India`s forest cover declines, blame on Naxals

India`s forest cover shrank by 367 sq km with the maximum 80 per cent loss recorded in AP mainly due to Naxals felling trees in Warangal.

New Delhi: India`s forest cover shrank by 367
sq km with the maximum 80 per cent loss recorded in Andhra
Pradesh mainly due to Naxals felling trees in Warangal and
Khammam districts, according to a new survey released on Tuesday.

Forest and tree cover of the country as per the biennial
assessment report released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI)
is 78.29 million hectares, which is 23.81 per cent of the
geographical area. This includes 2.76 per cent tree cover.

The reduction is to the tune of 367 square km in
comparison to the 2009 assessment, the new Government forest
survey report released by Environment Ministry Secretary T
Chatterjee said. The assessment was made on the basis of
satellite imageries.

"It is a wake up call," said Sunita Narain, Director
General Centre for Science and Environment(CSE).

Andhra Pradesh recorded maximum forest cover loss of 281
sq km, the report, the twelfth in the series said.

Chatterjee said Naxals have cut trees in hundreds of
acres in AP.

"In Warangal and Khammam, they cut because they wanted to
get the people involved....The wood was auctioned later. These
cuttings were done over a period of three days," he said.

Decline in 281 sq km forest cover in Andhra Pradesh is
also attributed to harvesting of mature plantation of
Eucalyptus and other species.

While 15 states have registered aggregate increase of 500
sq km in their forest with Punjab leading with increase of 100
sq km, 12 states and Union Territories, mainly from the
north east, have shown a decline of 867 sq km.

Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the
country at 77,770 sq km followed by Arunachal Pradesh at
67,410 sq km.

In terms of percentage of forest cover in relation to
total geographical area, Mizoram tops with 90.68 per cent
followed by Lakshadweep with 84.56 per cent.

Fall in forest cover in north east is particularly due
to prevailing practice of shifting cultivation in this region,
says the report.