07 diciembre 2009

La superficie forestal de la India crece 0,46% al año, ocupando en la actualidad el 21% de su territorio

visto en indiatimes.com

NEW DELHI: Continuing the commendable trend of the past decade, India's forest cover increased by 728 sq km during 2005-07 — a marginal rise of 0.03%. Overall, 21.02% of the country's geographical area is now under green cover. In the 10 years, forest cover in the country has increased by 3.31 million hectares, showing an average 0.46% increase every year.

These figures are contained in the State of Forest Report 2009, released by environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday. The biennial report is based on satellite imagery up to 2007.

Ramesh said India's increasing forest cover deserved praise, especially when compared to the loss of 2.5 million ha of forests in Brazil every year. India, however, lagged behind China's achievement of gaining 4 million ha of forests annually.

While India seemed to be doing well in protecting dense forests, the report indicated that moderately dense forests weren't faring too well. These are forests which lie mostly outside the national parks and sanctuaries. Between 2005-07, dense forest area increased by 38 sq km but 936 sq km of moderate forest got degraded.

The report will add weight to India's demand at the Copenhagen climate talks that countries increasing their forest cover — which work as sinks to capture carbon — should be rewarded. The debate in climate negotiations has till now tended to favour rewarding only nations which are able to reduce their rate of deforestation — typically countries such as Brazil and Indonesia. But India and others have contended that this provides a perverse incentive to others to first cut their forests and then reduce the rate of destruction.
Indicating that some benefits may come the way of hill states, the minister said Himalayan states were carrying much of the burden of maintaining the green lungs for the country. For the first time, the assessment report brought out data of forest cover as percentage of geographical area that can actually bear forests.

Regions above 4,000 metres from sea level ecologically do not have forests. This significantly alters the forest cover in five hill states. If areas above the tree line are kept out of calculations, forest cover in Himachal Pradesh increases to 44% from 27%, Arunachal Pradesh to 88% from 82%, Jammu and Kashmir to 33% from 12%, Sikkim to 84% from 46% and Uttarakhand to 59% from 47%.

The presence of Vijay Kelkar, chairman of the 13th Finance Commission, at the release of the report indicated that the Centre might again suggest a formula to share some revenues based on forest cover as was done under the 10th Finance Commission.

The biggest losses in forest cover, in absolute terms, were recorded in Andhra Pradesh (129 sq km), Assam (66 sq km) and Chhattisgarh (59 sq km).

The Northeast, which contains one-forth of India's forest cover, is peculiar due to traditional practices of shifting cultivation which make a steady assessment difficult. While Mizoram saw a gain of 640 sq km and Manipur of 328 sq km, Nagaland suffered a loss of 201 sq km and Tripura 100 sq km to swidden agriculture.

West of the chicken neck region, Jharkhand surprisingly showed the most impressive gains by adding 172 sq km of forest in two years. Orissa also added 100 sq km.

But officials clarified that the methodology followed in reporting the forest cover was unable to discern between natural forests and plantations. This required more expensive and higher resolution satellite imagery.

Experts have for years contended that the increase in forest cover as a stand alone parameter is not a good measure of the health of forests as increase in commercial plantations does not add as much value to biodiversity in the country.

Growing Green
Forest Cover in 2007 - 21.02% of geographical area
Tree Cover in 2007 - 2.82%
Forest cover growth in a decade: 3.13 million ha
Out of the 728 sq km increase in 2005-07, 690 sq km gained in the 188 tribal districts of the country
The forest cover in the hill states is 53.72% of the possible forest area

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