ENVIRONMENT: Green cover under threat – encroachment reason for man-wildlife conflict ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY AVIJIT SINHA
Siliguri, July 28: Over 13,000 hectares of forest land has been encroached upon across Bengal, the state forest minister has admitted while expressing apprehension that if the trend continues the man-animal conflict will be on the rise.
Till March 31, 2007, a total of 13,048.376 hectares of forest land had been encroached, according to data available with the forest department.
“It is true that a huge portion of forest land is under encroachment in different parts of Bengal, with the forests of north Bengal being no exception,” forest minister Ananta Roy told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta today. “This is a matter of concern, particularly at a time when population of elephants and gaurs (Indian Bison) are showing a consistent rise in the past few years. If the trend of encroachment continues, we fear the frequency of man-animal conflicts will rise.”
According to Roy, forest cover comprises 27 per cent of the state’s geographical area but in reality, the percentage is less. “The dense area is only 16.46 per cent,” he said. “The tendency to develop human habitats on forest land should be curbed for conservation of wildlife and the green cover. We wish to take initiative to clear the encroachments and maintain the forest cover.”
The total forest land under encroachment in six north Bengal districts is 1,631.444 hectares (see chart). In south Bengal, the situation is worse as in Bankura district alone, 4,870.729 hectares of land has been encroached.
Forest officials have also expressed their concern on the encroachment. “It is a complicated problem. In case we decide to clear the encroachments, the issue of displacing human population arises,” an official said. “There have been incidents when our men tried to clear encroachments but had to face opposition from the occupants, political parties and human rights groups.
Representatives of wildlife NGOs expressed the urgency to keep the forest land clear of encroachment.
“Those objecting to the clearing of encroachments must understand that it is for our interest that the forest and the biodiversity should be saved,” said Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation and a member of the state wildlife board.
Elephant corridors have already got affected because of encroachments which is why the loss of human and elephant lives and damage of properties and crops have been reported almost everyday. “If these issues are not tackled, it will be tough to conserve the wildlife in the region,” Bose added.