Forests

Rewind 2018: Development and fire eat up India’s forest cover

The country’s greenery suffered several blows in the past year as it was compromised for vertical growth and authorities could not curb forest fires

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Wednesday 02 January 2019
Forest cover in India
Credit: Getty Images Credit: Getty Images

Rewind 2018

Forest cover in the country has increased by about 1 per cent, according to the biennial State of Forests Report 2017 released this year, but Niti Aayog says 21.23 per cent of the land is under forest cover. Also, protests took place against government acquiring forest lands for development projects.

According to Niti Ayog, India has a 21.23 per cent land under forest cover against recommended 33 per cent recommended in the national forest policy.

Here are the major developments, policies, reports and disputes that shrouded the forests the past year.

DEVELOPMENT AT THE COST OF FORESTS

For vertical growth

As many as 26 cases across 11 states of forest land being acquired by the government for development projects surfaced throughout the year, according to Land Conflict Watch, an independent data-journalism initiative.

Vast expanses gone

Maharashtra ranked fourth in India for maximum forest land diverted, with 40 proposals sanctioned over three years. The state lost 63 sq km of forest land in the past three years.

Forest to be cemented

The Maharashtra government gave its nod to divert 467.5 hectares of Yavatmal forest land to Reliance for its cement plant.

Successfully stalled

Agra’s green activists successfully stalled the Northern Bypass road project through the protected Keetham forest along the Yamuna.

No power to greenery

Hundreds of forest trees have been cut down and a 1,000 more will face the axe in different forest areas of Ganderbal district in central Kashmir to lay 220 kV Srinagar-Leh transmission line.

FOREST COVER LOST ALL OVER

Country grows, regions shrink

India showed an increasing trend in the forest and tree cover as against the global trend of decreasing forest cover during the last decade, but the five northeastern states saw their forest cover shrink.

Every hour, Delhi loses a tree

Delhi has lost around 112,169 trees since 2005, a data released by Delhi government showed. This means it lost a tree every hour.

Chennai sails in same boat

A report submitted by Care Earth Trust to Greater Chennai Corporation to assess the green cover of the city said Chennai's green cover is reducing by 2 per cent every year.

Deforestation causes more pollution

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Centre and the state governments of Rajasthan and Haryana over deforestation in the Aravallis, which has led to air pollution in the Capital.

Teak no more a topper

Teak no longer figures in the top five tree species in Telangana for felling of timber tree species.

FIRES THREATEN FOREST HEALTH

Forests on fire

At least 60 per cent of districts in India are affected by forest fires every year, and the top 20 districts in terms of fire frequency are located mainly in the northeast, said a joint report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the World Bank.

Not enough funds

The Uttarakhand government has allocated Rs 1.5 crore to 3,700 van panchayats for firefighting in their area. This means each panchayat got around Rs 4,000 to douse the beast-like flames.

It’s spreading fast

Karnataka reported 1,333 forest fires, a whopping 350 per cent more forest fires in 2017 than three years ago.

NOT INACTION, BUT IN ACTION

Long overdue change made in new draft of Forest Policy

The new draft National Forest Policy 2018 takes into account a reality that has become the defining feature of the world today—climate change.

New campaign in Bhubaneswar

The Regional Transport Office of Bhubaneswar decided to launch 'one vehicle one plant' campaign during which each buyer was to be gifted a plant during delivery of a new vehicle by showrooms.

To conserve forests

The Tamil Nadu State Forest Policy 2018 widened the outlines of conservation area networks and provided larger ranges of habitat for wildlife in the state.

WAY FORWARD: STUDIES DONE, POLICIES MADE

India State of Forest Report 2017|February 2018|Forest Survey of India

This biennial assessment showed an increase of 8,021 sq km (about 80.20 million hectare) in the total forest and tree cover of the country compared to 2015.

Forests and fire: strengthening prevention and management in India | March 2018 | Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

This report analyses patterns and trends of forest fires in India. While the findings of this study indicate that forest fires occur in almost every state in India each year, some districts are more vulnerable than others.

Strategy for increasing green cover outside recorded forest areas: Expert committee report | November 2018 | Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Leasing of wasteland to the corporate sector for re-greening is among the major recommendations that a report by an expert committee formed by India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change suggested.

Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher | October 2018| WWF

This flagship publication by WWF released every two years, is a comprehensive study of trends in global biodiversity and the health of the planet.

India’s national action plan for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along Central Asian Flyway (2018-2023) | Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

The National Action Plan for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats listed the national priority and specific actions required to ensure healthy populations of these migratory species in India, within their range across the flyway.

Draft National Forest Policy, 2018| March 2018|Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

This was an overarching policy for forest management, with the aim of bringing a minimum of one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover. It proposed to restrict “schemes and projects which interfered with forests that cover steep slopes, catchments of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, geologically unstable terrain and such other ecologically sensitive areas”.

FORESTS AND WILDLIFE IN COURT

Area around national parks and sanctuaries to be declared eco-sensitive zones| December 2018| Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on December 11 expressed its displeasure on being informed that no proposal even after 12 years has been received for 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries for declaring areas around them as eco-sensitive zones and directed MoEF to declare an area of 10 kms around these national parks and sanctuaries as Eco Sensitive Zones.

Duty of the state to prevent straying of wild animals and compensate the damage| February 2018| High Court of Kerala

The Supreme Court on February 5, while hearing petitions of farmers whose crops were destroyed by wild animals, asked the Kerala government to take remedial actions to prevent straying of wild animals and also to suitably compensate the farmers when damage is caused.

States asked to provide information on grant of land under Forest Rights Act, 2006| March 2018 | Supreme Court

In a case filed by Wildlife Trust of India in Supreme Court over false forest land claims destroying the forest and wildlife of the country, the apex court on March 7, directed the states to submit information on the number of claims for the grant of land under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and action taken against those claimants whose claims have been rejected.

Use of fire torches to drive away elephants a strict no: SC| November 2018| Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on November 12 questioned the West Bengal government over the use of fire torches to drive away elephants and directed the state to place before it the names and designations of the forest officials, who would be held responsible for any accident due to this.

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