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Scanner on loss of forest cover

- Study focuses on development and deforestation in Meghalaya

Shillong, May 8: Experts from the North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Umiam, have focused on the loss of forest cover in Meghalaya’s Jaintia hills region where cement plants are located.

The reiteration on the loss of forest cover has been made through an article published in the Current Science — a fortnightly journal of research — in its April 10, 2014 issue (Volume 106, Issue 07) written by Kasturi Chakraborty and S. Sudhakar.

The outcome of the study has been published under the title: The expansion and impact of cement manufacturing units and mining areas in Lumshnong, Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya.

The authors said the study was carried out to observe growth of cement industries in Lumshnong, which is leading to alteration in land use/land cover from forest to non-forest categories. The study also attempted to “automatically extract” the areas of change, taking advantage of the change-detection software.

“With the rapid developmental process taking place across the globe, there are several pockets widespread in North East Region of India which are becoming hotspots of land-use change. Industrial expansion is one of the main reasons for conversion of land use/land-cover classes, particularly from forest to non-forest,” the study opens.

The study focusses on the impact of industrial and mining activities leading to loss of forest cover in Jaintia hills.

In it, remote sensing has been used as a tool to observe the extent of land-use change using an automatic change-detection software DeltaCue to map the expansion of the cement industrial units and their impact on the vegetation in the immediate vicinity.

The study highlighted the spread of the industrial units from 2005 to 2011 and loss of vegetation.

Remote sensing has been universally recognised as a “highly effective and extremely versatile technology” for identification of natural resources, including forest resource, the researchers stated.

Moreover, the researchers observed that the recent trend of development process in the region is leading to rapid deforestation. “Mining activities in Meghalaya have increased by leaps and bounds. Indiscriminate mining has disastrous effect leading to deforestation, destroying good soil ingredients and loss of wildlife,” the authors said.

“Being rich in minerals, particularly limestone, coal, shale, bauxite, laterite, etc. the Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya has become a boon to the cement industry. The setting up of such industry exploits natural resources of the area degrades the environment and can lead to imbalance in the ecosystem. According to the IPCC special report, from 1850 to 1998, approximately 270 (+30) GT carbon has been emitted as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production,” they added.

The satellite images were registered carefully using AutoSync, an automated image registration tool in ERDAS Imagine software. The satellite data of 2005 was classified to understand the existing forest in the study area.

Further, the researchers stated that the 2005 image was classified by supervised classification technique into forest and non-forest classes. The classified map has forest area divided into three categories — less dense forest, medium forest and very dense forest, and other non-forest classes.

“The expansion of the manufacturing units, establishment units and the mining areas of the cement factories in Lumshnong was observed from 2005 to 2009, 2009 to 2011 and overall change from 2005 to 2011 within a buffer of 10 and 5km from a central location of the manufacturing plants,” the authors further stated. Moreover, it was stated that the removal of forest because of industrial expansion was quantified by comparing with the existing forest in the area and the total change of the industrial units detected in the study area.

The land-use/land-cover change from forest to non-forest area has been observed from 2005 to 2011. It was found that the expansion of the non-forest area attributed to the cement manufacturing units amounted to 554.69 hectares during 2005-2009 and 291.86 hectares during 2009-2011.

The total loss of forest in the area was found to be around 1265.35 hectares from 2005 to 2011, with maximum expansion during 2005-2009 and within a 5km radius, the researchers added.

“The study has been carried out in a small area of radius 5km and 10km to understand the ongoing changes in the immediate vicinity of the cement manufacturing units. It is observed that the changes are occurring in the immediate surroundings, particularly within the radius of 5km, which is perhaps due to the expansion of the manufacturing units. Major changes are noticed from 2005 to 2009, while the expansion continued during 2009-2011,” the authors wrote. “On the ground, it is found that a conglomeration of the manufacturing unit exists in this region. Therefore, it is important to take the immediate necessary steps to control further expansion leading to change from forest to non-forest land-use categories,” they added.


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