The declining forest cover

Dismayed at the state of the forests in tiger reserves, foresters are beginning to realise the need to review the country's conservation strategy.

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

AFTER 20 years of stringent policing of tiger reserves, foresters find a large part of the green cover nibbled and lost. A worried additional inspector general of forests in the ministry of environment and forests even admitted, "We must do a drastic review of our conservation approach."

The status of the forest cover in the tiger reserves, as assessed by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) this year, shows a notable change in quality and a net decline. The dense forest cover -- with more than 40 per cent crown density -- has declined by almost half between 1983 and 1989, and scrub forests -- with less than 10 per cent crown density -- have declined by 35 per cent.

Open or degraded forests -- with between 10-40 per cent crown density -- have shot up by 186 per cent. While 81,300 ha of dense forests have been reduced to open forests, only 36,794 ha of scrub forests have been upgraded to open forests.

The noticeable improvements are dense forest growth on 5,393 ha of open forests and scrub growth on 14,136 ha of non-forest areas. But on the other hand, the loss of scrub land to non-forest land is greater than any improvement, amounting to more than 18,000 ha. The tiger reserves that have suffered most include Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh, Melghat in Maharashtra and Periyar in Kerala.

But Project Tiger director Arin Ghosh says, "In the face of such mounting (biotic) pressure, a little nibbling in the peripheral buffer is nothing to worry about. Besides, ecodevelopment in the buffer zones can check this trend effectively."

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