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Ghaziabad’s forest cover ‘increases’ in report; state officials confused

Increase only in proportion to the geographic area. In reality, forest cover decreased from 49 sqkm to 26sqkm

noida Updated: Feb 13, 2018 23:12 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Environmentalists blame rapid urbanisation in the city for Ghaziabad’s vanishing green cover.
Environmentalists blame rapid urbanisation in the city for Ghaziabad’s vanishing green cover. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)

The latest Forest Survey of India (FSI) state of the forest report shows that the overall forest cover of Ghaziabad district has increased — from 1.89% in 2015 to 2.21% in 2017. But, there is a catch — the FSI report also states that the total forest area has decreased from 49 square kilometres (sqkm) in 2015 to 26 sqkm in 2017.

The “increase” came about only in proportion to the geographic area, which has reduced from 2,590 square kilometres (sqkm) in 2015 to 1,179 sqkm in 2017. According to the 2015 report, district’s forest cover stood at 49 sqkm while the total geographic area was 2,590 sqm. However, the 2017 report states that the forest cover is 26 sqkm while the geographical area is 1,179 sqkm.

The overall forest cover of UP in 2015 was 14,461 sqkm and it has increased to 14,679 sqkm in 2017, an increase of 218 sqkm.

“The overall forest cover in Uttar Pradesh has increased by 218 sqkm in 2017. We have also seen that there is a drastic decrease in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar districts’ geographical area. Other districts too have a different geographical area this time,” Rupak De, head, forest & wildlife department, UP, said.

For Gautam Budh Nagar, the geographical area in 2017 is shown as 1,282 sqkm while it was 1,442 sqkm in 2015.

“We will speak to the agencies concerned about the change in geographical area of some districts. It could be that the surveyors used a different method this time. The state’s overall geographical area has remained the same — at 2,40,928 sqkm,” he said.

According to the FSI report, all trees with canopy density of over 10%, having an extent of more than one hectare and falling on forest, private, community or institutional land, are reflected in the assessment report.

Barring the change in geographical areas, the so-called “increase” in forest cover has raised concerns among environmentalists as the forest department sets itself a high plantation target each year and claims a 80% to 90% survival rate of saplings.

“The “increase” shown in the report is poor. A 1% to 2% increase in forest cover is bound to happen over the years. But what happened to the lakhs of saplings planted each year? Once the plantation takes place, there is hardly any action by agencies to ensure the survival of saplings,” Vikrant Sharma, an environmentalist, said.

According to district forest department, they along with other government departments planted 5.7 lakh saplings in 2015-16, 3.29 lakh in 2016-17 and 3.61 lakh in 2017-18 in Ghaziabad.

Ghaziabad forest officer BP Singh said the “large scale infrastructure development and felling of trees as a result thereof could be the reason for the forest cover remaining stagnant.”

“Our sapling survival rate is around 80% to 90% and has been achieved by setting a high plantation target, use of better technology and maintenance of saplings. After three years, a tree grows on its own,” De said.