Uttarakhand lost over 50,000 hectares of forest land since 1991: MoEF data

Unlike other states with severe forest land diversion, Uttarakhand lost its land due to defence projects rather than mining projects.

Forest rights

Uttarakhand diverted over 50,000 hectares of land for various development and defence projects over the last 30 years, with Chamoli district recording the second-highest forest area diversion in the state, reported The Hindu on February 11, 2021. The Himalayan state is still reeling from the after-effects of the flash floods on February 7 in the Alaknanda river system, that resulted in multiple deaths and the destruction of two major hydropower projects in Chamoli. 

However, a closer look at the state’s forest land diverted between 1991 and 2021 shows that despite its little geographical area, Uttarakhand is the fourth highest state in terms of losing forest land. According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the state lost 58,684 hectares (ha) of forest land. Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh that lost 1,54,134 ha land suffered the most in India followed by Madhya Pradesh (79,993 ha) and Telangana (63,657 ha).

While Uttarakhand’s deforestation may not seem as drastic when compared with Arunachal Pradesh, it still accounts for 2.4 percent of the state’s total forest area as of 2019. That is the fifth-highest share of deforested land among all states.

Another unique aspect of the state’s forest land diversion is that many of the development projects relate to defence, as opposed to mining, which is a major cause for deforestation in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Other major reasons for loss of forests in Uttarakhand are road and transmission lines, and hydel projects.

Within Uttarakhand, Tehri Garhwal districts lost the most forest land majorly due to hydel, roads, transmission lines, railway and school-related projects. Chamoli that suffered the most during the floods diverted its land largely because of transmission lines, road laying, hydel projects. Almora, Pithoragarh, Dehradun, Uttarkashi and Nainital districts followed closely.

Among locals, the loss of forest lands has been a cause for concern especially for the Van Gujjar community that fears losing its ancestral land and connection to forest environments if infrastructural or defence projects continue to lessen the greenery of the state.


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