Jharkhand faces forest desertification, state yet to wake up to issues

Jharkhand forest

Ranchi: Reckless mining and illegal felling of trees over the past few years seem to have aggravated the issue of forest desertification in Jharkhand.

Carved out of Bihar in year 2000 and named as Jharkhand due to abundance of jungle, the state seems to be facing a losing battle to protect its naturally grown forest.

The recently released report of the India State of Forest Report (ISFR-2021) clearly underlines the problem of forest desertification the state is grappling with. It notes that Jharkhand has forest cover on 12,282 square kilometers of land against 22390 sq. km demarcated as forest land in the government’s records. Officials say that as per the reports, 48% of the recorded forest area does not boast of jungles.

However, the ISFR also stipulates that the green cover of the state went up by around 110 sq km in 2021 vis-à-vis 2019. That could be possible due to intense afforestation activities, plantation drive, and agroforestry activities carried out in non-forested areas.

Total green cover stands at 23,721 sq km

The overall green cover of the state stands at 23,721.14sq km. There is however, slight decrease in area of very dense forest (VDF), which dipped by 2 sq km as compared to 2019 reports.“Up on analysing the report, one can makes it clear that around 10,108 sq. km (48% of the total forest area) recorded as forest land does not have good vegetation and tree coverage. New jungles have grown on 11,439 sq km area, which is not recorded as forest land,” explained a retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Jharkhand, UR Biswas. The state forest department spends around Rs 100 crore every year to plant trees in forest and outside the recorded forest areas.

Concern over depletion of forest cover

A number of environmentalists and wildlife activists have time and again been drawing the government’s attention towards depletion of tree canopy and plantation cover in the recorded forest area due to reckless mining, the state forest department has not yet decided to carry out any assessment as how much jungles have been lost the recorded forest area.

“As per the IFSR assessment, Jharkhand has forest coverage of around 29.76% of the total geographical area of 79,716 sq. km. But the major concern is that the natural forest is getting destroyed due to mining and climate change,” said an environmental activist, adding that hundreds of acre of lands have turned barren due to open cast mining, abandonment of coal mines and flying of dust particles due to mining of coal and movement of heavy vehicles on kuchha roads on the forest.

The IFSR, however, states that Jharkhand still has 2601 sq. km of VDF (the area having canopy coverage of more than 70%) and 9,689 sq. km of moderately dense forest (MDF-area with canopy density between 40-70%) and 11,431 sq. km of open forest (OF-with tree canopy between 10-40%).

“However, it categorically states that around 1187 sq. km VDF, 4503 sq. km of MDF, and 5749 sq. km of OF falls beyond the recorded forest area of the state,” said the retired PCCF, adding that the state government should mull a comprehensive strategy to conserve the natural tree canopy in recorded forest areas encourage the forest dwellers to carry out massive afforestation drive in the interiors of the jungles for protection of wildlife, rare varieties of plants and maintain the ecological balance.

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