Forest cover much below policy target in India: Jha

The shortage of firewood and fodder, the poverty among forest-dependent communities, the declining water table and the frequent occurrences of forest fire demand attention of everyone in the forestry sector, asserted Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary, ministry of environment forest and climate change.
MoEFCC secretary Ajay Narayan Jha felicitates a student at the fourth convocation at Forest Research Institute in Dehradun on Wednesday.(Vinay Santosh Kumar /HT)
MoEFCC secretary Ajay Narayan Jha felicitates a student at the fourth convocation at Forest Research Institute in Dehradun on Wednesday.(Vinay Santosh Kumar /HT)
Updated on Oct 04, 2017 08:23 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

DEHRADUN: India’s forest cover is much below the policy which states that at least 33% of the total geographical area should be covered by greenery, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

“The forest cover in the 2015 Forest Status Report increased by 0.378 million hectare in comparison with the 2013 report. The forest and tree cover is 79.42 million hectare or 24.16% of the country’s geographical area, which is much above the forest cover estimate of about 20% at the start of this century. This is, however, very much below the policy target of 33% of geographical area,” Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary, ministry of environment forest and climate change, told Hindustan Times at the sidelines of the fourth convocation of the Forest Research Institute.

He expressed concern over forest degradation that could mar India’s target of creating an additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink through forestation by 2030. “The quality of forests has to be recovered. Open forests, degraded forest and moderate forests should be converted to dense and very dense to reach the goals.”

Jha said the area under dense forests has considerably declined and the productivity of forests was still very low against the global average. “India is dependent on imports of a large quantity of wood from abroad. Many species of plants, animals and lower organisms are under threat and unsustainable removal of medicinal and aromatic plants is taking place on a large scale.”

The shortage of firewood and fodder, the poverty among forest-dependent communities, the declining water table and the frequent occurrences of forest fire demand attention of everyone in the forestry sector, he asserted. “The poor state of forests and environment is manifesting in climate change and associated problems of floods, droughts and cloudbursts.”

India is committed to climate change policies and is working tirelessly towards sustainable development and achieving goals, he said.

While plantation is a key activity carried across the country through the forest department as well as government agencies, Jha accepted that the survival rate was poor. “There’s no national survival rate as every state has its own percentage. But, yes an immediate attention is needed.”

The Centre plans to revamp the plantation sector by planting medium sized plants for better survival. The National Highway Authority of India and the road and railway ministries are doing their bit to plant trees along the tracks and roads.

Meanwhile, the government is ready with the draft rules of CAMPA which is currently before the Comptroller and Auditor General for final approval. A corpus of about Rs 42,000 crore will be disbursed to the states under various segments.

The Uttarakhand government was hoping to seek a component on compensation for human-wildlife conflict under the CAMPA. The forest department pays over Rs 4 crore annually to conflict victims. Forest minister Harak Singh Rawat told Hindustan Times that the state requested the Centre to ensure funds for conflict, but the ministry was in no mood.

“There’s already an act which does not have component for conflict victims. The state government can give suggestions but I don’t think it will be accepted,” Jha said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Nihi Sharma is a Principal Correspondent based in Dehradun. She has been working with Hindustan Times since 2008. Her focus areas are wildlife and environment. Besides, she also covers politics, health and education.

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