Wildlife & Biodiversity

India lost 668,400 ha forests in 5 years, 2nd highest globally: Report

India was ranked between Brazil and Indonesia in UK-based firm’s report

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Monday 20 March 2023
With a difference of 284,400 ha in forestry loss between 1990 and 2020, India has seen the biggest increase in deforestation. Representative photo: iStock.

India has seen the highest rise in deforestation in the last 30 years, with a stark surge recorded between 2015 and 2020, according to a new report. During these years, the country was ranked second only after Brazil, with average deforestation of 668,400 hectares (ha), noted the report by Utility Bidder, a United Kingdom-based comparison site for energy and utility costs.

Also read: Halt deforestation by 2030: Are we on track to meet global pledge?

The report, released in March 2023, analysed deforestation trends of 98 countries in the last 30 years with the help of data aggregator Our World In Data’s figures from 1990 to 2000 and 2015 to 2020. 

While India lost 384,000 ha of forests between 1990 and 2000, the figure rose to 668,400 ha between 2015 and 2020. Zambia recorded the second biggest deforestation increase for the same period, with a rise to 189,710 ha between 2015 and 2020, compared to 36,250 ha from 1990-2020. 

With a difference of 284,400 ha in forestry loss between 1990 and 2020, India has seen the biggest increase in deforestation, the document read. 

“As the country with the second largest population in the world, India has had to compensate for the increase in residents — this has come at a cost in the way of deforestation,” it added.

Brazil, which ranked first with 1,695,700 ha of deforestation between 2015 and 2020, mostly lost the forests due to climate change. However, this is much lower than the 4,254,800 ha it lost between 1990 and 2000. 

Palm oil cultivation in Indonesia led to the destruction of 650,000 ha of forests, making it the third-highest loss in the world, right behind India.

Also read: Warming beyond borders: Amazon deforestation heats up Tibet, says new study

The study further revealed that cattle rearing was the leading cause of global deforestation, leading to a loss of 2,105,753 ha annually. This was followed by the cultivation of oil seeds that caused 950,609 ha of forestry loss.

As mentioned earlier in this report, palm oil has been a big driver of deforestation for many years, but that isn’t the only oil-based product responsible for forestry loss, the document read.

“Soyabeans provide us with lots of nutrients and health benefits, but many ha of grassland and forests have been destroyed to make room for the yielding of this crop,” it added.

After cattle rearing for meat and oil seed cultivation, logging is the third highest factor responsible for deforestation, causing around 678,744 ha of annual deforestation globally.

The report further revealed that while Brazil has reduced its deforestation by 2,559,100 ha from 2015 to 2020 and Indonesia by 1,876,000 ha for the same period, India’s figures have only increased significantly. 

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