August 2, 2022
#LCWthread on forests being cut with license from the Union government.
The union govt gives licenses to cut forests and set up industries and projects. It is done under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. (1/15)
In the #BJP regime (2014- March 2022), licenses has been given to cut 1.6 lakh hectares of forests. That is more than the size of Delhi.(2/15)
Does the rate at which forests get chopped down correlate with the level of economic activity in the country? Not really, the data suggests (3/15)
During 2020-21, when the COVID-19 pandemic and economic lock down slowed down the economy, the government was still busy licensing out forests to be cut at pre-pandemic levels of 2019-20. (4/15)
Remember these are existing forests. Government claims that it grows plantations in lieu of these forests. But plantations are not forests. We also do not have a good official assessment of how well even these plantations grow. (5/15)
Where are we losing our forests?
Oddly, Punjab fairs the worst. It is not one of the most forest rich states of India. Only 6% of its land is covered by forests. But license to remove forests was given for a whopping 60,000 hectares of forest land between 2008-2020. (6/15)
Other states where forests are being cut down at high rates are Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh. (7/15)
The forest diversion in the BJP years is less than that licensed during the previous UPA government. On average, 29,723 hectares of forests were diverted per year during 2008-14. The figure is 16,538 hectare during 2014-22. (8/15)
Again, can we correlate this with the levels of economic growth (and particularly with growth in mining, roads and infra sectors)? With this limited data, its hard to tell. (9/15)
It takes some time for these licenses to lead to actual cutting of forests. Licenses in a particular year can be for projects that were proposed several years back. The lags are not easy to catch in government data. (10/15)
For example, the government revamped its data dashboard on forest clearances but made it all the more difficult to make more intelligent assessments. (11/15)
Then, one can contrast this data on licenses to another government dataset, the biennial India State of Forest Reports. These reports claim the country's forest cover increased by 12 lakh hectare during the last seven years (2015-2021). This number is deceptive. (12/15)
A previous analysis by @landconflicts found that between 2015-2021,forests spread over 74 lakh hectare(equal to twice the geographical area of Kerala) had been degraded. You can read the full story here: https://india.mongabay.com/2022/01/analysis-indian-forests-around-the-size-of-nagaland-thinned-down-in-two-years/ (13/15)
Can one juxtapose the two datasets and find the real picture of Indian forests? Not really. The India State of Forest reports do not segregate new plantations from old natural forests. it does not separate the trees from the woods. (14/15)
But, as our previous story explored, and the new data revealed in the Parliament's current session shows, all is not as well as government claims.
Research by @prudhvirr at @LandConflicts. (15/15)