1.2L hectares of forest lost in 5 NDA years

Between 2014 and 2018, the forest loss was 1,22,748 ha with the maximum loss being reported in the year 2016 (30,936 ha) and 2017 (29,563 ha). (DH File Photo)

In five years of NDA rule, India lost more than 1,20,000 hectares of primary forests, which is nearly 36% more than the loss of forest and tree cover between 2009 and 2013.

Between 2014 and 2018, the forest loss was 1,22,748 ha with the maximum loss being reported in the year 2016 (30,936 ha) and 2017 (29,563 ha).

In contrast, the casualty in the UPA-2 regime between 2009 and 2013 was 77,963 hectares, while 87,350 ha of tropical forest disappeared in 2004-08 when UPA-1 was in power.

The latest data came from the University of Maryland, which used Nasa satellite images to look into forest loss trends all over the world.

The data has been released by the Global Forest Watch, an arm of the World Resources Institute (WRI), a US-based non-governmental organisation.

Indian forest and tree cover loss was 21,942 ha in 2014, which dropped to 20,997 ha next year before shooting up in 2016 and 2017. Subsequently there was a dip in 2018 when the forest loss figures stood at 19,310 ha.

The maximum losses in the UPA regimes, on the other hand, were reported in 2008 (20,702 ha) followed by 2004 (19,166 ha) and 2012 (18,804 ha).

The survey based on satellite images doesn’t provide any explanation on the causes behind such mammoth forest loss — cumulatively 3,10,625 ha since 2002 — particularly for the period after 2016.

“Global Forest Watch has a driver data-set available that assigns one of five dominant drivers to tree cover loss from 2001-2015. Unfortunately, we don’t have this information for 2016-2018, but we are working on updating this data-set,” Elizabeth Goldman, a WRI researcher, told DH.

Going by the existing data-set, mining, logging and shifting cultivation were the major causes of forest loss in India up to 2015.

The forest cover loss has led to an increase of carbon dioxide in Indian atmosphere by 101-250% up to 2017, according to a different analysis by the WRI.

Globally, however, India is not a major forest-losing nation. In 2018, the tropics lost 3.64 million hectares of essential primary rainforest, an area larger than Belgium. Brazil, Indonesia, Congo, Colombia and Bolivia make up over two-thirds of the total area of loss.

In 2002, Brazil and Indonesia used to account for 71% of forest loss, but the trend has changed. The world lost 12 million hectares of tropical tree cover in 2018, an area the size of Nicaragua, or 30 football fields per minute.

This is the fourth highest annual loss since record-keeping began in 2001.

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