Maoists caused major damage to India’s forests, says survey

February 7th, 2012 - 10:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) While India has set an ambitious goal of increasing its forest cover to 33 percent by 2020, a Forest Survey of India report Tuesday found that forest cover has actually decreased in 2008-09 with Maoists causing heavy damage to it in Andhra Pradesh.

The India State of Forest Report, a biennial process, was based on interpretation of satellite data recorded during October 2008-March 2009.

As per the present assessment, the forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectare, which is 23.81 percent of the geographical area of the country. There is a decrease of 367 square km in the country’s forest cover.

The report recorded largest decline in forest cover in Andhra Pradesh and northeast states while gainers are Bihar and Rajasthan.

“The maximum loss of forest has been recorded in Andhra Pradesh. The major loss of forest covere is in Khammam district and surrounding areas and it is mainly because of large amount of cutting of trees by villagers at the behest of Naxals (Maoists) in the regions,” said Environment Secretary T. Chatterjee.

He said that in 2008-09, about 180 square km (of the size of Chennai city) was cleared off by Maoists in a period of just 6-7 months.

“They just asked the villagers to cut the trees, or else they will be killed. This has been even recorded in the state forest report of the Andhra Pradesh government,” Chatterjee said.

The report found that 15 states have reported increase in forest cover with highest in Punjab while 12 states have shown decrease.

Besides regular features like forest cover, tree cover, mangroves and growing stock both in forests and areas outside forests, it adds three new chapters — a detailed assessment of bamboo resources, a production-consumption assessment of wood and assessment of carbon stock in Indian forests.

Replying to a question about decrease in forest cover, Chatterjee said: “The loss is basically due to harvesting of mature plantation of Eucalyptus and other species and prevailing practice of shifting cultivation in regions of northeast.”

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