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Headlines    Vol. 2 Issue No. 25      April 7 - 21,  2004

Depletion of forest cover causes concern 

THE vast forest cover in Assam and as well as in other parts of North-Eastern region, are today facing threat and might lead to ecological disorder in coming years.

The major causes for the rapid depletion of forest cover in Assam are increasing population, more agricultural activities, urbanisation and industrialisation. The Assam Forest Department has estimated that  out of a growing stock of forest products of roughly 304.4 million cubic metres, the total annual demand has been roughly 8.3 million cubic metres. These come mostly from the notified as well as individually owned plantations in the State. This data was compiled in the wake of a growing concern over the dwindling forest cover all over the country.

The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) based at Dehradun recently embarked on a comprehensive project of preparing a national level long-term plan for afforestation across the country in a phased manner. The plan would be formulated after considering similar plans prepared by each State.

Consequently, Assam Forest Department has also prepared a draft state-level plan for the purpose. It   was prepared based on the data compiled by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) in collaboration with the State Forest department.

The data was compiled after scanning information with the help of remote sensing sattelites, which is done every two years. So the draft plan estimates for 1996 were actually prepared this year. The State  presently has 620 registered wood-based industries whose annual consumption is more than 7.36 lakh cubic metres per year according to 1999-2000 estimates. Working plans for at least 22 of the 27 forest divisions in the State have expired long ago and an immediate assessment of these plans for revival is the only way left for improving the situation. According to a revelation by 2005, the annual wood fuel  requirement would be about 5.8 million tonnes against an estimated annual availability of 1.45 million tonnes.

The present scenario reflects a disturbing fact in which the man-forest relationship has been under great stress. The near total dependence of the rural people in the State on firewood can be gauged from the fact that more than 90 per cent of these are collected from nearby forests. Despite a total ban on felling of trees, except those necessitated by plantation since 1988, the situation has not improved as expected. Besides, the Supreme Court directive on December 12, 1996 banning felling of trees without proper and up-to-date working plans for each forest division has hardly improved the situation. The Chief Minister said the Assam Government was preparing special package to prevent deforestation and to maintain the ecological balance of the State.

The security forces had attributed this silence to complete destruction of their striking ability. ‘’They will try to hit the softest target like oil pipelines and other infrastructure, but they cannot do much,’’ they said.

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