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Forest cover dips in states
Published on 6 Dec. 2009 12:44 AM IST
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Four states of the Northeast have registered a decrease in forest cover while three states have shown an increase, resulting in a gain of 598 square km in the region from 2005-2007, according to the State of Forest Report (2009). The report that was released recently in New Delhi, says Assam has lost 66 square km, Nagaland 201, Arunachal Pradesh 119, Tripura 100 square km, The Telegraph reported. Mizoram has gained 640 square km, Manipur 328 and Meghalaya 116 square km. The report says that on the basis of a ground report by officials of the Forest Survey of India and information gathered from state forest department, the reason for the loss of forest cover in Assam is mainly encroachment in the insurgency-affected areas of Sonitpur, Karbi Anglong and Darrang. The increase in forest cover in Hailakandi, Karimganj and Jorhat is attributed to the regeneration of abandoned shifting cultivation and new plantations. Of the loss, Karbi Anglong accounts for a loss of 37 square km followed by Kokrajhar (19), North Cachar Hills (12), Sonitpur (10) and Darrang (9). “Encroachment in Sonitpur district has been a problem for quite some time now and there has been some effort in trying to stop its increase, but the losses have been so great that it will be difficult to restore the area,” a forest official in Sonitpur said. Citing the case of the Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary, the official said the park was in a terrible condition with illegal settlers occupying large areas. “We are trying our best to protect the areas, but one never knows what will happen if we lose our control,” the official said. Many of these settlers had bought large tracts of land in the park, creating a massive problem for the authorities. On Assam, the report said there was a decrease of 3 square km in very dense forest, 95 square km in moderately dense forest and increase of 32 square km in open forest. The principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Assam, S. Chand, said though the forest cover of Assam was 35.30 per cent, most of the forest areas are degraded. The Northeast, which covers 7.76 per cent of the geographic area of the country, accounts for nearly one-fourth of its forest cover. The forest cover in the region is about 66.81 per cent of the geographic area as against the national average of 21.02 per cent. The report attributes the loss of forest cover in Nagaland and Tripura to shifting cultivation and Arunachal Pradesh to shifting cultivation and biotic pressure. The report also talks of the growing stock of forests, which is essential to understand the productive capacity of forests and to develop national policies and strategies. The country was divided into 14 zones for quantifying the growing stock. Arunachal Pradesh is credited with having the highest growing stock of forests in the country.

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