Maha records highest increase in mangrove cover across India | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Maha records highest increase in mangrove cover across India

Mumbai suburbs witnessed an increase of 33% rise in mangrove cover between 2015 and 2017

mumbai Updated: Feb 13, 2018 12:57 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Rehabilitation efforts have led to appreciable increase in mangrove cover of Maharashtra over the west coast, said the report.
Rehabilitation efforts have led to appreciable increase in mangrove cover of Maharashtra over the west coast, said the report.(HT File(Representational Image))

There has been a 37% increase in the area under mangrove forests in Maharashtra between 2015 and 2017, which is the highest rate of increase across India.

Mumbai suburbs witnessed an increase of 33% rise in mangrove cover during the same period, according to a report from the Forest Survey of India (FSI), titled India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017.

However, the state has recorded a net decrease of 17 sqkm in forest cover. While recorded forest areas (RFAs) declined by 225 sqkm, there was an increase of 208 sqkm outside these protected areas, revealed the report.

The report released on Monday in New Delhi states that Maharashtra tops the list of ‘area of water bodies within forests’, with a net increase of 432 sqkm from 2015 to 2017, which was highest in the country.

The state also recorded the maximum tree cover area in India with 9,831 sqkm, accounting for 3.19% of the total geographical area of Maharashtra. The state added 47 sqkm of forests across the seven hill districts but lost 105 sqkm of forests across 12 tribal districts.

“A net decrease of 17 sqkm has been observed in Maharashtra state, which can be attributed to rational rotational fellings, submergence, agricultural expansion, and other developmental activities. Although a decrease has been observed within recorded forest areas, the overall decrease has been offset owing to expansion of tree cover outside forest areas. Rehabilitation efforts have led to appreciable increase in mangrove cover of the state over the west coast,” read the report.

“However, the loss is marginal as it is only 0.01%,” said Shailesh Tembhurnikar, additional principal chief conservator of forest (conservation), state forest department. “The analysis of the report indicates that the afforestation drive undertaken in Maharashtra resulted in an increase in tree cover to the extent of over 3% of the total geographical area, and intensive conservation efforts has increased our mangrove cover,” he said.

Tembhurnikar said the increase in water bodies in forest areas from 1,116 sqkm in 2005 to 1,548 sqkm in 2015 was a result of state government’s water conservation schemes.

“The study does not take into account trees that are small in size and closer to the ground level that increases the green cover of forests. The actual figure of forest cover loss will be three times as much as the current figure,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanshakti.

Maharashtra had 4% of the country’s mangrove cover during the last assessment by FSI in 2015, which has now increased to 6%. The state has contributed to 45% of the national increase.

In 2015, FSI had assessed the state’s mangrove cover to be 222 sqkm. The latest report revealed the tally increased to 304 sqkm with Thane recording the maximum increase.

“Increased legal protection and awareness about the useful conservation of mangroves has led to the increase,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

As for change in territorial forest cover, 50,699 sqkm was recorded in 2015 which fell to 50,682 sqkm in 2017, mostly owing to a loss of moderately dense forests. Forest cover within reserved and protected forests was 34,016 sqkm in 2015 that decreased to 33,791 sqkm in the current assessment. Forest cover outside protected areas increased from 16,683 sqkm to 16,891 sqkm over two years.

Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said there were two reasons for the 17 sqkm drop in forest cover. “Over the past two years, some of the forest areas, originally owned by tribal settlements, were returned back to them. On the other hand, some of the other areas have been diverted for infrastructure and irrigation projects. However, as a compensatory measure, we have planted trees across 250 hectares. The increase in mangrove cover, water resources within forest areas and bamboo plantations is a direct result of efforts by the officers of the forest department and environment crusaders. We took it as a mission, and today Maharashtra leads in several categories in this report,” he said.