Regional

Despite pressure on forests, Himachal Pradesh able to preserve its forest wealth

March 03, 2018 12:21 PM

Punjab News Express/Y.S. RANA
CHANDIGARH: Recognizing the threat of forest fires, the government has published comprehensive data on forest fires for the first time in its State of Forest Report 2017. The forest fires not only affected the environment but also a drain on the financial front. According to a ministry estimate, India loses about Rs 550 crore every year because of damages from forest fires.

According to the data of the state forest department, there were over 1500 forest fire incidents in the state during 2016-17 which have affected approximately 13,061 hectare of forest land. With an increase of 0.71 per cent in forest cover compared to national percentage of 0.94 it is eighth amongst the states and UTs in the country to record rise in forest area.
Based on satellite data Himachal Pradesh has 15,100 square kms of forest area which is 27.12 per cent of its geographical area. In terms of canopy density, the state has 3110 sq. kms under very dense forest; 6705 sq. kms under moderately dense forest and 5282 sq. kms under open forest area.
It is further revealed that in case of fire incidents Nahan topped the list which has reported 295 forest fire cases in 2016-17 followed by Dharamsala with 210 and Hamirpur recorded 207 forest fire cases during the period.
Between 2003 and 2016, the forest fires have recorded almost 38 per cent increase from 24,450 to 33,664 in part because of better reporting but also from degradation of forests and dryness of foliage due to rising temperatures.
Forest fires also release large amounts of carbon dioxide, threatening India’s greenhouse gas emission targets. The total Carbon stock of forests in Himachal Pradesh is 175,782 million tones (644,534 million tones of CO2 equivalent which is 2.48 per cent of total forest Carbon of the country.
The report also states that the state has also recorded an increase of 53 square kms in the water body coverage within forest compared to 2005. Despite such tremendous population and pressures of livestock on our forests, State has been able to preserve and expand its forest wealth, said official of the Forest Department.
North eastern states have reported a greater number of forest fires than any other region. The higher numbers are linked to ‘jhum cultivation’, also called ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. “The government will use certain strategies to wean away locals from hum cultivation,” CK Mishra, secretary of environment ministry, said.
“Over 95per cent of the fires are caused by humans,” Siddhanta Das, director general of forests, said. Experts believe the threat of forest fires is increasing as the soil is unable to retain moisture, with a warming climate.
India ranks among the top ten countries of the world in terms of forest area, despite the fact that none of the other 9 countries has a population density of more than 150 persons per sq km, compared to India, which has a population density of 382 persons per sq km. “India is ranked 10th in the world, with 24.4 per cent of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4 per cent of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17 per cent of human and 18 per cent livestock population”, the Minister said. EOM

 

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