North East India saw largest share of the country's tree cover loss : Study

Assam contributed over 14% to India’s overall decrease in forest area — the highest for any state

By Pulaha Roy
Published: Tuesday 12 October 2021

The northeastern region of India lost 79 per cent of its tree cover in 2020, recording the biggest dip in the country, according to an analysis by Down To Earth.

Over 110,000 hectares of tree cover vanished from the region last year, according to the University of Maryland’s forest change data.  

India lost close to 143,000 hectares of forest cover in 2020, when the overall forest area was 4.6 per cent lower than in 2001, according to the report. But the loss has been uneven. 

The ‘seven sisters’ Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland individually were responsible for 5-14 per cent of the country’s loss in forest area from 2001 through 2020. 

Assam, the largest of the seven states, contributed the most (14.1 per cent) to the national tree cover loss during the period.

Nagaland, however, saw its forest cover shrink the fastest since 2001, suffering a 17 per cent drop in the two decades. It was followed by Tripura, where area under forest cover decreased by 15 per cent in the years studied. 

Outside the North East, Odisha lost the largest area of land under tree cover (125,004 hectares) from 2001-2020 — 6.5 per cent of India’s total. It was followed by Kerala that contributed 4 per cent of the forest area lost.

Researchers from the University of Maryland processed and analysed over a million satellite images to demonstrate the loss. Tree cover loss is ‘complete removal of tree cover canopy’, the scientists wrote.

They used algorithms to identify individual pixel values for every tree canopy lost, to calculate even the smallest changes in forest area. 

Tree cover loss can be triggered by various reasons, ranging from anthropogenic factors such as deforestation or timber harvesting to natural causes like forest fires or storms. 

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.