Imphal, Jan 2,
Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar today clarified on the reported loss of 499 sq km forest cover of the State as per report published in the biennial Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019. The report was released by the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on December 30, 2019.
Addressing to the media persons at his official residential quarter at Kanglapat, Minister Shyamkumar said 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.
He said that out of the total area lost, 491 sq km is in hill districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul. Maximum loss of forest cover is in Churachandpur with 250 sq km. He informed 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 added.
He said diversions of large areas under forest cover by Railways, construction of highways, roads and particularly Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) roads in hill districts have also contributed in loss of forest covers in the recent years. He said that jhum cultivation in hill districts with shortened cycles regularly contributes in loss of forest areas. He further said that in the 14th Finance Commission, no funds were provided to the Forest Department for implementation of prescription of the Working Plans and raising infrastructure.
Forest Minister Shyamkumar said that Forest Department has been giving awareness regarding the unclassed forest areas for converting them into Community Reserves as per Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for better protection and management. He said efforts are being made to apply Working Plan prescriptions through community involvement apart from regular destructions of poppy cultivation areas with NAB and Police and reclaim the same areas under forest cover through plantations of local plant species. He said 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.
He said that the department has developed online portal to prevent of smuggling of timber/forest produce and use of fake transit passes. He said that improved coordination among Forest Department, Assam Rifles and Police Department has resulted in increase of seizure and confiscation of illegal forest produces.
In the valley districts, he said that about 8 sq km is lost which could be attributed to rampant encroachment and illegal earth cutting in Imphal and Thoubal districts. He said there is a 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. He said that the rampant felling for poppy cultivation by the anti-social elements in hill districts has contributed tremendously to forest cover loss.