India’s Northeast fast losing forest cover: NGO

June 6th, 2008 - 12:27 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) India’s Northeast, considered to be one of the richest biodiversity hot spots in the country, is fast losing its forest cover, according to data released Thursday by Aaranyak, an Assam-based NGO. Even as World Environment Day was observed Thursday, the data shows that the northeastern states of India have lost almost 20 percent of their forest cover in the past two decades.

Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak that works for biodiversity conservation, told IANS on phone that their latest findings on the forest cover of the Northeast, clearly show that 64 percent of the total geographical area of the Northeast (255,000 sq km) is currently under forest cover. Two decades earlier, it was 84 percent.

“The rate of loss of forest cover is quite fast and the situation is deteriorating with each passing day. If precautionary measures are not taken immediately, the region would soon lose its valuable flora and fauna biodiversity,” said Talukdar.

Soumyadeep Datta, director of Nature’s Beckon, another Assam-based NGO working on environment and wildlife protection of the region, expressed concern over the alarming loss of forest cover across the Northeast.

“If the situation is not controlled now, it might worsen in the coming days. The Northeast cannot afford to lose its forest cover, its most valued asset,” said Datta.

The seven states of India’s northeast - Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland - comprise about eight percent of the total geographical area of the country.

“But the entire northeast consists of 25 percent of the country’s forest cover, making it one of the richest biodiversity zones of the country. Thus we have to make a concerted effort to save it,” said an official of the Arunachal Pradesh government’s department of environment and forest.

The report of Aaranyak states that the large scale loss of forest cover in the Northeast in recent times is due to de-forestation caused by human encroachment on forestland.

“The entire region is highly populated. The burden of population is causing a lot of damage to the forest cover,” said Talukdar. The Northeast accounts for 3.7 per cent of the country’s population of 1,028,737,436, as per the 2001 census.

“Moreover, almost half of the population of the region still depends on forestland to earn their livelihood,” he added.

The report warns that if the forestland continues to disappear at the present rate, soon the region will witness massive floods, large-scale soil erosion, loss of agricultural land, extinction of animal and plants species and perhaps a drought-like situation.

“The Northeast is the land of myriad range of flora and fauna. We have to save the forestland to save them. We plan to form a united forum consisting of forest departments of all the states and various NGOs working in the field of environment,” said Talukdar.

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