HYDERABAD: Protected forest areas of Telangana are the most vulnerable to deforestation in India, after those located in Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur. The Hyderabad based National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) in collaboration with Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Kerala conducted a first of its kind study titled ‘Earth observation data for habitat monitoring in protected areas of India’, to monitor 175 protected areas in India using technique of remote sensing.
Each of these protected areas has an area over 100 square kilometers, representing more than 90 per cent of the protected area network in India and habitat monitoring was conducted for the period 1930-2013.
The study led by Dr C Sudhakar Reddy of NRSC found that in the decade 2005-2013 only nine of the 175 protected areas showed forest cover loss, of which two are from Telangana - Kinnerasani and Pakhal wildlife sanctuaries, while of the rest seven, five are from Assam and one each from Meghalaya and Manipur. In the entire period from 1930-2013, 24 protected areas lost more than 20 sq km of forest areas to deforestation, of which three are from Telangana - Kawal tiger reserve, Kinnerasani and Pakhal.
It is not just historical data that points out deforestation in Kawal tiger reserve, Kinnerasani and Pakhal wildlife sanctuaries but the State of Forests Report-2015 by Telangana forest department also listed these three protected areas as the ones with most negative forest cover changes in the state, apart from Eturnagaram wildlife sanctuary and Amrabad tiger reserve.
While the scenario in Telangana might be discouraging, the NRSC researchers report in their study that over the years forest cover loss in protected areas decreased across the country. As per the study, while 145 protected areas showed forest cover loss in the years 1930-1975, the number decreased to 85 in the period 1975-2013. The study also reported that in the years 1975-1985, 1985-1995, 1995-2005 and 2005-2013 protected areas that showed forest cover loss were 72, 60, 24 and 9 respectively, indicating that forest authorities in different states could successfully arrest deforestation inside sanctuaries.
Protected area cover
While the forest cover itself is less than the 33 per cent of total geographic area, as aimed by National Forest Policy, the network of 764 protected areas in India, which include 543 sanctuaries, 103 parks, 45 community reserves and 73 conservation reserves cover just about 23 percent of the total forest cover.
In Telangana the network of 12 protected areas which include 9 sanctuaries and 3 national parks, cover only 22 pc of the 26,904 sq km of forest cover in the state.