Hyderabad: There is a shocker in the latest State of Forest Report-2015 for Telangana state. The forest cover is much lower, by a huge 2,260.34 square kilometres, than reported in 2014. The huge difference is thanks to the technology used to identify forest cover by the forest department.
For the previous report. officials used a type of data called ‘linear imaging self scanning sensor-III’ provided by the Indian Space Research Organisation and used a methodology called normalised difference vegetation index were used.
A technical advisory committee suggested using LISS-IV and Cartosat satellite data as it provided better resolution. On changing over, forest department found that many areas which were earlier reported as forests were actually encroached forest where agriculture was being practiced.
As per the SFR 2015, only 16,504.33 sq km of the 112,102 sq km area was forests — or 14.72 per cent of the state's geographical area. This was against 18,764.67 sq km, which was 16.74 per cent of the state's geographic area in 2014.While the state government says that the forest cover is 24 per cent of its geographical area, it is just the area which has been ‘notified’ as forest.
This 24 per cent covers shrubs and non-forest areas apart from very dense forest, moderately dense forest and open forest. The definition of forest includes the latter three categories, which in Telangana state occupies only 14.72 per cent of the geographical area.
A comparision of the data in 2015 and 2014 showed TS had lost 62.80 sq km of forest cover of which 29.08 sq km was due to encroachment, mostly in Khammam, Warangal and Adilabad circles.
The remaining 33.72 sq km decrease in forest cover was due to harvesting of matured plantations and clearing of forest for raising new plantations by forest department.