Forest rights act incentivising encroachment: AP forest dept

As many as 1,74,693 claims for 14,70,246 acres of land were approved as of September 30, 2011 in the state.

Hyderabad: Encroachments on account of Recognition of Forest Rights Act (RoFR), diversion of land for irrigation projects, and cutting of the plantations were the chief reasons for the declining forest cover, a top official of Andhra Pradesh Forest department said today.
The encroachments are made with the hope that they would be regularised one day, said Hitesh Malhotra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, talking to reporters.

"Encroachments. We lost about 84 sq kms of forest in this 09-11 report. That is purely because of RoFR. Because, whatever land which we have given inside, it has become an incentive for the people to go and encroach. It is the hope that if not today, tomorrow it will be regularised," he said.

As many as 1,74,693 claims for 14,70,246 acres of land were approved as of September 30, 2011 in the state.

The RoFR issue has been brought to the notice of the government, Malhotra said.

The paper mills in the state need 22.5 lakh tons of pulpwood every year, which means cutting of 56,000 hectares of forest.

"We have four paper mills. Their requirement is 22.5 lakh tons of pulpwood every year. At 40 tons per hectare, it will require felling of trees over almost 56,000 hectares. They are raising plantations. They are cutting plantations. Whenever they cut, the cover comes down. It again goes up," he said.

Diversion of land for the irrigation projects also results in reduction of forest and tree cover, he said.

The forest cover in the state has declined by 281 sq km, while the tree cover has grown substantially, as per the State Forest Report, 2011.

The smuggling of red sanders continues to be a concern, Malhotra said. Though there is no demand for red sanders in India, it has huge demand in China and some other countries.

The labourers are paid highly for smuggling the wood, he said. In one instance, a chopper was used to ferry red sanders from Chennai to Imphal, he added.

8,000 tonnes of seized red sanders is with AP forest department, which the government can export to reduce the demand for smuggled wood, he said.