While the green map unveiled by the Forest Survey of India has put West Bengal at the top of the heap of states where the forest cover has increased between 2001 and 2003, Orissa has lost nearly 472 sq km of forests in the two-year period. Over the two years surveyed, Bengal’s open forest area went up by 1,951 sq km, the State of the Forest Report said. However, the dense forest area thinned by 301 sq km, limiting the overall increase to 1,650 sq km. Every two years, the FSI conducts an assessment of the forest cover in the country with the help of satellite remote sensing techniques.
According to the latest census, only 31 per cent of the area of the state is under forest cover. Dense forests cover 18 per cent of the geographical area, the ideal coverage should be 33.33 per cent. Though there is a marginal growth in dense forests — from 27,972 sq km to 28,170 sq km — the open forests recorded a fall from 20,866 sq km to 20, 196 sq km. There is more bad news. The state has failed to protect its rich mangrove forests, the only barrier against the onslaught of cyclones in the coastal plains. Orissa lost 12 sq km of mangroves mostly in Kendrapada district. The survey has recorded 207 sq km of mangroves of which 160 sq km was dense and the rest open forest. The state has lost 34 sq km of dense mangroves in the past two years.