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Forest cover change and flood hazards in India

Bhattacharjee, Kasturi, Behera, Bhagirath
Land use policy 2017 v.67 pp. 436-448
adverse effects, carbon sequestration, ecosystem services, flood damage, floods, forest resources, forests, humans, landslides, literacy, pollution control, population size, protective effect, rain, regression analysis, socioeconomic factors, soil erosion, storms, streams, watersheds, India
Forests provide numerous environmental services such as watershed protection, nutrient cycling, pollution control, climatic regulation, carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, and protection from storms, landslides, and soil erosion. Degradation of forest resources is likely to cause adverse effects on the economy and environment both locally and globally. Further, it is observed that the natural forests do reduce the frequency and severity of floods as it traps water during heavy rainfall and releases the same slowly into streams reducing the run off. However, this link between forest covers and flood damages is still unclear and yet to be settled in empirical literatures. Also, the protective role of forests in Indian context has remained largely unexplored and this paper attempts to fill this research gap. The objective of this study is, therefore, to examine the impact of forest cover on the extent of flood damage in India controlling various social, economic and demographic aspects. The study uses secondary data across the Indian states for the period 1998–2011. The data were analyzed using the Poisson and ordinary least square (OLS) regression models. The findings suggest that forest cover in India has an inverse relationship with the flood damages. In addition, socio-economic factors such as literacy, per capita net state domestic product and population size have significant influence on the extent of flood damages. Hence, investments in forest protection and regeneration are necessary to restrict flood damages and protect human lives and properties.