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Forest Cover Has Shrunk By 100 Sq Kms: FSI

IMPHAL, Sep 21: According to a biennial report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the State’s forest area has shrunk by 100 sq kms. Meanwhile, experts have warned that water shortage would grow more and more corresponding to the degree of deforestation.

Barren Hill

A barren hill side which has been burnt (Image Credit: The Sangai Express)

According to a high ranking official of the Forest Department, forest land constitutes 77.09 per cent of the State’s total geographical area which is 22,327 sq kms. But the FSI report published in 2013 said that the forest area has been reduced by 100 sq kms.

The report cited jhum cultivation and modernization/construction projects as the principal factors for the ever shrinking forest area.

FSI previous report published in 2011 also stated that the State’s forest cover was reduced by 100 sq kms.

The State with a total population of 2.57 million has very dense forest of 725 sq kms, moderately dense forest of 5,583 sq kms and open forest of 8,794 sq kms.

Very dense forest has totally disappeared from Chandel district, according to the report.

District-wise data said that forest area has been reduced by 40 per cent in Chandel, 11 per cent in Senapati, 37 per cent in Tamenglong and 23 per cent in Ukhrul district. However, Churachandpur district showed positive growth rate of forest land. The district’s forest area grew by 11 per cent.

Among the valley districts, forest land has been reduced by one per cent in Thoubal district.

Even as the forest land has been rapidly shrinking in the State, Forest Department is ill-equipped to check the menace. In the absence of a concrete policy, the department could not do anything when forest areas were burnt or rampant deforestation activities were going on, said the official adding that there would be some respite if the New Land Use Policy comes into effect.

On the average, around 400 sq kms of forest areas are being burnt for jhum cultivation every year. Even if lakhs and lakhs of saplings are planted by the department, forest areas will shrink invariably if there is no let up in lumbering and burning of forest land.

If the forest areas are allowed to shrink at this rate, water scarcity would increase exponentially notwithstanding how many dams the Government may build because there are not enough trees to absorb and retain rain water.

When deforestation activities go on unchecked, environmental degradation would only aggravate and loss of flora and fauna is an obvious consequence, the official said.

According to a study report of the Directorate of Environment which is a nodal agency of State Action Plan on Climate Change, population growth in Chandel district which recorded maximum disappearance of forest areas was 21.72 per cent. Against 37 per cent fall in forest cover, Tamenglong recorded population growth of 25.69 per cent.

Ukhrul lost 23 per cent of its forest areas and achieved 30.07 per cent population growth rate. Forest areas in Senapati declined by 10 per cent and population grew by 25.16 per cent.

In the back drop of the global climate change and shrinking forest areas of the State, all development projects should be taken up in an eco-friendly manner.

Contribution of the North East to the national forest produces and over all benefits is 66 per cent, added the official.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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