'Loss Of 2.33 Million Hectares Of Tree Cover': NGT Seeks Centre’s Response

'Loss Of 2.33 Million Hectares Of Tree Cover': NGT Seeks Centre’s Response

According to the data, the country lost 4,14,000 hectares of humid primary forest from 2002 to 2023, making up 18% of the total tree cover loss in the same period.

Pranali LotlikarUpdated: Thursday, May 23, 2024, 11:31 PM IST
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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday sought responses from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the Survey of India (SoI) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to a report claiming that India lost 2.33 million hectares (6%) of tree cover since 2000.

Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava, judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member Dr A Senthil Vel took up the issue suo motu based on an Indian Express report titled ‘India lost 2.33 million hectares of tree cover since 2000: Global Forest Watch’.

According to the data, the country lost 4,14,000 hectares of humid primary forest from 2002 to 2023, making up 18% of the total tree cover loss in the same period.

Between 2001 and 2022, forests in India emitted 51 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually, but removed 141 million tons, resulting in a net carbon sink of 89.9 million tons per year. In total, 1.12 gigatons of CO2 equivalent were emitted during this period.

The report explained that forests act as carbon sinks and sources, absorbing carbon dioxide when standing or regrowing, and emitting it when cleared or degraded, thus accelerating climate change. Tree cover loss includes both human-caused and natural events like logging, fires and storms. From 2013 to 2023, 95% of tree cover loss occurred in natural forests.

The NGT asked the authorities to give a specific reference to five states in the Northeast. As per GFW data, these five states accounted for 60% of tree cover loss in India between 2001 and 2023. Assam lost the most with 324,000 hectares, followed by Mizoram (312,000 hectares), Arunachal Pradesh (262,000 hectares), Nagaland (259,000 hectares) and Manipur (240,000 hectares).

The report cited the Food and Agriculture Organization, noting that India had a deforestation rate of 668,000 hectares per year from 2015 to 2020, the second highest globally.

Calling it an indication of violation of the provisions of Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the NGT has asked the authorities to submit its report before the next hearing, on August 28.

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