No increase in natural forest cover

Govt may start new programme to monitor key areas


According to the State of the Forest Report, 2009 that catalogues the growth of Indian forests between 2005 and 2007, the “medium density forest” area was shrunk by 936 sq km, whereas very dense forest of only 38 sq km was added.
This implies India lost natural forest of a size as big as Bangalore City and its surroundings in the last two years.

The sole substantial gain is in open forest, which includes rubber, coffee and tea plantation areas as satellites cannot distinguish between plantation crops and low density forests. Overall, the national forest cover stands at 21 per cent of the country’s geographical area, and the tree cover is close to 3 per cent of the total area.

The total tree and forest cover stands at just 23.84 per cent of India’s landmass.
This is a far cry from the stated national target of 33 per cent forest and tree cover.

“Almost 40 per cent of our forest is degraded land, which has no forest cover worth its name,” admits Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh after releasing the SFR, 2009 here on Monday.

While shifting cultivation and unregulated mining are the two known causes of forest loss, the report highlighted the influence of Naxalism in losing the forest cover in the forest-rich state of Chhattishgarh, which lost 59 sq km of forests.
“Not only forests, biodiversity is under severe threat from extremists in Simlipal, Indravati, Palamu and Valmiki tiger reserves. Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam had the same problems, but it recovered,” Ramesh said.

Since the existing forest reports come in every two years, the government may start a new programme to monitor key forests like the Western Ghats and central Indian red zone every year.

Karnataka is one of the states that lost a small portion of its forest cover. Between 2005 and 2007, the State lost 10 sq km of forests — maximum in Shimoga district — due to encroachment.

The report for the first time defined the tree line at 4000 mt from the sea level.
Jairam Ramesh said Indian forests absorb about 11 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emission.

at the Copenhagen climate summit beginning on December 7, India will showcase the carbon sink capability of Indian forests to demand incentives for maintaining the forest cover.

The government may also consider having a dedicated satellite to monitor the forest health all over the world, suggested K Kasturirangan, Planning Commission member.
DH News Service

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