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Minister clarifies on loss of forest cover in Manipur
 IMPHAL, Jan 3 - Manipur Forest and Environment Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar today clarified that the loss of 499 square kilometres (sq km) of forest cover in the State as published in the Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019 is based on a survey conducted in 2016-17.

According to the latest edition of the ISFR, which was released by Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi on December 30, there was a decline in the forest cover of Manipur along with Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The ISFR is a biennial exercise to assess the forest and tree cover, bamboo resources, carbon stock and forest fires.

Speaking to reporters here today, Shyamkumar said that the data interpretation period was between October 2017 and February 2018, and the status indicated in the report was of 2016-17.

The incumbent BJP Government in Manipur came to power in March 2017.

Explaining the reasons for the loss of forest cover, he said that about 491 sq km out of the total loss of 499 sq km was in the hill districts of Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. The hill districts mainly have “unclassed forests”, which are under the control of the communities.

The maximum loss of 250 sq km forest cover was reported in Churachandpur district, while about eight sq km was lost in the valley districts due to rampant encroachment and illegal earth-cutting.

Interestingly, Manipur has lost 784 sq km bamboo cover between 2017 and 2019. At the same time, Manipur’s contribution to the country’s growing stock of bamboo has decreased from 8.33 per cent to 2.79 per cent during 2017-19.

The minister said that the felling of trees to meet firewood demand and for poppy cultivation, intentional forest fires, jhum (shifting) cultivation and diversion of forest land for infrastructure development have contributed to the loss of forest cover.

Highlighting the action taken by the department to protect and manage the “unclassed forests”, Shyamkumar, who also holds the Urban Development portfolio, said that efforts are being made to implement prescriptions of the working plans through community involvement.

The department on a pilot basis linked the forestry schemes with the PM’s Ujjwala Yojana for distribution of LPG connections to reduce extraction of firewood, besides incorporating livelihood components in every government scheme taken up in recent times.

Hoping that the 15th Finance Commission will provide adequate funds for implementing the prescriptions of the working plans, he said that the department has developed an online portal to curb smuggling of timber and other forest produce, and use of fake transit passes. He added that improved coordination among the forest department, the Assam Rifles and the police has resulted in an increase in the number of seizures of illegal consignments of forest produce.

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