Alarming reduction in N-E forest cover

From Our Special Correspondent

 New Delhi: India has lost hundreds of acres of forest cover, mostly in North East but this was largely due to various reasons like shifting cultivation, rotational harvesting and biotic pressures besides tree felling.

The largest dip in forest cover was in the North East which lost 550 sq km.

This loss was very partially made up elsewhere, even as there was an overall negative growth in green cover, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, has said in Parliament recently.

However, the decline of forest cover to the extent of 867 sq in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram etc is due to various reasons like shifting cultivation, rotational harvesting and biotic pressures , the Minister said.

In total India’s forest cover has declined by 367 sq km between 2007 and 2009.

While the figure may not seem alarming, it runs counter to the impression that afforestation and conservation programmes are yielding results.

The implementation of afforestation and conservation programmes for expanding green cover has in fact contributed towards increase in the forest cover, but in some states, she said.

In total 15 States have registered aggregate increase of 500 sq km in their forest cover with Punjab leading with increase of 100 sq km, Natarjan said.

The biennial survey for 2007-2009 is done by the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India published in 2011.

Maximum reduction in forest cover has been reported from insurgency-hit Manipur, totaling 190 sq km. Nagaland comes next with at least 146 sq km forest being lost between 2006 and 2008.

The trend is equally worrying in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, the report had said.

But the last FSI report in 2009 showed forest cover in the North East had increased from 1,69,825 sq km in 2005 to 1,70,423 sq km in 2007 — an annual increase of 299 sq km over two years.

Citing reasons behind the sharp fall in forest cover, a retired conservator of forests said some forest areas in the region were inhabited by tribals and locals practiced Jhum cultivation by clearing out huge swathes of forest areas besides threat of organized wood smugglers and mafia.

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