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Kerala to map its forests

Worried by reports of shrinking forest cover, Kerala has decided to get its forests mapped by a satellite as the first step towards initiating conservation measures.

State Forest Minister K. Sudhakaran told IANS that all arrangements were being for the mapping exercise. “The Kerala Forest Research Institute would be entrusted this job. It is working out a plan to go about the task,” he said.

“For any serious preservation and conservation effort to begin, we must first know the area under forests and its extent,” said Sudhakaran. He said he expected the mapping exercise to be completed in a year’s time.

Kerala, which is abundantly endowed by nature, has 28.90 percent, or 11,125 sq km, of its total area under forest cover, while the national average is 19.50 percent, according to the state planning board.

Though dwindling forest cover has been an ongoing concern, Chief Minister A.K. Antony’s government has been dragged into controversy over the reported links of a minister with encroachers of nearly 3,000 acres of forests in Idukki district.

Large-scale intrusions have also been reported from the forests in Poyamkutty.

Sudhakaran said he would visit Poyamkutty for the second time Sunday to assess the encroachments. He had refuted allegations of illegal intrusions after his first visit.

“Now I am going there again to ascertain what the truth is. Under no circumstances would I allow anyone to encroach the forest area and action would be taken against all erring officials,” said Sudhakaran.

Sudhakaran’s visit seems to have been also necessitated by the forthcoming session of the Kerala assembly from June 12 during which the opposition is expected to launch an onslaught on the government on the issue of encroachments.