India’s Forests Thrive Under Maoist Control
Posted by Ka Frank on December 4, 2009
Hindustan Times, posted on Indian Vanguard, December 1, 2009
Naxal Areas See Green Cover Rise
New Delhi: The good news: India’s forest cover increased by 728 sq km between 2005 and 2007.
The surprising news: While the overall increase was marginal, there was a big rise in green cover in the tribal areas of many Naxal-affected districts in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Of the 728 sq km of new forest area, 690 sq km lay in 188 tribal districts, according to the India State of Forest Report, 2009, released by Environment and Forest Minister Jalram Ramesh on Monday. Orissa’s forest cover increased by 100 sq km and Jharkhand’s by 172 sq km. Bastar and Dantewada, Naxal-hit districts in Chhattisgarh, got greener too. Korba district in the state was the exception, though, and its decline was blamed on mining.
Forest cover fell in tribal-dominated Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland too because of a surge in shifting cultivation–a tribal practice of taking up new forest areas for farming once production in existing areas falls.
“We don’t know the impact of Left-wing extremism on bio-diversity,” Ramesh said. A study can be conducted on the Nagarajuna tiger reserve (Andhra), once under Naxal control.” Unlike Brazil and the US, there is no continuous monitoring of forests in India.
Tribal districts constitute 33.64 per cent of India’s geographical area but contribute 59.72 per cent to its forest cover. Seventy-five million tribals depend on the forests for their livelihood.
Recognising this, the government in 2007 implemented the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. It told Parliament on Monday that the states had distributed 5.68 lakh land titles till October and another 24.90 lakh claims were pending. It also said Naxal-hit Andhra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal had done a “good job” in distributing land to tribals.