Hyderabad: Ten trees an hour. That has been the average rate of illegal tree felling in Telangana’s reserve forests since October this year, as the government’s efforts to keep its promise of providing pattas for forest land for podu cultivation have accelerated.
It may be noted that the government called for fresh applications for podu pattas last year, prompting five lakh claims covering approximately 13 lakh acres of forest land in the state.
Though applications were only accepted until the end of December last year, with politicians from all parties promising pattas, tree felling continued in the state's forests this year as well, with hopes that such cleared forest patches would result in the promised podu pattas.
Just this year, there were 211 instances of tree felling in what the department, in its records, refers to as "natural forests," resulting in the destruction of 17,456 trees between April 5 and December 7 of this year. Of these, a staggering 16,851 were felled between October 1 and December 7 of this year, according to the records.
In total, the department has documented 216 instances of tree felling in the state's forests, with five of these in areas in plantations — where the department planted trees after reclaiming illegally occupied forest land from people.
Interestingly, the most significant deforestation occurred in October 2021, with three instances of such tree felling - all in plantations - resulting in a mind-boggling 11,431 trees being felled in just three days, on the 12th, 15th, and 17th of that month, when talk of the government seeking new podu patta applications began to circulate.
Incidentally, all the plantations in Telangana’s forests were part of Haritha Haram, the mega tree plantation drive of the state government.
Tree felling incidents in 2022
*up to December 7
Trees felled from October to Dec. 7, 2022