Karnataka lost 10,000 hectares of forest in 3 years 

The forest loss in 2018 was 3,537 ha whereas the figures in 2017 and 2016 were 3,060 and 3,310 ha respectively. DH file photo

Karnataka has lost more than 3,000 hectares of primary forests in each year between 2016 and 2018, which is way above the annual forest loss in every year since 2001, barring one.

The forest loss in 2018 was 3,537 ha whereas the figures in 2017 and 2016 were 3,060 and 3,310 ha respectively. Since 2001, Karnataka's tree cover loss never breached the 3,000 ha mark barring a single year in 2007 when 4,145 ha of forests vanished.

On a micro level, the maximum decline was seen in Dakshin Kannada and Udupi districts in the last three years. In Dakshin Kannada, the loss was 1,109 ha in 2016; 955 ha in 2017 and 1072 ha in 2018. In Udupi, the corresponding figures were 740 ha, 857 ha and 665 ha respectively.

Estimated on the basis of NASA satellite images, the data comes from Global Forest Watch, an arm of the World Resources Institute, a US-based non-governmental organisation.

The WRI researchers, however, don't provide any explanation for the loss at this moment as they said more time was needed to analyse the data.

Karnataka is not alone in large-scale forest loss in south India. Neighbouring Kerala too saw disappearance its trees in a big way in the same period.

The forest loss in the Malabar state was 7,187 ha in 2016; 9,722 ha in 2017 and 6273 ha in 2018. Such high levels of forest loss weren't noticed in Kerala since 2001.

Taken together more than 30,000 ha of forest disappeared from Karnataka and Kerala in the last three years. In comparison, the loss is significantly less in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa and Maharashtra.

While presenting the findings as a set of interactive maps and graphics, the WRI researchers flagged a few key points that needed to be kept in the mind in order to avoid any erroneous interpretation of the data.

For instance, the “tree cover” is defined as all vegetation greater than 5 meters in height, and may take the form of natural forests or plantations across a range of canopy densities while “loss” indicates removal or mortality of tree cover and can be due to a variety of factors, including mechanical harvesting, fire, disease, or storm damage.

Though forest loss does not necessarily equate to deforestation straight away, no doubt there are cases where deforestation due logging or mining is the biggest cause of forest loss.

India’s greenest region, the north-east has been consistently losing a huge amount of tree cover over the last 18 years and the loss has been doubled in the last five years. The loss in the North East was way above the rest of the country. Most of the states lost 15,000-30,000 ha of forests in every year and Mizoram in 2017 recorded loss of nearly 41,000 ha of forests.

The alarming loss in the north-east was also captured in the last State of Forest report released by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry in February 2018.

For the country as a whole, the loss of primary forest in the last five years was more than 120,000 ha, which is nearly 36% more than such losses seen between 2009 and 2013.

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