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Northeastern states fast losing their green cover

GUWAHATI: The once-green northeast is fast becoming barren. The State of Forest Report, 2011, released by Forest Survey of India (FSI) on Wednesday, shows the region has lost 549 sq km of forest cover in the last two years, while another 1,229 sq km forest land has also been degraded into scrub with canopy density of less than 10 per cent. "This decrease is attributed to the biotic pressure and shifting cultivation in the region," the report stated.

Nationally, Assam has lost the maximum forest cover in the entire country of the very dense category of forest, 17 sq km in last two years. The moderately dense type of forest in Assam has also decreased by 152 sq km - the highest in the country, according to the report.

According to the report, Arunachal Pradesh now has a forest cover of 67,410 sq km, Assam has 27,673 sq km, Mizoram 19,117 sq km, Meghalaya 17,275 sq km, Manipur 17,090 sq km, Nagaland 13,318 sq km, Tripura 7,977 sq km and Sikkim 3,359 sq km. Only in Assam, which has lost 19 sq km of forest cover between 2009 and 2011, the decrease has been attributed to "illicit felling, encroachments in militancy-affected areas and shifting cultivation practice."

According to the report, the northeastern region has a forest cover of 1,73,219 sq km, which constitutes 66.07% of its geographical area. The region constitutes just 7.98% of the total geographical area of the country, but accounts for nearly a fourth of India's total forest cover.

The report said that Manipur has lost 190 sq km of forest cover, the highest among northeastern states, since the last survey in 2009. The FSI has attributed the decrease to "shrinking of shifting cultivation cycle and biotic pressure." In Manipur, the decrease in the forest cover is mainly in three hill districts of Tamenglong, Senpati and Ukhrul, while Chandel district has shown a 30 sq km increase in forest cover. Nagaland follows Manipur, with the state losing 146 sq km in the last two years. Arunachal Pradesh has lost 74 sq km, Mizoram 66 sq km, Meghalaya 46 sq km, Tripura eight sq km while forest cover in Sikkim has remained the same.

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