forest cover

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Feb 2018 11:50:30

THAT India’s forest cover has expanded by one per cent, is one good news the nation had been waiting for eagerly for a long time. The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) has stated categorically that the country’s forest cover has gone up by one per cent, which can mean lakhs of hectares. By any standard, this is a good news for the country. For, in the past some decades, the nation’s experts really were worried about the decreasing forest cover. Growing pace of urbanisation, encroachment of forests by commercial interests, and overall indifference of the society towards forests and environment were the factors that came into play, disturbing experts. But, as the ISFR 2017 asserts that there is an increase of one per cent in the country’s forest cover, there is every reason for the people to celebrate the new development.

Another aspect of good news is that this expansion of forest cover has placed India in the Top Ten Nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area. India now ranks eighth. This also means that the growth is so significant that when the additional one percent was not there, India was outside the top Ten nations. In other words, thus, just one per cent can make such a tremendous difference to the nation’s status as regards overall forest area in the larger Indian landscape.
Several factors have added up to this gain and the Government has reasons to feel satisfied that its efforts have borne fruits. The rapid growth of cities and urban or semi-urban settlements across the country had led to many ticklish issues. Growing man-animal conflict is one of the symptoms of urban encroachment of forests. It is to this phenomenon that the country has lost countless scores of wild animals including tigers. Experts had begun looking at the phenomenon of man-animal conflict as a symptom of shrinking of overall forest area in concentrated locations around small towns.

The ISF Report, however, leads us to take a re-look at the concept of man-animal conflict as an indicator of shrinking forest. When there is an overall increase of one per cent in forest area in the country, then many other related concepts will have to be revisited and redefined.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Forests and Environment, has expressed a legitimate and deep satisfaction with this expansion of forest cover in the country. He has said that against the global trend of continual reduction of forest area in most places, the Indian achievement is laudable by any standard. He is more than right. For, in the past few decades, Indian authorities have imposed stricter laws and regulations in defence of forests and environment. So strict has the Government been in the past few decades, that chopping even a branch of a tree is noticed and the wrong-doer is punished. No one can put an axe to a tree even in his own premises unless he has an explicit permission of the local authority to do so. In actual forest areas, the Government has disallowed any developmental project unless and until it has explicit permission by the Government.

All these activities have helped the nation to expand its forest cover by one per cent, which is a very large area. Of course, much bigger achievements will have to be made possible in this regard and India’s forest cover will have to grow steadily at a robust rate annually. This is not a tall order, so to say. For, if only the first phase of efforts by the authorities can lead to one per cent increase, then subsequent phases could bring more areas under forests. May this happen, and may India become one of the top five countries with greatest increase in forest cover. Of course, greater achievement will be possible in this regard when the common people, too, join hands with the Government.