orissa's green cover has shrunk by 1,420 square kilometre (sq km) in the last nine years, bringing down the total forest area from 59,555 sq km in 1990 to 58,135 sq km in 1999, forest department sources said. The biannual report published by the Forest Research Institute at Dehradun in Uttar Pradesh reveals that between 1995 and 1997 there was an increase of 880 sq km of open forest and 16 sq km of mangrove forest. The report added that the forest cover has decreased in tribal-dominated districts of Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Nawarangpur and Keonjhar between 1997 and 1999. On the flip side, there has been an increase in forest cover in Ganjam, Phulbani, Angul, Bolangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Cuttack, Khurda, Nayagarh and Rayagada districts during the same time period.
Lack of maintenance of the existing forest cover, rising population and shifting cultivation are the main culprits for this decline, the report concluded. However, forest department officials refuted allegations that mine owners were unlawfully occupying forest areas.
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