But, it does not mean that we can sit and relax, says IG of Forests

The total forest cover in India has grown from 20.2 per cent to 21.3 per cent, said S.K. Khanduri, Inspector-General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

He was here for a two-day international workshop on ‘Across landscapes: conserving coastal and marine biodiversity’, jointly organised by MOEF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Talking to The Hindu, he said that people need not be alarmed about deforestation, as the total cover had improved by about 1 per cent over the last decade. “But that does not mean that we can sit and relax. Systems are in place and they need proper implementation,” he added.

On the growing conflict between development and conservation, he said, “Development is part of economic progress and it cannot be halted, but at the same time conservation has to be the underlying factor in the principle of development. Deforestation of one area has to be supplemented with planned and scientific forestation and similarly extraction cannot be rampant, a scientific process should be followed,” he said.

Mr. Khanduri was critical of mangrove depletion and remarked that there was no proper legislation for depletion of mangroves. “Mangroves do play a critical role in resisting soil erosion and primarily all mangroves along the 7,500 km coastline should be demarcated as forest. Only small percentage is done so far,” he pointed out.

Commenting on shifting agriculture or podu cultivation, the IG of Forests pointed out that respective State governments should devise a policy to integrate the locals in designing new sustainable method of agriculture on the hill slopes. “Conservation cannot be done alone by the government, there must be an attitudinal change within the community, which includes the locals and the corporate,” he said. The same thing should be followed by the fishing community in saving endangered species such as Olive Ridley turtles.

Carbon credits

Touching the subject of carbon credits, Mr. Khanduri said that it was a debatable topic and it was discussed across the globe since the Kyoto Protocol.

“There are two essential things to understand -- should the credit be given for lowering the emission or for growing trees in tune with the emission. The rating factor for audit is still being debated,” he said.

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