India State of the Forest report 2017May 27, 2018
The Ministry of Environment Forest and climate change has released the “India State of the Forest report 2017”. It suggests that the forest cover as a percentage & total geographical area of India has improved, although just by 0.21%. If we count substantial patches of trees outside the areas designated as forest Plantations and green lands this is an increase of more than 2%.
By its cover, it presents a positive results that India’s efforts towards increasing its forest cover to 33% of its Geographical area is heading is right desertion. But the situation gets worse once we critically analyze the report.
Although it shows that states like Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh etc have shown an absolute increase in the forest cover, it also mention a miniscule decline in the dense forest cover in the North- Eastern States. Justifications given for this is that an already having a high forest cover so a decline this year will not affect much. But it must be understood that even an absolute increase is forest cover in other states will not compensate the decline in forest cover in North-Eastern States as they are the hotspots of India rich bio-denasality.
Further it can be argued that the method that we are using to arrive at this positive figure for forest cover increased is not justified. The tree cover that we are counting is not some as having biodiversity, old-growth forests. The ecosystem services performed by plantations that have a lot of trees grown for commercial purposes can’t be equated with those of an undisturbed assemblage of plants trees and animals.
Hence, instead of celebrating over this so called increase in total forest cover, we need to invoke efforts towards restoring the natural vegetation. Following steps should be taken in this regard
- Community participation with traditional techniques would help our cause a long way.
- Efforts should be made to prevent as much de-forestation as possible instead to just planting new trees / commercial plants in place of a natural forest.
- Restricting the encroachment in those critical areas which are important for India’s biodiversity like North Eastern States, etc
- Empowering National Greet Tribunal (NGT) with more teeth, to stop such encroachments
- Bringing suitable amendments in the National Forest Policy 1988 to stress more on conservation and restoration of natural ecosystem than to some man-made forests
The need of hour is a change in the paradigm, the way are see our forests and is importance not only is return of monetary benefits but also relate to our cultural and traditional values, where our forefathers used to worship them.