RTI shocker: 68,42,736 trees cut in Maharashtra in 5 years

Illegal tree felling less than 10% of total trees cut in State

Cuted Sagvan trees

Nagpur: In a disturbing development, it has come to the fore that the number of trees cut with permission has overshadowed the total number of trees felled illegally. In Maharashtra, total 64,42,401 trees including the precious 43,66,730 teak (Sagwan) trees were cut with permission over a period of five years between 2014-15 and 2018-19. During the same period, total 4,00,335 trees including 1,73,941 teak trees were cut illegally. The number of trees cut with permission and illegally stands at 68,42,736. The collective value of total trees felled in the five year period stood at whopping Rs 26.04 crore with value of teak trees alone coming to Rs 19.30 crore.

The total number of trees felled illegally in the State between January 2015 and September 2019 constitutes less than 10 per cent of the total number of trees cut with permission of Authorised Tree Officers between 2014- 15 and 2018-19.

The shocking data was provided by Public Information Officer (Desk18) and Divisional Forest Officer (Protection), Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Head of Forest Force) Office in response to a query posed by RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar under Right to Information Act.

According to the RTI reply, the total number of trees felled illicitly during the said period was 4,00,335. Of these, as many as 1,73,941 were teak trees. The value of the trees felled illegally was estimated to be Rs 26.04 crore, includingRs 19.3074 crore of teak trees only. As against this, the total number of trees cut with the permission of Authorised Tree Officers was a whopping 64,42,401 from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Of these, the teak trees cut with permission was 43,66,730 and the remaining 20,75,671 were other trees. The total number of cases in which tree cutting was permitted was 69,412. Thus, the total number of trees felled illicitly in State during the said period was less than 10 per cent of the number of trees cut ‘with permission’.

Maharashtra has 47,472.74 sq km of reserved forest area, followed by 6,478.71 sq km of protected forest, and 2,888.54 sq km of unclassified forest. Thus, there is total 56,839.99 sq km of area under Forest Department excluding forest area under Revenue Department and Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra, and including private forest (1,178.09 sq km). Forest land in possession of Forest Department is 56,839.99 sq km out of geographical area of 3,07,713 sq km of State. The area under Forest Department is 18.47 per cent.