‘NE states accounted for 76% of India’s tree cover loss in past 20 years’: Study
India lost nearly 2 million hectares (Mha) of tree cover between 2001 and 2020, an overall decrease of nearly 5% tree cover since 2000. Seven states in the northeast accounted for three-fourth of that loss, according to a global study.
Research by the University of Maryland in the United States, using over a million satellite images, found that in the past two decades, northeastern states accounted for 76.7% of the 1.93 Mha of tree cover lost in that period.
“Tree cover loss is not the same as deforestation. Tree cover can refer to trees in plantations as well as natural forests, and tree cover loss is the removal of tree canopy due to human or natural causes, including fire,” the study released by Global Forest Watch, which partners Google, USAID among others, said.
Significantly, all seven states in the northeast were among the top 10 states with maximum tree cover loss in the past 20 years. Odisha stood seventh, Kerala came ninth while Chattisgarh was at the tenth spot.
According to the results of the study seen by HT, with 14.1%, Assam accounted for the highest share of tree national tree cover loss in the past two decades. From 2001 to 2020, the state lost 269kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 9.8% decrease in the state’s overall tree cover since 2000.
The two hill districts of Karbi Anglong (97.4kha) and Dima Hasao (63.2kha) accounted for the majority share (60%) of tree cover loss in Assam.
The small state of Mizoram, which lost 247 thousand hectares (kha) of tree cover, contributed 13% of India’s total tree cover loss. The three districts of Champhai (67.6kha), Lunglei (46kha) and Aizawl (42.1kha) accounted for 63% of the loss. Mizoram’s tree cover gain between 2001 and 2012 was 26.3kha, the study said.
Nagaland lost 225kha of tree cover, which was 11.9% of India’s total loss during that period. Significantly, the state lost 17% of its total tree cover in those 20 years—the sharpest decline among all states. Mon, Tuensang, Mokokchang and Peren districts accounted for 57% of the state’s total loss. Nagaland witnessed 44kha of tree cover gain from 2001 to 2012.
From 2001 to 2020, Arunachal Pradesh, the largest state in the northeast, lost 222kha of tree cover, which was 11.6% of India’s total loss. The state saw a 3.5% decline in its tree cover in that period.
The districts of West Siang, Lohit, Changland, Longding and Lower Dibang Valley accounted for 51% of Arunachal’s total loss. The state gained 47.8kha of tree cover from 2001 to 2012.
With a loss of 196kha, Manipur was the 5th highest contributor of tree cover loss among all states accounting for 10.3% of the total. There was a 12% decrease in the state’s tree cover in the past 20 years.
Charachandpur and Tameglong districts contributed 52% of the total loss. The state gained 33.8kha of tree cover from 2001 to 2012, which was 13% of the country total gain in that period.
Meghalaya lost 195kha of tree cover in the past 20 years which was 10.3% of the country’s overall loss. The state lost 12% of its tree cover in that period and the three districts of South Garo Hills, East Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills were responsible for 56% of the tree cover loss. Meghalaya gained 19.1kha of tree cover from 2001 to 2012.
With 102kha of tree cover loss (or 5.5% of India’s total loss), Tripura was the lowest contributor among northeastern states to the national figure. But from 2001 to 2020, the state lost 15% of its tree cover, the second-highest after Nagaland (17%). Dhalai and South Tripura districts accounted for 53% of the state’s total loss. The state gained just 1.18kha of tree cover from 2001 to 2012.