Naxals and Northeast militants have been blamed by a forest survey for India's fading greens.
A biennial report by the Forest Survey of India pegs loss of forest cover at 1,227 sqkm across 312 districts in two years. The total loss, however, is 367 sqkm across all 636 districts.
The 312 affected districts - 188 tribal and 124 hill districts - have the country's finest forests with rich flora and fauna. But the lack of forest department control in these areas has resulted in Naxals and militants dictating the terms.
In Andhra Pradesh, Khamman and Warangal districts alone recorded loss of 180 sqkm in less than nine months because of intensive tree cutting by Naxals.
Environment secretary T Chatterjee said Naxals cut trees across hundreds of acres in Andhra to sell the wood. The cleared area is then used for cultivation by tribals, providing them a livelihood.
Besides Red activity, land was also lost to development projects.
In Chhattisgarh, the report says, newly constructed dams resulted in loss of forest cover as the land fell in the catchment areas.
Shifting cultivation under protection of militants has led to a loss of 548 sqkm of forest cover.
In most of the Northeast, barring Assam, tribals move from one place to another as agricultural production falls. In this movement, they often encroach upon forest land with the help of local extremist groups.
In Assam, the report says, militants cut down forest to sell the wood.
Tree cover up
Though forest cover across 312 districts is 1,227 sqkm, the overall dip has been recorded at 367 sqkm. Reason: The forest survey counted rubber and apple plantations as forests. Mangroves have contributed to an increase of 23 sqkm of green cover.
The findings of the satellite-based survey will dampen India's bid to cover 33% of its geographical area with trees. "If we go for increasing green cover to 33% it can lead to conflict (as there is no land available to push forward)," said Chatterjee.