Hyderabad: The data of Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute and its partners, contradicts the claims of the AP and TS forest departments over the extent of tree cover in the two states.
While the forest departments report says that forest cover was more than 22 per cent, a GFW analysis said that united AP had only 12 per cent.
The undivided AP forest department, in its State of Forests Report 2013, had mentioned that the state had a forest cover of 63,814 sq. km – 23.2 per cent of the total geographical area.
The forest department of successor Andhra Pradesh stated in 2014 – the report was released in 2015 – that it had 22 per cent of the total geographical area (36,914.69 sq. km) under forest cover.
The forest departments have been including scrub forests, which may have a vegetation of zero to 10 per cent, in the total forest cover. This is not usually accounted by international agencies.
According to the data of GFW, united AP had only around 30,000 sq. km of forest area (of 10 per cent canopy and above). It also mentioned that undivided AP has lost tree cover over 714 sq. km.
Environmentalist Mr Devidas Mangnani said, “The forest department should come out with tree cover rather than talk about notified forest area that include scrub forest and water bodies with no vegetation. Even if scrub forest is excluded from the total forest cover stats, the figures of the Forest department appear to be much more than the data of the international agency that has depended on satellite data from NASA, Google and other major imagery.”
However, forest officials maintained that the AP forests were mostly deciduous and their canopy density changed widely in different seasons.
“Experience has shown that complete digital interpretation, without input from visual editing does not give a satisfactory level of accuracy. Repeated digital classification was prone to interpretational errors and overlaying two classified images didn’t give proper change image at times. The changes were to some extent ground-truthed by the Geomatics wing and the remaining by the field staff for total verification with ‘Forest Cover Change Management Information System’. The inclusion of scrub forest and ground level data may have caused the differences. Otherwise our figures are accurate and the methods are time tested,” said a senior IFS official with the AP forest department.
Kadapa district has the highest notified forest area of 5041.26 sq. km while Krishna district has the lowest notified forest area of 664.28 sq. km.
As regards the ratio of notified forest to geographical area, Visakhapatnam district has the highest with 41.50 per cent and Krishna has the lowest with 7.38 per cent.
Usually notified forests are classified into water bodies, blank and others, scrub (0 to 10 per cent canopy), open forest (10 per cent to 40 per cent canopy), and dense forest (more than 40 per cent canopy)....