'State lost 10 sq km of forest to mining, encroachment'

Forest loss acute in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh & Tripura


Even though the overall loss for Karnataka does not appear to be much—only 10 sq km—this is the first negative trend observed in the last four years. Overall, 743 sq km of forest cover was lost.

Between 2003 and 2005, Karnataka’s forest cover actually increased by five sq km. The gains were observed in Kolar and Uttar Kannada districts.
On the contrary, the maximum losses were reported this time from Shimoga, Haveri and Kolar districts, says the latest State of Forest report, which catalogues the state of affairs in Indian forests between 2005 and 2007.

Overall, Karnataka has 36,190 sq km of forests out of which very dense forest cover is 1,777 sq km and medium density forests is 20,181 sq km. Tree cover has been estimated as 5,683 sq km which is almost 3 per cent of the state.
The loss in Karnataka is mostly due to mining and encroachment. Out of 12 states and UTs, the maximum loss was found in the north-eastern states of Nagaland (201 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (119 sq km), Tripura (100 sq km) and Assam (66 sq km). Chhattishgarh and Maharashtra too lost some forest cover.

Andhra Pradesh is another big loser as the state lost 129 sq km of forest cover. But it may turn out to be a beneficial move in the long run because the loss is primarily due to the forest department’s own felling of the eucalyptus plantations that may be replaced with better quality forest. Since it is more or less certain that the total area under forest cover will remain more or less constant—around 22 per cent—the government plans to improve the forest quality rather than categorising plantations also as forest cover.

The forest loss is reported at a time when India demands incentives from the developed countries to maintain its forests in the Copenhagen climate summit.
Forests act as a big carbon sink. Almost 11 per cent of India’s carbon emission is absorbed in the forests of the Himalayas, Eastern and Western Ghats, central plains and Northeast.

Brazil and Indonesia demand incentives for reducing their deforestation rates under reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) scheme. And India proposes a REDD Plus, demanding incentives for maintaining its forest.
Climate change negotiators recognise that forests matter in shaping the climate change policy. Deforestation and land use change accounts for up to 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transportation sector.

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