Growing forest cover turning Kerala greener

Conservation and afforestation campaigns are paying dividends

Forest conservation and afforestation campaigns are paying dividends in Kerala as the forest cover in the State continues to increase during the second consecutive assessment period.

Kerala has been ranked third among the top five States in terms of increase in forest cover, according to the India State of Forest Report, 2019, prepared by the Forest Survey of India of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, that was released in New Delhi on Monday.

After Karnataka (1,025 sq km) and Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km), the forest cover in Kerala was found to have gone up by 823 sq km against the last assessment held in 2017.

Key reasons

The study attributes “conservation activities as well as improvement in interpretation” and plantations as the key reasons for the increase in forest cover.

More than half of the total geographical area of the State is covered with forest as indicated from a satellite data-based analysis carried out between December 2017 and March 2018.

The 21,144.29 sq km forest cover in the State accounts for 54.42% of its geographical area.

In terms of forest canopy density classes, the State has 1,934.83 sq km under Very Dense Forest, 9,508.24 sq km of Moderately Dense Forest and 9,701.22 sq km under Open Forest, according to the assessment.

Steady trend

The increase in forest cover, says P. K. Kesavan, Head of Forest Force, Kerala, is not a one-off development but a steady trend.

The 2017 study had also indicated a steady growth in forest cover in the State. That time too, Kerala was in third position in terms of increased forest cover.

The Forest Department is in the process of increasing and improving the forest cover of the State through various interventions, including steps for bringing back natural forests in teak plantations that have failed to yield good results and also in the industrial plantations of wattle, eucalyptus, manjium and acacia, said Mr. Kesavan.

Wayanad greenest

Among the 14 districts, Wayanad was found to be the greenest one with 1,580.22 sq km of forest, which accounted over 74.19% of its geographical area, followed by Idukki with 3,150.65 sq km of forest, which accounted for 72.33% of its geographical area.

Alappuzha has the lowest forest cover, 79.90 sq km, which occupies 5.65% of the geographical area.

The State was also found to be home to 238 species of trees, 158 shrubs and 81 species of herbs during a rapid assessment.

During the period between January 1, 2015 and February 5, 2019, 15.82 hectares of forestland was diverted for non-forestry purposes under the Forest Conservation Act, the report noted.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 5:02:11 AM |

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