Forest cover declining rapidly in core districts of Western Ghats

A J Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on February 16, 2018

The Western Ghats, which ranges from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu, is a well-known biodiversity hot spot   -  K MURALI KUMAR

Construction of resorts and illegal felling of trees by the timber lobby are key factors


What is common to the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu, Kerala’s Idukki and Waynad districts, and the Dang district in Gujarat?

These are the Western Ghats’ core revenue-generating districts, which had a forest cover of more than 72 per cent of their total geographical area 12 years ago.

A comparative study – the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) – a biennial publication of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), for 2005, 2015 and 2017, shows a significant decline in the forest cover in the last 12 years.

The Nilgiris saw a decline of around 35,000 hectares of forest cover between 2005 and 2017.

During the period, Idukki witnessed a decline of around 58,000 hectares of forest cover and Waynad 9,700 hectares.

AA Cariappa, a coffee grower in Kodagu district, said that the decline in the forest cover is mainly due to the commercial activities such as resort construction and home stays in the Western Ghats.

Illegal felling of trees by the timber lobby has also contributed to this, he said.

Dinesh Holla, a member of the Sahyadri Sanchaya (a forum of environmentalists), said that various development projects in the Western Ghats region, such as Yettinaholey river diversion project, are leading to the erosion of forest wealth in Karnataka.

The Western Ghats region, which ranges from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu, is a well-known biodiversity hot spot in the world.

According to ISFR, the region is spread over 35 revenue districts in the country. Out of them, 30 districts share their physiographic zones with west coast, east coast, north deccan and south deccan in different States. The forest cover in the 35 districts range from 4 per cent to 77 per cent of their geographical area.

In Karnataka’s Kodagu district, the forest cover has come down by 10,600 hectares, and 4,400 hectares in Gujarat’s the Dangs district, in 12 years.

In Maharashtra, 11 revenue districts have a partial presence in the Western Ghats region. Out of them, only Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg have a forest cover of more than 50 per cent to their geographical area.

However, there was a growth in forest cover in these two districts during the period.

Published on February 16, 2018

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