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India lost 2.3 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 & 2023!

India lost 2.3 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 & 2023!

Representational photo.

New Delhi: A project monitored by the Global Forest Watch found that India lost a tree cover of 2.3 million hectares between 2001 and 2023. The data released on Friday suggested that there is a 6 per cent decrease from 2000, Scroll reported.

It was five states from the North East, which accounted for 60 per cent of all tree cover loss in the mentioned period.

Assam reported most of the cover loss, with 3,24,000 hectares being deforested. When Mizoram lost 3,12,000 hectares, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland lost 2,62,000 and 2,59,000, respectively. Manipur recorded 2,40,000 hectares of tree loss.

India reported maximum tree cover loss in 2017 during the mentioned period, with 1,89,000 hectares of land cleared. In 2016, the country cleared 1,75,000 hectares, and in 2023, it cleared 1,44,000 hectares, the report suggested.

From 2001 to 2022, Odisha lost most of the tree-covered land to fires. An average of 238 hectares of land was lost to fires in the state every year during this period. Arunachal Pradesh lost 198 hectares, Nagaland 195 hectares, Assam 116 hectares, and Meghalaya 97, on average, to fires every year.

Further, the Global Forest Watch said that India lost 414,000 hectares of humid primary forest (4.1%) from 2002 to 2023, which is 18 per cent of its total tree cover loss in the said period.

Last year, the Centre had amended the Forest Conservation Act. The law allowed the diversion of forests for the construction of roads, railway lines or "strategic linear projects of national importance and concerning national security" within 100 km of India's international borders – without the need for forest clearance. This has allowed the act to apply only to forests that have been declared or notified as a forest and forests recorded in government records on or after October 25, 1980.

Scroll reports that areas that are not officially classified as forests in a government record, even if they are standing forests, will not be protected from exploitation.

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