`Forests face threat from illegal encroachment`

India`s forests are not only facing threat from mining, they are also being ravaged due to illegal human encroachment.

New Delhi: India`s forests are not only facing threat from mining, they are also being ravaged due to illegal human encroachment.

According to a new government document, nearly 1.25 million hectares of ecologically fragile areas have been illegally occupied by humans.

Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Chhattisgarh are the worst culprits in this regard, the document says.

In Assam, 2,59,700 hectares of forest areas are under encroachment, while around 2,56,000 hectares of forest land in Andhra Pradesh has been illegally occupied by humans, it says.

An estimated 1,18,494 hectares of forest areas are under encroachment in Chhattisgarh where Maoist insurgents and legal and illegal mining in biodiversity hotspots are very active.

Forests in the Western Ghat region states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are also under threat of encroachment.

Over 85,388 hectares of forests in Maharashtra have been illegally occupied, the document says.

Forest areas in Karnataka (96,014 hectares), Kerala (44,420 hectares), Gujarat (34,791 hectares) and Tamil Nadu (14,352 hectares) have been occupied by violators, it says.

Large-scale such violation of forests has been reported from many other states including Jammu and Kashmir (13,360 hectares), Odisha (78,505 hectares), Tripura (47,758 hectares), Arunachal Pradesh (58,553 hectares) and Uttar Pradesh (26,795 hectares).

Interestingly, not a single case of violation has been reported from Bihar. The data is prepared based on the information provided by the state governments in 2010 and 2011 and 2012.

"The central government has issued instruction to all states to take time-bound action for the eviction of illegal encroachment of forest lands," an official said.

The disclosure of violation of forest areas came at a time when the government is taking several steps to increase forest cover in 20 million hectares of land in 10 years under an ambitious programme called Green India Mission.

The Forest Survey conducted last year had revealed that India`s forest cover has declined, with the maximum loss recorded in Andhra Pradesh. The reduction was to the tune of 367 square km in comparison to the 2009 assessment.

According to the biennial survey, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectares, which is 23.81 per cent of the geographical area of the country.