A recent report published by Global Forest Watch said that Karnataka has lost more than 3,000 hectares of primary forests in every year between 2016 and 2018, which is far above the annual forest loss in the state since 2001, except for one.
The report was released by Global Forest Watch, a subsidiary of the World Resources Institute (WRI), a US-based NGO, which publishes reports on the basis of NASA satellite images. However, they have not provided any clarification for the Forest loss as of now, as they require more time to analyse the raw data.
The annual forest loss in the year 2016 was 3,310 hectares, followed by 3,060 hectares in 2017 and 3,537 hectares in 2018. The numbers have soared up drastically, as it has generally remained below 3,000 hectares, except in 2007, when it was 4,145 hectares.
Karnataka and Kerala saw large scale decline
Analysing the data at micro level, the Dakshin Kannada and Udupi districts are severely affected and have seen the maximum decline in the last three years. In Dakshin Kannada district, the loss was 1,072 hectares in 2018, 955 hectares in 2017 and 1,109 hectares in 2016, whereas in Udupi district the forest loss figures were 665 hectares, 857 hectares and 740 hectares respectively.
Karnataka is not the only state which has shown sharp decline in forest cover. Kerala, too, saw large scale forest disappearance during the same period. The forest loss in the Kerala was 7,187 hectares in 2016, 9,722 hectares in 2017 and 6,273 hectares in 2018. Such a high rate has not been witnessed in Malabar state since 2011.
The combined loss of Karnataka and Kerala sum up to 30,000 hectares of forests in the last three years. In contrast, the losses in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Goa are comparatively low.
Meanwhile the WRI mentioned a few key points that need to be considered in order to avoid any misinterpretation of the data.
For example, ‘tree cover’ indicates all vegetation which has a height greater than five meters, that may form any natural forests or plantations across a range of canopy densities. ‘Loss’ indicates destroying or mortality of tree cover, which can happen due to a variety of factors, including mechanical harvesting, fire, storm damage or disease.
Northeast constantly losing forest cover
The northeast of India, which once had a huge forest cover, has now been under constant threat of forest degradation. The tree cover over the last 18 years has constantly declined and the annual loss has been doubled in the last five years.
The forest loss in the Northeast is way more than what it is in the rest of the country. In general, a state loses between 15,000-30,000 hectares of forests every year, while Mizoram alone in 2017 recorded a forest loss of 41,000 hectares.
This alarming loss was also flagged in the last State of Forest report released in February 2018 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
As per the WRI report, India suffered a loss of more than 1,20,000 hectares in primary forestry within the last five years, which is around 36% more than such losses seen between 2009 and 2013.
Forest cover decreasing at such an alarming rate points at a really frightening future. A collective effort by all citizens to conserve the country’s greenery in every possible way would be the beginning of a long journey to save the planet from destruction, and it it is high time that the journey began.