Smuggling hits Kawal forest cover

Experts say that shortage of staff, funds and migration of tigers are also behind the decline

Published: 15th January 2022 02:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2022 02:26 AM   |  A+A-

A view of the green cover that Telangana forest officials grew in the  in the core area of the Kawal Tiger Reserve

A view of the green cover that Telangana forest officials grew in the in the core area of the Kawal Tiger Reserve. (Photo | Twitter Screengrab, @ErikSolheim)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: A multitude of factors could have contributed to the sharp decline of 5 per cent in forest cover at the Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR). According to the Forest Survey of India (FSI) Report 2021, the forest areas of KTR saw a decline in the decadal forest cover by 118 square kilometres. 

Experts attribute the loss in forest cover to the smuggling of teakwood from the forest. In the last two years, nearly 37 trucks were caught and teakwood worth Rs 9.73 lakh were salvaged by the forest officials in the region. However, experts note that is only the tip of the iceberg and the issue is much more entrenched.
“If the official data shows this, the reality is 10 times worse. The KTR has a severe staff shortage issue as well, which makes it completely difficult to stop such smuggling of wildlife and wood from the forests,” 
explained Mirza Kareem Baig of the Forests and Wildlife Protection Society (FAWPS).

He said that in the last two years, several contractual staff working as base camp watchers, animal trackers and watchtower staff were removed from their jobs as the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds used to pay their wages was discontinued.

Forest conservationists also state there is a key issue of mismatch between revenue records and forest records of patta land as many villagers living in the periphery have patta records outside forest but end up having land inside forests. “Without a proper survey of land in the area, the issue of podu lands and encroachment will continue,” added Baig.

Ultimately, poor forest management has also led to the loss of wildlife, exacerbating the entry of humans into interior forests. “The Kawal forest in itself is not in a healthy condition because tigers, which is an indicative species, are not coming here. Tigers presence in any forest indicates a good amount of feed, water and less human interference and all three are lacking in Kawal,” added Sanjeev Siva from CLAW (Conservation Lenses and Wildlife).

The FSI report further stated that the majority of the loss is for Moderately Dense Forest (MDF) from 1,260 sq km to 1,125 sq km, followed by Very Dense Forest (VDF) from 102 sq km to 91 sq km. The scrub coverage has also declined, the report noted. 

“Telangana can’t just do compensatory afforestation to make do. The lost wildlife in KTR’s five per cent of forest can’t come back with it. Who will compensate for the lost ecosystem of wildlife living there,” wondered Siva.


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