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India to Protect Its Forests With the Aid of Austrian NGO

India, which is fast losing its forests to over-exploitation, will get help in protecting its green cover from an Austrian research organization which signed up the// country as a member this month.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria - a non-governmental research organization that conducts studies on environmental, social and economic issues in the context of global change - has said it can chip in with expert advice.

"Over-exploitation and over-harvesting are two of the major reasons for the depletion of the forest cover of India. The existing forest cover in the country is 20 percent, but the target should be 30 percent," Sten Nilsson, deputy director and leader forestry programme, IIASA, said in his inaugural address at a workshop here Wednesday.

"I am hopeful that this workshop will bring out positive results for the green cover of the country," Nilsson added.

The three-day workshop on "Economic, Societal and Environmental Benefits Provided By Indian Forests" is being held at the India International Center.

It has been organized by the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) of the department of science and technology Wednesday.

Kirti Parikh, member, Planning Commission and chairman of the India-IIASA programme, said: "This membership was long overdue. With IIASA's expertise and experience, people working in this sector will benefit in protecting the forests as well as helping the tribals living in those areas sustain themselves."

The workshop will see a number of eminent speakers from various forest research institutes across the country as well as the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

Prodipto Ghosh, secretary, ministry of environment and forests, who was also present, said: "We will reorient our research activities and take the outcome of the workshop seriously."

Ghosh said the ministry is looking into developing the national eco-tourism industry that will enhance the livelihood of the local people so that they don't cut trees to sustain themselves.

"We have already arrested much of de-forestation," he said confidently.

However, on being asked for his comments on the removal of nearly 21,000 trees for the construction of the first phase of the High Capacity Bus Service (HCBS) Corridor in south Delhi, he simply waved it off saying: "Some trees must have been removed but these numbers are wide off the mark."

Source-IANS/V
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