GUWAHATI- About 4,350 sq km of primary forest area has been lost in the northeastern states of India in the last two decades (2001 to 2021), which is nearly 3 times the size of Delhi. Having an area 1,484 sq km. These figures have been released by the Global Forest Watch (GFW).
GFW is an open source application to monitor forests across the globe in near real time and was started by a US-based non-profit organisation called World Resources Institute.
According to the data, the forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh has decreased the most at 1,250 sq km. This was followed by a reduction in the forest cover of 1,100 sq km in Tripura and then 630 sq km in Assam. These states have experienced rapid climate change in the last 20 years due to less forest cover.
The other northeastern states have also witnessed rapid degradation in forest cover over the decades.
Around 460 sq km primary forest degraded in Manipur during the aforesaid period while 450 sq km in Meghalaya 310 sq km in Nagaland and 150 sq km Mizoram.
The total degraded forest area can be estimated to 5.54% of the size of Assam having an area of 78,438 sq km.
Almost all the states of the northeast have lost the highest forest cover in 2016 in the last 20 years. In that year, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland lost the highest forest cover in the year 2016 while Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura recorded highest degradation in 2017.
According to the data, around 1,030 sq km of forest was lost in Arunachal Pradesh, 49 sq km in Assam, 49 sq km in Manipur and 28 sq km in Nagaland in 2016. Mizoram recorded 21 sq km of forest degradation, 310 sq km in Tripura and 46 sq km in Meghalaya in 2017.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said loss of forest cover is a major reason for natural calamities like floods and called for a larger role of the forest department in reclaiming forests cover through plantation, clearing encroachment and working in coordination with local people to address the issue.
He said the forest department over the years has focused mostly on Kaziranga National Park, while there was a need to focus on other forest areas as well. “This has led to depletion of forest cover due to deforestation, encroachment and so on. The forest department now should focus towards reclaiming forest cover,” he said while directing the department to conduct bi-annual drone surveys.
He directed the forest department to prepare modalities to shift settlers, who are genuinely landless from forest areas to non-forest areas and adopt a zero-tolerance approach against all recent encroachments in forest areas.