Loss of 2.33 million hectares of forest cover: NGT seeks MoEF and CCs response

New Delhi, May 23 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal has sought a response from government authorities, including the secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC), regarding the alleged loss of several million hectares of tree cover in the last two decades.

The NGT also sought a report from the director of the Survey of India showing the status of the forest cover since 2000, with specific reference to the North East.

The tribunal was hearing a matter where it had taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a newspaper report claiming a loss of 2.33 million hectares of tree cover across states since 2000.

A bench of NGT Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava said, “As per the article, the global forest watch (GFW) data showed that five states accounted for 60 per cent of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2023.”

“Assam had the maximum tree cover loss at 3,24,000 hectares compared to an average of 66,600 hectares. Mizoram lost 3,12,000 hectares of tree cover, Arunachal Pradesh 2,62,000 hectares, Nagaland 2,59,000 hectares, and Manipur 2,40,000 hectares,” the bench, also comprising judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member A Senthil Vel, said noting the newspaper report.

“The news item quotes data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, which states that the rate of deforestation in India was 6,68,000 hectares per year between 2015 and 2020, the second highest worldwide,” the bench said.

It said the report raised a “substantial issue” regarding compliance with environmental rules, besides indicating violation of the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, and the Environment Protection Act.

In an order passed on Monday, the tribunal impleaded as parties or respondents government authorities, including the MoEF and CCs secretary, director of Survey of India and member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

“Issue notice to the respondents for filing their response,” the green panel said.

It said the Survey of India’s director has to “submit a report showing the position of forest cover in India with specific reference to the northeast from the year 2000 onwards with each five-year interval covering the period up to March 2024.”

The matter has been posted for August 28 for further proceedings.

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