Manipur Forest and Environment Minister Th. Shyamkumar said Friday that extensive felling of trees for poppy cultivation and developmental works have resulted in the loss of a significant area of forest cover in the state, particularly in Hill districts.
Th. Shyamkumar was reacting to India State of Forest Report (IFSR) published by the Forest Survey of India which says that Manipur lost a total of 499 sq km forest cover.
Of the total area lost, he said, 491 sq km is in Hill districts of the state which include Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul. The maximum loss of forest cover is in Churachandpur district alone, which is about 250 sq km, he added. However, he clarified that the ISFR date interpretation period is from October 2017 to February 2018. The status indicated in the report mainly belongs to the period of 2016-17.
Dwelling into the reasons for depletion of forest cover, the Minister pointed out that in the Hill districts the state has mainly “unclassed forest” which is under the control of the communities.
The forest department is not in the position to enforce Indian Forest Act, 1927 in the Hills, he clarified.
Moreover, the forest department is unable to follow the prescriptions under the working plan particularly in Hill districts as the areas under the unclassed forests are control by the communities, he added.
The Minister further said that rampant felling of trees for poppy cultivation by the anti-social elements in Hill districts has also contributed tremendously to the depletion of forest cover.
As per the police report, a total area of 3,015 acres of poppy and 18.51 acres of ganja plantations were destroyed in 2019 alone.
Diversion of large area under forest cover for railways, construction of highways particularly PMGS roads in Hill districts is another factor, said the Minister. Jhum cultivation, forest fire, timber logging and felling of trees of fire-wood were other factors.
In the valley, the Minister said about 8 sq km forest cover is lost largely due to rampant encroachment and illegal earth cutting in Imphal and Thoubal districts. “Many hillocks have disappeared particularly in Thoubal which were forested in the last 3 years,” he said.
Minister Shyamkumar further pointed out that the state also lost bamboo cover by 784 sq km between 2017 to 2019. Manipur’s contribution to the country’s growing stock of bamboo has decreased tremendously from 8.33 to 2.79 per cent the same period, he added.
The Minister said that the Government is focusing on converting un-classed forest into community reserves, regular destructions of poppy cultivation with Police and Narcotics Police and incorporation of livelihood components in every scheme of the departments to reduce Jhums among others.
He further proposed that adequate fund may be provided in the 15th finance commission to the forest department for implementation of the working plans and raising protection infrastructure.