Over 1,400 sqkm of forest cover has been lost in the Northeastern region of India since 2015, specifically in states such as Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya. However, Environment Ministry officials said, these states are in a region where the total forest cover is very high — more than 70 per cent in each state. Overall forest and tree cover in the entire country has increased by 8,021 sqkm — about 1 per cent — compared to the 2015 assessment, as per the India State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2017, which was released on Monday. In 2015, India’s forest cover was 701,673 sqkm.
In Mizoram, which saw a net decrease of 531 sqkm in the two-year-period, the loss has been attributed to “shifting cultivation and development activities”. The marginal increase has been attributed to “regeneration of bamboo and other plantations”. In Nagaland (loss of 400 sqkm) and Arunachal Pradesh (190 sqkm), the reasons for the loss have also been attributed to “shifting cultivation and development activities”. In Tripura, which saw a net decrease of 164 sqkm, the loss has been attributed to “shifting cultivation, harvesting of mature rubber plantations and other developmental activities”, as per ISFR, 2017. The report notes that in some cases, “positive change due to extension of area under rubber plantation has also been observed”. The report has also generated a “change matrix” indicating a change in forest cover across three density classes – very dense forest (VDF), moderately dense forest (MDF) and open forest (OF) – and scrub and non-forest areas.
“While 12,183 sqkm of MDF has increased in density to VDF, simultaneously 4,148 sqkm has changed from VDF to MDF/OF/Scrub and NF, respectively indicating degradation/deforestation in these areas,” the report states. It adds that the reason for deforestation and degradation could be due to “diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes, encroachments and other biotic and natural disturbances in forests”.
The report pointed out that “17,520 sqkm of MDF has shown a decrease in density by changing into OF, Scrub and NF. However, 24,175 sq km of NF and 6360 sq km of Scrub has improved in higher density classes indicating better conservation and plantation measures.”