Manipur forest and environment minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar on Friday clarified that the reported loss of 499 sq km forest cover of the State as published in the biennial Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019 was based on the survey conducted during 2016-17.
The ISFR 2019 was released by the Union environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on December 30 last year.
Speaking to reporters in Imphal, minister Shyamkumar said 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.
Stating that the diversions of large areas under forest cover by Railways, construction of highways, roads and particularly Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana roads in hill districts, felling of trees to meet fuel-wood requirement, rampant felling for poppy cultivation, forest fire, have also contributed in loss of forest covers in the recent years have contributes in loss of forest areas.
He said that jhum cultivation in hill districts with shortened cycles regularly is also responsible for the loss of green cover.
Out of the total area lost, 491 sq km is in hill districts of Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul, Shyamkumar said.
The maximum loss of forest cover is in Churachandpur with 250 sq km.
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 added 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.
He said efforts are being made to apply Working Plan prescriptions through community involvement apart from regular destruction of poppy cultivation areas with Narcotics and Affairs of Borders and Police and reclaimed the same areas under forest cover through plantations of local plant species.
Shyamkumar said the department on a pilot basis linked the forestry schemes with PM’s Ujjwala Yojana for distribution of LPG connections to reduce the extraction of firewood adding that the department has developed online portal to prevent smuggling of timber/forest produce and use of fake transit passes.
He said improved coordination among Forest department, Assam Rifles and Police department has resulted in increase of seizure and confiscation of illegal forest produces.