Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Private forest cover ‘shrinks’ by 2018 ha


The Sawant and the Karapurkar committees appointed by the State Government identified about 6,712.2 hectares as private forests. But the forest department contents that the private forest cover is much less than identified by the two committees.
As per the forest department report submitted to the High Court in December 2009, private forest cover identified by two committees has come down to 4,242.3 hectares – the difference is about 2018.07 hectares.
Interestingly, the forest department had been directed by the High Court to actually demarcate the private forests on the map that were identified by the two committees. The direction is issued following a petition for issuing a writ filed by Goa Foundation.
The stand of the forest department is that when demarcation was initiated, no forests existed on the survey numbers that were earmarked as private forests by two committees.
However, Goa Foundation which has been pursuing the matter has strongly objected to the report of the forest department showing less forest area than identified by the two committees.
The petition challenging the report filed by forest department is pending before the High Court.
Adv Norma Alvares, who represented Goa Foundation pointed out that the forest department was only entrusted with the duty to demarcate or plot private forests where survey numbers had partial forests that were identified by two committees.
However, what has been done is even in survey numbers that were identified as having total forest cover has been now identified as non-forest area.
She further pointed out that the apex court in its order in May, 2001, had stated that no action should be taken contrary to the final report of Sawant committee.
When the order of the Supreme Court has not been vacated – how could the forest department re-do and show reduced forest cover, she questioned.
The Goa Foundation had approached the apex court when Karapurkar committee appointed in 2000 to identify balance private forests, started re-identifying private forest areas that were already covered by Sawant committee.
The Sawant committee was appointed in 1997. It submitted its report in 1999 identifying about 46.89 sq kms of private forests. The Karapur Committee which was appointed in 2000 has identified about 20.18 sq km of private forests.
However, both committees were not able to complete the exercise fully. But, what is intriguing is how areas identified by two expert committees have turned into non-forest areas in the span of few years. In a rare case, forest department has found increase in the forest cover in few of the survey numbers. (See box)
New committees: The State government has now notified two new committees to identify private forests in North and South Goa that have not been covered by the Sawant and the Karapur Committees.
They will have to individually locate the identified private forests on ground, survey them, verify and confirm their forest nature and extend (area in hectares), plot them on map and incorporate them in the plan of the respective survey numbers. Also, they have to demarcate the private forests from the non-forests on the map.
Criteria adopted for identifying private forests are as follow.
A 75 per cent of its composition should be forestry species.
Area should be contiguous to government forests and if in isolation minimum area should be five hectares.
Thirdly, the canopy density should not be less than 0.4.

Herald, 2 March 2010 Panaji

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