Karnataka

Green cover: Karnataka’s forests grow, but not in Kodagu and Shivamogga

Bengaluru, Karnataka: 26/05/2017: View of Brahmagiri Mountain Ranges of Western Ghats, at Talakaveri, near Bhagamandala in Kodagu district, Karnataka. Talakaveri - birth place of river Cauvery (Kaveri) which is situated 1,276 metre above sea level.
 Photo K Murali Kumar

Bengaluru, Karnataka: 26/05/2017: View of Brahmagiri Mountain Ranges of Western Ghats, at Talakaveri, near Bhagamandala in Kodagu district, Karnataka. Talakaveri - birth place of river Cauvery (Kaveri) which is situated 1,276 metre above sea level. Photo K Murali Kumar

Amidst the verdant green patches thriving in the State are bald spots causing concern.

The India State of Forests 2017 report, released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Monday, shows that while the State’s conservation efforts and thrust towards agroforestry is leading to an impressive increase of 1,101 sq km of tree cover, eco-sensitive areas such as Kodagu and Shivamogga continue to see a decline.

The 19th edition of the report, brought out by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), tabulates tree cover every two years using satellite imagery.

First, the good news: green cover in the State has increased to 37,550 sq km, up from 36,421 sq km in the 2015 report. Karnataka ranks second in the country in terms of increase in forest cover. In perspective, tree cover spanning more than the size of Bengaluru has been added to the State since the last report. The increases were led by Uttara Kannada and Chikkamagaluru, which added 557 sq km among themselves.

Bafflingly, even Bengaluru Urban has seen an increase of 117 sq km. The increasingly urban district now has 234 sq km under “tree cover”, the highest since the report started tabulating district forest cover.

The report notes that better satellite data, large-scale increase in plantations, conservation efforts, and density improvement of shrub forests are behind the increase.

However, the report does contain concerns, particularly in the Western Ghats districts of Shivamogga and Kodagu, which have lost 189 sq km of forests.

In Kodagu, for instance, 102 sq km of tree cover has been lost. Very Dense Forests (defined as more than 70% tree cover in a patch of land) has seen a dramatic increase, which officials attribute to increase in conservation of forest patches and rejuvenation efforts. However, moderately dense (defined as between 40% and 70% tree cover in a patch of land) and open forests (10% to 40% tree cover) has reduced by over 654 sq km. FSI includes over 81% of the district as having forest cover.

“Some of this tree cover decline is through legal means, of people converting cardamom plantations to coffee plantations, which require clearing of trees. But, the concern is the commercialisation of property with resorts or layouts coming up These changes are bound to have an effect on the catchment for the Cauvery river,” said Col. C.P. Muthanna (retd.), Coordinator for Save Kodagu and Cauvery campaign. “The solution is to stop commercialisation, unnecessary infrastructure projects and to provide a scheme to compensate for ecological services that would encourage those in Kodagu to keep the greenery of their plantation,” he said.

Since the turn of the millennium, Shivamogga district, where more than half the district is under tree cover, has seen a steady decline. Since 2001, tree cover has declined by over 88 sq km. “The number of Forest Rights Applications (over 95,000) in the district are a concern. We are trying to verify each application through satellite imagery, but there is definitely pressure on forests here,” said a forest official.

While the Forest Department is yet to analyse the report details, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Punati Sridhar said the increasing density of forests reflect an improvement of ecological health. “We have seen that schemes of giving LPG connections to those living close to the forests has lead to rejuvenation of tree cover in nearby hills...In areas such as Bengaluru, more than 8 lakh seedlings of melia dubia have been distributed. Perhaps, these schemes are yielding efforts outside forest areas,” he said.

More good news for the State

With increasing mangrove cover along the coast and healthy rejuvenation of bamboo stocks, the State of Forest 2017 report contains more good news for Karnataka.

Between 1995 and 2015, barely 3 sq km of the coast has mangrove cover, the report said. However, in the 2017 report, mangrove cover increased to 10 sq km, all of it in Uttara Kannada district.

The 2017 report also looked at the coverage of bamboo, which received a thrust under the National Bamboo Mission. The State now has 10,442 sq km of bamboo, which is an impressive increase of 27% since the previous tabulation in 2011. The density of bamboo in forests was bound to increase, notes the report, as the plant was rejuvenating in nearly 2,943 sq km in Karnataka, the highest in the country.


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Printable version | May 21, 2022 3:16:54 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/green-cover-karnatakas-forests-grow-but-not-in-kodagu-and-shivamogga/article22735425.ece