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India’s forest cover decreased by 367 square kilometers between 2007 and 2009, and it was primarily tribal and hilly regions that were to blame, according to the biennial forest survey released last week by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The report showed some areas of progress. Among the 15 states that increased their forest cover in the period are Orissa and Rajasthan. In Punjab, the nation’s grain bowl, enhanced plantation activities and an increase in agro-forestry practices contributed to the highest gain in forest cover with 100 square kilometers.

But those gains were outdone by large-scale de-forestation elsewhere. The state that really jumps out in the report is the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which lost a whopping 281 square kilometers of forest cover, contributing 76.5% of the net decline in forest cover nationally.

The report attributes the drastic loss of forest cover in states such as Andhra Pradeshto harvesting of Eucalyptus trees in and felling of trees in encroached areas. After releasing the report, Secretary of Environment and T. Chatterjee said Naxals – left-wing, Maoist militants that are active across several Indian states – are responsible for the felling of trees and heavy deforestation, according to local news reports.

But the forest report itself didn’t specifically single out Naxals. And another top environment ministry official contradicted Mr. Chatterjee, saying Naxals didn’t play a major role in deforestation.

 

Read more here

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