Increase the green cover

News 

Although the recently released India State of Forests report, 2021 has shown an expansion in the forest cover but there are some apprehensions regarding these estimates. 

Why there are apprehensions regarding findings of the report? 

Majority of this increase in vegetation has occurred in the “open forests” category where a tree canopy of just above 10 per cent in over a hectare of land is deemed as forest. Many commercial plantations, such as coconut farms or fruit orchards, are also counted as forests under this category. 

The Moderately dense forests (tree canopy of 40 to 70 per cent) which are actually rich in biodiversity have shrunk. 

The loss of these forests has grave ecological and geological implications 

The report also highlights that indiscriminate anthropogenic activity, including shifting cultivation and timber poaching is still practised on a large scale. 

Although there has been a marginal improvement in the presence of dense forests, this has happened largely in reserved forests— sanctuaries and national parks.  

What are the reasons behind degradation of forests? 

Absence of a well-defined forest conservation policy– There are no defined rules for diverting forest land to non-forest uses. Also, there are no specified norms for demarcating restricted areas that may need special conservation efforts. 

These gap in statute lead to easy clearances for commercial and other projects to be taken up in the designated forest areas.  

Although efforts were made to bring a new forest policy in mid-2000s and to amend the Forest Conservation Act but there has been little progress on both the fronts. 

Absence of a nationally accepted definition of forests -States have their own definition for labelling a piece of land as forest.  

Also, if any land parcel is once listed in revenue records as forest, it remains so even if it turns barren.  

Improper execution of the scheme for compensatory afforestation- 

This has resulted in poor private sector participation in the expansion and conservation of the forests. The funds collected for this purpose also remain underutilized. 

Source– This post is based on the article “Increase the green cover” published in Business standard on 19th Jan 2022.  

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