Visakhapatnam: Forests in Andhra Pradesh do not present a pleasant picture. Most forests in the state are rapidly degrading and becoming more and more fragmented with every passing decade. Forest fragmentation means breaking up of a large intact forest into small patches. The overall forest cover is also shrinking by almost 49 per cent in a time span of eight decades.
A study by scientists of National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, revealed that the forest cover in Andhra Pradesh declined from 85,392 sq. km to 43,523 sq. km between 1930 and 2011.
The study said: “The landscape analysis shows that the number of forest patches was 3,981 in 1930; 5,553 in 1960; 8,760 in 1975; 9,412 in 1985; 9,646 in 1995 and 10,597 in 2011. This indicates the ongoing anthropogenic pressure on the forests. The mean patch size (in sq. km) of forest decreased from 21.5 in 1930 to 12.3 in 1960 and dropped to 3.9 by 2011.” The study was conducted by P. Hari Krishna, K.R.L. Saranya, C. Sudhakar Reddy, C.S. Jha and V.K. Dadhwal.
Anthropogenic pressures include expansion of human habitation resulting in encroachment of forest lands, chopping of trees, turning forest land into agricultural land and other such issues.
G. Lakshman, the divisional forest officer, Narsipatnam, said that podu cultivation or shifting agriculture is a major reason behind forest fragmentation.
The study found that forest cover loss has been very high in Rayalaseema (44.8 per cent) followed by Coastal Andhra (40.6 per cent). Anantapur, Krishna, Guntur, Kurnool and Visakhapatnam showed the maximum loss of forest cover of all the districts in the present AP.
Another study by NRSC in RV Nagar Range, a forest which is part of the Eastern Ghats, concludes that 48 sq. km of forest area had degraded in a span of 28 years.
Well-known forest rights activist Ganjivarapu Srinivas says, “A big reason behind declining forest cover is that the forest department has not been conducting compensatory afforestation efficiently for the forest lands which are diverted for industrial or other activities.”