India lost 14% tree cover amid pandemic in 2020

Despite the deadly impact of Coronavirus in 2020 leading to lockdowns all around the world, tropical forests were destroyed at an alarming rate. India lost over 38.5 thousand hectares of tropical forest between 2019-20, which marks upto 14 percent of its tree cover.

Global Forest Watch, an organisation that focuses on monitoring forest cover areas, land use, and deforestation around the world as a part of the World Resources Institute released new observations about the lost tropical forests during the pandemic year.

While, recently in Parliament, the Centre responded to a question related to India’s forest cover that the country has been continuously increasing the forest land area over the last few years and reached 24.56 percent of the total geographical area of the country.

In the last decade, India has lost over 16 percent in forest cover with 223 thousand hectares of the tropical forest of the country due to human activities, mainly due to growing deforestation for highways and other important needs.

States comparison

During the start of the 21st century, 11 percent of the country’s land was covered by forests which later started to decline gradually. By 2010, the forest land had fallen to 9.9 percent. Decreasing coverage is seeing no end due to the growing economic needs of the country.

Among Indian states, Mizoram witnessed the biggest decline of forest area, a total loss of 47.2 thousand hectares in the last year. Followed by other Northeast states Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. 

“In India, the top four regions were responsible for 52 percent of all tree cover loss between 2019 and 2020. Mizoram had the most tree cover loss at 47.2 Kha(thousand hectares) compared to an average of 7.40 Kha(thousand hectares),” organisation said.

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Reasons for the loss

Forest fires have been the prime reason behind the growing loss of forest cover in the country. Changing weather patterns grew forest fire incidents during the season between March 2020 and March 2021, in total 21,312 alerts were seen.

This year March saw the highest number of alerts with 3,308 incidents compared to 1,004 incidents recorded in 2019. Between 2001 and 2020, India released 742 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Climate change impact

Globally, countries together lost 12 percent of tropical rainforest in 2020, according to the World Resources Institute. Such heavy loss of rainforest directly impacts the goal to reduce temperature risk. This loss of forest is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 570 million cars.

“In 2010, the world had 3.92 Global Hectare (Gha) of tree cover, extending over 30 per cent of its land area. In 2020, it lost 25.8 Mha of tree cover,” the Institute observed.

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