Saturday, February 17

Punjab has lowest forest cover

The forest cover in Punjab is now the lowest in the country, write Dr.G.S. BHALLA and HEMA KHANNA, from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, in Punjab Newsline
The forest cover in Punjab is less than the desert state of Rajasthan that has 4.62 per cent of its total area under forests. In Punjab it is 3.14 per cent of the total area.
As per the latest report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the dense forest cover in Punjab has decreased by whopping 80,600 hectares. The vested interests cleverly concealed the figures that reveal the real picture of the state of the forests in Punjab.
The worst affected districts in terms of forest cover depletion are: Ferozpur that has witnessed 111 per cent depletion, Amritsar 106 per cent, Hoshiarpur 84 per cent, Bathinda 76 per cent, Gurdaspur 21 per cent and Ludhiana 55 per cent during the period extending from 2001 to 2003. Hoshiarpur district comprised of 22 per cent of the total state forest cover as per the 2001 forest survey report. However, in just two years the percentage of forest in the district has gone down to 18 percent. The dense forest areas in Hoshiarpur have gone down by 51 sq km. INTERESTINGLY, on the World Environment Day, 2005,the Department of Forests, publicized in leading newspapers, claiming that the forest cover in the state increased from 1,387 sq km in 1997 to 1,580 sq km in 2003.
However, the department deliberately concealed the figures as regards the forest cover in 2001. As per the Forest Survey of India report, the forest cover in the state in 2001 was 2,432 sq km. It included 1,549 sq km dense forest cover and 883 sq km open forest cover.
Another interesting fact available from the data is that the entire forest that has vanished formed the dense forest cover. The dense forest cover in the state reduced from 1,549 sq km in 2001 to just 743 sq km in 2003. The open forest cover remained almost the same at 837 km. The forest cover loss in the state was also the highest in the country. It was even more than Madhya Pradesh, the biggest state of the country in terms of geographical area. ( The figures have been quoted from the latest Forest Survey of India report published in 2005).
The dense forest cover has depleted despite the fact that the state had raised a loan a Japan bank for plantation. More than Rs 600 crore has been spent under a Japan aided scheme for afforestation in Punjab in the past one decade. The department had claimed that 20,000 sq hectares area had been brought under plantation under a Japanese project. A large percentage of the said amount has been mostly spent by the state on plantation in kandi forest ranging from Ropar to Gurdaspur. However, if such a large area was brought under plantation, how the dense forest cover in the state went down by more than 55 per cent.
In view of it environmentalists demanded that instead of claiming false accolades, the department should order an inquiry into such large-scale depletion of the dense forest cover in the state. Further, in a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in Punjab and Haryana high court, certain persons from the forest department had demanded a high level probe into the large-scale depletion of forest cover in the state.
Unconfirmed sources reveal that the sum of rupees 600 crores taken as loan from a bank in Japan had gone down the drain. This is said to have been usurped by the officials responsible for plantations with these funds borrowed from a foreign land. When the departmental enquiry was ordered, it is believed that the forest officials and the powers that be maneuvered to shield the scam and the enquiry officers and the concerned were made to believe that no misutilization of funds had taken place. However, they failed to escape the vigilant photographers who showed that only few unplanted tree saplings were lying abandoned at the place where the funds would have created a dense forest cover. It's a matter of shame.
We understand and feel worried about the low rate of economic growth, fiscal deficit, huge foreign and national debts, but what about the mounting ecological deficit that the country accumulates year after year.
The protective life line is turning fragile. The world is looking ahead in this twenty first century towards growth and development. Indeed, the development is possible, but only when the earth's natural environment and resources are well protected, conserved and thoroughly managed. Ironically, this has not been the case so far, for most of the natural environment has witnessed a heavy toll on account of excessive development activities, that have not only degraded our natural resources drastically even, the major renewable resources- forests, groundwater, agricultural soils and marine fisheries among others- have been polluted to the extent which poison the living beings. Unique and irreplaceable species are becoming extinct at rates estimated at up to 30,000 a year- the fastest destruction to have occurred in the last 65 million years. The agricultural soil of every continent is being destroyed more quickly than nature can restore them. The basic resources are under intense pressure from increased displacement of soil particles from land surfaces, has also become a serious problem.
Now the excessive human dwelling, growing industrialization and neglect of forestry is driving animal and bird population off. In fact, this is causing not only death of many species, but resulting into draughts, floods and global warming as well. The decaying twigs and tress are making soil porous and ultimately barren. Forests are also the home and heaven for wild life. Their constant degradation is causing misery to the wild life and our ecosystem. India's woods, once dark and deep, now are a living example to man's savage destruction. The saying that man finds forests but leaves deserts, could not be more true to India. Trees known as mother of rivers act as depositories for water resources, are unable to sustain their own existence. In such a pitiable situation, how can they be expected to sustain others?
Under the prevailing conditions, it would be in the fitness of things to give exemplary punishment to those who are digging the graves of the civilization by indulging in scams to the detriment of our ecology in which hangs the future of the world and for the cause for which people laid down their lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

really shocking news. im gonna spread this article. ill get it printed in our monthly school magazine.