Government blames Naxals for deforestation

In the last two years, half of India’s forest loss was caused by Naxals in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. Khammam  is one of the hotbeds of Left wing extremism.

Even though India’s forest cover was reduced by 367 sq km between 2009 and 2011, the most significant loss of 182 sq km happened in Khammam, which the officials attributed to Naxal activities.

“The loss happened due to rising Left wing extremism in six to eight months between 2008 and 2009. Either, they cut mostly teak by themselves or ask villagers to do it in patches,” Union Environment Secretary T Chatterjee said releasing the State of Forest Report, 2011 here. Similar trend was also observed in Warangal district.

Khammam shares its border with Chhattishgarh and Odisha. It acts as a buffer zone for the Left wing extremists who frequently move back and forth in these three states depending on pressure from security agencies.

The motive for villagers, according to Chatterjee, is to seek district administration’s attention so that they can provide aids for development.

The officials, however, skirted questions on how timber from 182 sq km of forests can vanish in thin air without any records. They also did not answer questions on if any probe is being carried out to find out what happened to the valuable forest resource.

Maximum forest and tree cover loss was reported from Andhra Pradesh where almost 99 sq km of eucalyptus plantation was cut and sent to paper mills. Two decades ago, the state received permission for growing eucalyptus, which has now been cut and auctioned off for the industry.

Forest and tree cover in Punjab grew by 100 sq km as the state planted eucalyptus and poplar under various agro-forestry schemes. Forest cover in Karnataka remains more or less static with an overall increase of mere 4 sq km of forest area. Forest rich North-
Eastern states like Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, too, lost some of their forest covers due to the reduced cycle of traditional shifting cultivation practice, said A K Wahal, Director-General of Forest Survey of India, which brought out the biennial report.

Overall, India’s forest and tree cover stand at 23.81 per cent of the country's geographical area that includes 2.76 per cent tree cover.  There is an increase of 550 sq km of dense forests where endangered species lived, Chatterjee said. The reduction in forest and tree cover did not have any impact on flora and fauna.

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