Hyderabad: The actual forest cover of the country might be half of what the Ministry of Environment and Forests spurns out annually in its Forest Survey of India report.
Scholars from the Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation Research (CCCAR), Anna University (AU), in a recently published research claimed that as per the Forest Soil Quality Index (FSQI), the percentage of degraded forests in Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu stands at 42.4 per cent contrary to 1.8 per cent as per the FSQI.
This raises serious questions regarding the actual forest cover in the country because as per FSI, degraded forests are not calculated in forest cover, meaning that a major percentage of what we consider as forests are not forests at all.
FSQI is a well-established methodology used in several developed countries like United States of America, New Zealand, United Kingdom and some European nations.
The AU scholars collected 408 soil samples from 13 hills in the Eastern Ghats in TN and based on FSQI method, analyzed the samples on 22 parameters. The results from these tests were used to classify degraded forests and good forests.
The present technique used by central and state governments in India, to come out with forest cover reports, involves just periodic monitoring of forests based on satellite imaging. The forest areas along with any place with trees that appear green in the satellite images are taken into account.
Based on a technique called Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) the green areas are differentiated and forests are categorized as very dense forest, moderately dense forest, open forest and degraded forest.
Prof. A. Ramachandran, director of CCCAR at Anna University who headed the research, said, "The FSI data may be misleading and may fail to provide an accurate description of forest degradation.
Many forests in Eastern Ghats, even in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, are highly degraded with poor vegetation and faunal diversity....