forest cover lost due to diversion: Mnp forest min

Correspondent IMPHAL, Jan 2 | Publish Date: 1/2/2020 12:33:51 PM IST

Manipur forest minister Th Shyamkumar on Thursday blamed the loss in state forest cover to the diversion of large forest areas for taking up developmental works.

He said that constructions of railways, highways, roads and particularly Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) roads in hill districts have also contributed in loss of forest covers in the state in the recent years.  The forest minister was making a clarification on the reported loss of 499 sq km forest cover of the state as per report published in the biennial Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019. 

The report was released by the Union environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on December 30, 2019. Addressing a pressconference here, the minister said that the data interpretation period for Manipur in the biennial ISFR 2019 was from October 2017 to February 2018 but the status indicated in the report mainly belongs to the survey conducted in the period 2016-17. He said that out of the total area lost, 491 sq km was in hill districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul. Maximum loss of forest cover was in Churachandpur with 250 sq km.  He informed that Churachandpur and Tamenglong are extremel fire prone areas and the tree cover of Manipur outside forest land has reduced by 47 sq km, he added. He said that jhum cultivation in hill districts with shortened cycles regularly also contributed in loss of forest areas.  He further said that in the 14th Finance Commission, no funds were provided to the state forest department for implementation of prescription of the working plans and raising infrastructure. Shyamkumar said that forest department has been giving awareness regarding the un-class forest areas for converting them into community reserves as per Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for better protection and management.  He said efforts were being made to apply working plan prescriptions through community involvement apart from regular destructions of poppy cultivation areas with NAB and police and reclaim the same areas under forest cover through plantations of local plant species.  He said that to reduce the cutting trees for firewood, the department on a pilot basis linked the forestry schemes with PM’s Ujjwala Yojana for distribution of LPG connections.

He said that the department has also developed online portal to prevent of smuggling of timber/forest produce and use of fake transit passes.  Improved coordination among forest department, Assam Rifles and police department has resulted in increase of seizure and confiscation of illegal forest produces, he added.

 In the valley districts, he said that about eight sq km was lost which could be attributed to rampant encroachment and illegal earth cutting in Imphal and Thoubal districts.  He said. “There is a need for collaboration between forest and revenue department to check whether there is any irregular and rampant land deeds (pattas) issued to the public in reserved forest areas which is a violation of law.”  He said that the rampant felling for poppy cultivation by the anti-social elements in hill districts has contributed tremendously to forest cover loss. 

He further pointed out that the main challenges faced by the department was to control smuggling of timber and other forest produce and forest offences like earth cutting, encroachments among others due to acute shortage of field staff, mobility and arms.  

He informed that the proposal for improving and strengthening of field staff and equipping them with arms is pending with the government. He said that felling of trees to meet the fuel requirement at domestic level and in brick fields also attributed to the depleting forest cover in the hills. 

He said forest fires in Churachandpur and Tamenglong districts before felling of trees for fire woods both for domestic and commercial consumptions was also one of the reasons for loss of existing forest areas.

One of the major reasons for the loss of forest cover in the hill districts was the “unclassed forest” area which is under the control of the communities, where the Forest Department is not in the position to enforce the Indian Forest Act, 1972, he added. Regarding prevention of encroachment and illegal earth excavation, he said that the department has conducted eviction drive to remove encroachers from Chingkhei Ching (Nongmaiching) Reserved Forest and notices have been issued to encroachers in Langol Reserved Forests.  

He said that the district wise sites for earth excavation which could be rotated and regulated as per laws and mobile patrolling squads have been formed in Central Forest Division. 

He said that the department was monitoring/checking encroachment by using drone cameras and digitization of forest boundaries with expert agency is being initiated.  With regard to the prevention of forest fires, he said that the villagers were provided incentives to protect the forest from wild fires, training of villagers to fight the forest fires and equipping them with forest fire fighting tools. 

He said that awareness is given to the villages residing near forested areas on preventive measures and livelihood components in the schemes to prevent intentional forest fires have been incorporated in the recent years. The process for eviction of the encroachers will begin soon from this month, he said while seeking cooperation from the general public in protecting, preserving the forest areas of the state.


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