BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has added only seven sq km of forests in the last two years but an 18 sq km increase in mangrove cover is a bright spot in its performance as far as protection of forest and green cover is concerned.
The Indian State of Forest Report 2015 released by Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday shows the forest cover in Odisha rising to 50,354 sq km in 2015 from 50,347 sq km in 2013. The forest cover, now, accounts for 32.34 per cent of total geographical area of the State.
Odisha has contributed a measly 0.18 per cent to the total addition of 3,775 sq km forest cover in India between 2013 and 2015. The total forest and tree cover in India has gone up to 7,01,673 sq km in 2015, accounting for 21.34 per cent of the country’s geographical area, from 697,898 sq km in 2013.
The State, though, has made a very encouraging recovery in protecting and expanding its mangrove cover, the most potent natural coastal barrier to calamities like cyclones, sea ingress, tsunamis and the like. With addition of 18 sq km in mangrove cover, it has posted the second highest growth rate among 12 coastal States after Maharashtra, which has added 36 sq km.
While mangroves in Odisha had depleted rapidly losing nine sq km between 2011 and 2013 from 222 sq km to 213 sq km, latest report has shown not only recovery of the very lost cover but also an addition of nine more sq km to reach 231 sq km this year.
The State is now recorded to have 82 sq km of very dense mangrove, 95 sq km of moderately dense mangrove and 54 sq km of open mangrove. Kendrapara, which houses the most sensitive mangrove concentration at Bhitarkanika, has increased the cover by seven sq km, from 183 to 190 sq km, in 2013.
Bhadrak district has recorded a nine sq km increase in mangrove cover from 21 sq km in 2013 to 30 sq km this year. Balasore has maintained status quo without any difference while two other districts of Jagatsinghpur and Puri have increased cover by one sq km each. Puri, in fact, has recovered the sole sq km of mangrove that was lost in 2013.
In the overall forest cover scene, Odisha has added 172 sq km of moderately dense forests, which have grown from 21,298 sq km to 21,861 sq km in the last two years. But at the same time, it has lost 19 sq km of very dense forest and 146 sq km of open forest during the same period.
The loss of both can be directly co-related with the increase in moderately dense forest. But, while progression of 146 sq km of open forest to moderately dense forest is a welcome sign, the depletion of very dense forest to the latter is a bit of bother.
The forest survey, though, has made a positive note of the State’s performance stating the increase in forest cover is due to better conservation in mangrove areas and plantation activities.