TODAY -

Forest Minister clarifies on ISFR 2019
'Decline in forest cover due to developmental projects, poppy cultivation among others'

Source: The Sangai Express / DIPR

Imphal, January 02 2020: Clarifying on the reported loss of 499 sq km forest cover of Manipur as per the report published in the biennial Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019 by the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on December 30 last year, Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar has claimed that the data interpretation period for Manipur in the biennial ISFR 2019 is from October 2017 to February 2018 but the status indicated in the report mainly belongs to the survey conducted in the period 2016-17.Addressing media persons at his official residential quarter at Kanglapat today, Minister Shyamkumar said that out of the total area lost, 491 sq km is in the hill districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul.



Forest Minister clarifies on ISFR 2019
Forest Minister clarifies on ISFR 2019


Maximum loss of forest cover is in Churachandpur with 250 sq km, he explained informing that Churachandpur and Tamenglong are extremely fire prone areas and the tree cover of Manipur outside forest land, has reduced by 47 sq km.

He said that diversions of large areas under forest cover by railways, construction of highways, roads and particularly Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) roads in the hill districts have also contributed in loss of forest covers in the recent years.

Shyamkumar said that jhum cultivation in the hill districts with shortened cycles regularly contributes in loss of forest areas.

In the 14th Finance Commission, no funds were provided to the Forest Department for implementation of prescription of the Working Plans and raising infrastructure, he added.

The Minister said that the Forest Department has been giving awareness regarding unclassed forest areas so as to convert them into Community Reserves as per Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for better protection and management.

He assured that efforts are being made to apply Working Plan prescriptions through community involvement, apart from regular destruction of poppy cultivation areas with NAB and Police and to reclaim the said areas under forest cover through plantations of local plant species.

He conveyed that to reduce the extraction of firewood, the Department (on a pilot basis) linked the forestry schemes with PM's Ujjwala Yojana for distribution of LPG connections.

The Department has developed online portal to prevent smuggling of timber/forest produce and use of fake transit passes.

Improved coordination among the Forest Department, Assam Rifles and Police Department has resulted in increase of seizure and confiscation of illegal forest produces.

In the valley districts, the Minister said that about 8 sq km has been lost which can be attributed to rampant encroachment and illegal earth excavation in Imphal and Thoubal districts.

He stressed on the need for collaboration between Forest and Revenue Department to check whether there is any irregular and rampant land deeds (pattas) issued to the public in reserved forest areas, which is a violation of laws.

Rampant felling of trees for poppy cultivation by the antisocial elements in hill districts has contributed tremendously to forest cover loss.

Shyamkumar said that the main challenge faced by the Department are controlling the smuggling of timber and other forest produce and forest offences like earth excavation, encroachments among others due to acute shortage of field staff, mobility and arms.

The proposal for improving and strengthening of field staff and equipping them with arms is pending with the Government.

Felling of trees to meet the fuel-wood requirement at domestic level and in brick fields also attributes to the depleting forest cover in the hills.

Forest fires in Churachandpur and Tamenglong districts before felling of trees for fire woods (both for domestic and commercial consumption) is also one of the reasons for loss of existing forest areas.

One of the major reasons for the loss of forest cover in the hill districts is the "unclassed forest" area which is under the control of the communities, where the Forest Department is not in the position to enforce the Indian Forest Act, 1972, he added.

Regarding prevention of encroachment and illegal earth excavation, he said that the Department has conducted eviction drive to remove encroachers from Chingkhei Ching (Nongmaiching) Reserved Forest and notices have been issued to encroachers in Langol Reserved Forests.

The Minister informed that the district wise sites for earth excavation which could be rotated and regulated as per laws and mobile patrolling squads have been formed in Central Forest Division.

The Department is monitoring/checking encroachment by using drone cameras and digitization of forest boundaries with expert agency is being initiated, he said.

With regard to the prevention of forest fires, Shyamkumar said that the villagers are provided incentives to protect the forest from wild fires, given training to fight the forest fires and they are also equipped with forest fire fighting tools.

Awareness are given to the villages residing near forested areas on preventive measures and livelihood components in the schemes to prevent intentional forest fires have been incorporated in the recent year, he added.

Concluding his press conference, Forest Minister Shyamkumar said that the process for evicting the encroachers will begin from this month.

He then sought cooperation and help from the general public in protecting, preserving the forest areas of the State.


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