TRIPURA FORESTS – STATUS PITIABLE

Despite all the efforts, and the remarkable progress in afforestation through government schemes including the flagship National Afforestation Programme and high finance Externally Aided Projects through participatory JFM approach, the status of forest and forest land in general is pitiable in Tripura. Some of the issues contributing to this gloomy situation are stated hereafter.

The virtually unregulated removal of forest produce and the legacy of shifting cultivation and reclamation of forest land for farming during the royal regime caused massive degradation and erosion of forest and forest land. This malady amplified manifolds later, as proper administration and conservation of the valued Reserved Forests (RFs) was not possible after the merger of the territory with the Indian Union in 1949 due to the dispute regarding status of erstwhile RFs notified by the royal regime remaining undecided and subjudice for too long. Vast areas of erstwhile RFs, their status being clouded, were utilized for rehabilitation of refugees from East Pakistan, an obvious priority in view of the great human tragedy. Forests in Tripura suffered massive decline and degradation in the process immediately following the merger. Government forest lands in Tripura including all RFs are highly fragmented with parcels of private land holdings scattered all around. Encroachments into forest areas over and above are almost a regular feature even to this day. Large scale shifting cultivation also continues in all forests including RF and not uncommonly within plantations created under Government schemes and projects.

Records of rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) were vested in 1.2 lakh households (Approx. State population - 36.7 lakh) for 1688 sq. km of forestland till May 2012. This is nearly 27% of the total government forestland of 6293 sq. km. Vesting of forest rights was done in a scattered manner all over the state resulting in massive fragmentation of the forestland. Protection and scientific management of forests in Tripura under the existing circumstances is certainly a very big challenge.

The latest publication of the biennial India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2011 indicated a net loss of forest cover of 96 square km in Tripura compared to the position as per ISFR 2009.