Experts say Adilabad needs its forests to regenerate to its original form to usher in development; 1,900 sq. km forest cover lost

The extensive loss of tree cover over the years in Adilabad has also reduced the dependence of nearly 4 lakh-strong indigenous communities on forest. The tribal district, considered to be the environmental haven of Telangana, needs its forests to regenerate to its original form to usher in development, experts say.

Until some decades ago, Adilabad had a forest cover of over 43 per cent of its geographical area of over 16,000 sq km. Unchecked felling of trees has cost it dearly. According to the Andhra Pradesh State of Forest Report 2013, there was a loss of nearly 1,900 sq. km of a total of 7,230 sq. km of notified forest cover.

The depletion of forests continues even now, as the report in question reveals that over 122 hectares of forest land had been encroached upon during 2012. The figure may be much higher given the manner in which the area of land under cultivation is increasing, with nearly 1.5 lakh hectares being added after the ratification of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Traditional forest communities once eked out a living by depending on forest wealth. Following deforestation, their income has taken a serious hit. “The New Forest Policy of 1988, which envisages the involvement of forest communities in the management of forest resources, looks to have failed, as ethnic people in the district are fast losing their knowledge about non-timber forest produce (NTFP). The initiative has not succeeded in ensuring the protection of forests, in the absence of which there cannot be any forest dependent commercial activity,” observes Dr. E. Narasimha Murthy of the Department of Botany, Satavahana University, Karimnagar.

Dr. Murthy has done studies on the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary (now Kawal Tiger Reserve) and has found to his astonishment many invaluable NTFP species of commercial value are on the verge of extinction. “Among the many important NTFPs which need protection are the three types of gums, mainly the gum karaya (Kavalama urens), the ippa (Madhuca indica and latifolia), kukkudu (Sapindus emarginatus) and honey and honey bee wax,” he says.

The process has to be reversed for forests to regenerate naturally by ensuring their protection and convincing the ethnic population that their environment can still yield sustenance. “Natural regeneration requires avoiding clearance of forest and scrub lands to raise eucalyptus plantations,” Dr. Murthy adds.

The tribal district, considered to be the environmental haven of Telangana, needs its forests to regenerate to its original form to usher in development, experts say.