Assam lost the most tree covers with 324,000 hectares, followed by Mizoram (312,000 hectares), Arunachal Pradesh (262,000 hectares), Nagaland (259,000 hectares) and Manipur (240,000 hectares)


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday sought responses from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the Survey of India (SoI) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to a report claiming that India lost 2.33 million hectares (6%) of its tree cover since 2000.

Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava, judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member Dr A Senthil Vel took up the issue suo motu based on an Indian Express news report titled India lost 2.33 million hectares of tree cover since 2000: Global Forest Watch, Bar and Bench ( reported.

The Tribunal took note that the report cited data by Global Forest Watch (GFW), which tracks forest changes in near real-time using satellite data and other sources.

According to the data, the country lost 4,14,000 hectares of humid primary forest from 2002 to 2023, making up 18% of the total tree cover loss in the same period.

The news report further stated that between 2001 and 2022, forests in India emitted 51 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually, but removed 141 million tons, resulting in a net carbon sink of 89.9 million tons per year. In total, 1.12 gigatons of CO2 equivalent were emitted during this period.

It explained that forests act as carbon sinks and sources, absorbing carbon dioxide when standing or regrowing, and emitting it when cleared or degraded, thus accelerating climate change. Tree cover loss includes both human-caused and natural events like logging, fires, and storms. From 2013 to 2023, 95% of tree cover loss in India occurred in natural forests.

As per GFW data, five states accounted for 60% of tree cover loss in India between 2001 and 2023. Assam lost the most with 324,000 hectares, followed by Mizoram (312,000 hectares), Arunachal Pradesh (262,000 hectares), Nagaland (259,000 hectares) and Manipur (240,000 hectares).

The report cited the Food and Agriculture Organization, noting that India had a deforestation rate of 668,000 hectares per year from 2015 to 2020, the second highest globally.

The NGT determined that the matter indicated a violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Environment Protection Act.

Therefore, it issued notices to the Ministry, Sol and CPCB and listed the matter for further hearing on August 28.

Notably, the SoI Director has been directed to submit a report showing the position of forest cover in India with specific reference to the North East from the year 2000 onwards, with each five year interval covering the period upto March 2024.

MTNews Desk

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