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Forests of Tripura

Forest resources play significant role in both socio-economic development and environment of any area. The Forest ecosystem is now known to serve a multiple function in absorbing carbonload, generation of oxygen, moderating climate, preventing soil erosion, recharging groundwater, etc. Forest, through the process of photosynthesis, trap solar energy, which can provide biomass for energy production. Besides producing timber and fuel, forest offer a wide range of non-timber forest produces like leaf, fruits, flowers, gums, resins, medicinals. Above all, forests harbour 80 percent of the biodiversity on the planet earth.

Forest Types

The forest in Tripura may be classified into three different types of classificatory system as showing in the table below.

Forest type of Tripura
Sl. No.Classificatory SystemS. No.Forest Types
A. Climatic Types 1. Evergreen forest
2. Moist deciduous forest
a. Sal forest
b. Mixed forest
B. Seral Types 3. Swamp vegetation
C. Edaphic Types 4. Bamboo forest
5. Cane forest
6. Garjan forest
7. Savannah forest
8. Grass land vegetation
Evergreen Forest
Characterized by stand in distinct three tier evergreen forests exhibit numerous species of trees, with high biodiversity but none of the species may be abundant in population. Evergreen forests can be seen in Dharamnagar and Kailashahar area, Jampui and Sakhan hill ranges, and in part of Belonia, Sabrum, Kamalpur and Sadar sub-division. Once occupying a large area, evergreen forest has now been reduced significantly and exist in patches along hill slopes, sandy river banks, etc. Species of Dipterocarpus, Artocarpus, Amoora, Elaeocarpus, Syzygium, Eugenea dominated the top canopy.

Moist Deciduous Forest
Sal forest: The dominant species, Sal or Shorea robusta provides more than 60% of the top canopy in this type of forest. Found in southern and northern low hills, extending up to the border of Bangladesh, Sal forest has undergone significant changes in some areas like Sonamura, due to expansion of paddy cultivation. Locally, Sal forest can still be found in Belonia, Udaipur, Sonamura and part of Sadar sub-division.

Moist deciduous Mixed Forest: Characterized by absence or scarce, Sal trees, mixed forest offer dense and even canopy reaching a height of as long as 25 meters. Such forest can be seen in Amarpur, Sonamura, Udaipur and Sadar areas and in fragmented patches in Dharmanagar, Kailashsahar and Kamalpur areas.

Bamboo and Cane Forest
Large tract of land in forest area show bamboo forest, often interrupted by evergreen or deciduous secondary stand. Abandoned Jhum land appear favourable for natural bamboo growth besides sheltered hollows, etc.

Cane grows extensively in the wet hollows and amidst evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forest. Species of Calamus (guruba, floribundus, ertectus, leptospadix, vimnialis) dominate the thorny thickets.

Garjan Forest
It is basically a part of evergreen vegetation, and sometimes associated with Sal trees of moist deciduous forest. Garjan or Dipterocarpus furbinatus forms the dominant species in these forests occuring in Khowai, Muturi, Talatalikona, Chailengta, Deo, Dharmanagar, Jalaya and other areas (Ref. D.C. Deb)

Grassland
Grasslands are formed as an edaphic climax on wet soils. Besides the natural grassland, grassland succeeds activities of shifting cultivation, forest fire and areas of other human activities. Aquatic grasses often occupy silted marshland enriched by silt and organic debris.

Swamp Vegetation
Swamps cover a large part of the geographical area of the State. The swamp areas harbour harbaceous species, few shrubs and trees dominated by Albizia, Baringtonia, Lagerstroemia, Macaranga, Mullotis species; herbs and grasses include Clinogyne, Phragmites and Saccharum species.

Forest Area

Of the total geographical area of the State of 10,486 sq. km, a total of 6292 sq. km is recorded as forest. The actual forest cover is however is estimated at 5745 sq. km, constituting 54.78 percent of the total geographical area. Of this, 2228 sq. km is considered dense forest, 3517 sq. km is recorded as open forest and scrub forest, leaving 4741 as non forest area (FSI Report, 1997, 1999).

An assessment of dense forest cover, between 1972-75 and 1997-99, shows a reduction of area from 0.60 million ha. to 0.22 million ha. (below table & figure). The data reveals that maximum loss of dense forest cover occurred between 1972-1985 after which the situation has stabilized, increasing to 0.22 million hectare in 1999.

Reduction of dense forest
Sl. No.YearArea (million ha.)
1. 1972-75 0.60
2. 1980-82 0.46
3. 1983-85 0.34
4. 1985-87 0.12
5. 1987-89 0.18
6. 1989-91 0.18
7. 1991-93 0.18
8. 1993-95 0.18
9. 1995-97 0.18
10. 1997-99 0.22

Loss of Forest

Illegal Felling
The Forest Department’s document (2000) noted an alarming rise of incidence of unauthorised felling causing an estimated amount of loss of Rs. 18.5 crore in annual revenue. Improving ifrastructural networks and sealing of f porous border with Bangladesh, are major suggested to stop smuggling of forest resources.

Shifting Cultivation
The slash and burn cultivation in the hill tribal areas has direct impact on forest especially with shortening of Jhum cycle. A 1993 report of Forest Survey of India, shows loss due to shifting cultivation vis-à-vis regeneration of old Jhum land, as also due to other reasons.

Forest Encroachment
The encroachment of forest land has shown an alarming trend since 1980; while an estimated 16,210 families have reportedly encroached upon forest land measuring 5305.30 ha till 1980. The number of families rose by another 27,005 families by 1991 occupying 8620.40 ha of additional forest land; the total number of families now stands at 43,215 occupying 13,925.71 ha; of these 8190.84 ha belong to Reserve forest, 2127.54 ha belong to proposed Reserve forest and 3607.33 ha come under Protected forest. The latest figure from the Revenue Department, Govt. of Tripura (1997) shows that 580 sq. km out of 6292 sq. km of forest land has been occupied by the encroachers.

Forest Fire
One of the causes of loss of forest is forest fire. A five year data (1968-73) (National Commission of Agriculture 1973) shows that average number of forest fire per year is 33, with an average of 300 ha., of forest being burnt, valued at Rs. 260000. This figure is only indicative and more recent data may be helpful. The number of forest fire during 1968-73 however appear very high when compared with Assam (6) Meghalaya (1) in North East India.

It is now estimated that forest fire is common in 20 percent of the total forest area of Tripura. The major causes may be intentional burning of ground cover for grazing or for jhum cultivation. FSI estimate of 1993 shows more than 6 percent of forest have become moderately or heavily degraded due to forest fire. Lack of communication for early detection an lack of fire fighting equipment severally mitigatory measures.

Grazing
Of the two million domestic cattle of the state at least 60 percent in the forest area. This led to soil compaction and heavy damage to plantations and natural regeneration process. Lack of community grazing land is considered as one of the major causes for such serious degradation.

Rights and Concessions
The Forest Department mentions at least three different notification providing enormous concession to the tribal population. These includes collection of house post, timber, fuel wood, thatching grass, bamboo, cane and other non wood forest produces as also free grazing rights. The cumulative impacts of such concessions coupled with impact of illegal felling are causing serious concern to the management authority.

Low Financing
It is interesting to note that forestry sector outlay under the state plan decline from 3.1 percent (1990) to 1.03 percent (1999-2000). Such sharp declines in investment in real terms are likely to have serious impact on implementation of any management plan.

Forest Productivity and Resource based use

The annual actual production and potentiality of production of forest area in Tripura is estimated 0.0072 million cubic meters (1961-65) and 6.21 million cubic meters respectively. This has been calculated on the basis of Pattersoni Productivity index (CVP index- climate, vegetation, productivity index). In calculating potential productivity, mean temperature of the warmest month, annual range of temperature between the coldest and warmest month, mean annual precipitation, rate of evaporation and the length of growing season in months, are taken into consideration. (Dutt and Manikiam, 1987, ISRO-NNRMS, TR-66-87). Currently the potential productivity estimated as 9-12 m3/ha/year.

The use pattern of forest produces are centered around Hardwood for Timber, bamboo and Cane. Highest acarage of Bamboo forests are recorded in Northern region, specially, Dharamnagar, Kailashsahar, Khowai and partly in Kamalpur : in the Southern part main bamboo forest resource could be located in Amarpur. For hardwood forest, highest concentration is recorded in Kailashsahar, followed by Khowai and Dharmanagar, all in the northern region and Belonia and Amarpur area of southern region.

The energy consumption data reveal that 91.52% of total household depend on fuel wood in Tripura; in the rural sector out of 492,226 household 96.16% depend on fuel wood while in urban sector the percentage of users of fuel wood is recorded at 67.60%. The figure of fuel wood dependency (91.52%) stands much higher than national average of 61.50% (Source: Housing and amenities, Occ. Paper 5, of 1994, Demography Training and Data dissemination division, Census of India)

Forest Management

The management strategy at present include following programmes:

Afforestation:
an area of 218,503.68 ha have been afforested during 1950-2000.

Forest Protection:
a total of 8357 cases of illegal felling and others have been recorded during 1995-2000; only one case of illegal poaching is recorded.

Peoples’ Participation:
under this broad heading Farm Forestry, Augan –Ban Prakalp and Joint Forest management programme are noted. In Farm Forestry a total of 14,339.49 has been planted during 1981-82 to 1989-90 benefiting 45,793 families (The scheme has since been shifted to Rural Development Department).

Augan Ban Prakalp:
aims at productive use of fallow land in private holding. Initiated during 1996-97, it has covered 1547 ha benefiting 8357 families.

Joint Forest Management (JFM):
during 1991-2000 has formed 160 forest protection committee with 8303 families covering project area of 23,476.79 ha and 10084.56 ha of plantation area.

Rehabilitation of Jhum families:
Data of 1974-75 to 1984-85 show that 2226 Jhumia families have been rehabilitated during the period. Besides the above mentioned programmes, at least 19 State Plan Scheme are noted during 9th Five Year Plan covering Survey, Protection, Fuel wood & Fodder schemes, Afforestation scheme and Research, Training & Extension programmes. Besides the State Schemes, at least 12 schemes are recorded under Centrally sponsored/Central Sector Scheme (CSS) or North east Council (NEC) Scheme during 9th Five Year Plan.

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