-growth once again, we can certainly say that there is still hope out there.