INDIA’S FOREST AND TREE COVER RISES

Forest and tree cover in India has increased by nearly 1% since 2015 to 802,088 sq.km or about 24.39% of the country’s total geographical area (GA), as per the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017. In 2015, India’s forest cover was 701,673 sq.km.

  • India’s total forest cover is 708,273 sq.km (about 21.54% of India’s total GA) and tree cover is 93,815 sq.km (about 2.85% of the total GA).
  • Of the total 8,021 sq. km increase in forest and tree cover, forest cover grew by 6,778 sq.km and tree cover by 1,243 sq.km. The increase in total forest cover also includes an increase of 181 sq.km in mangrove cover, taking the total mangrove area in the country to 4,921 sq.km.
  • Dense forest, moderately dense forest and open forest is 98,158 sq. km (2.98% of GA), 308,318 sq. km (9.38% of GA) and 301,797 sq. km (9.18% of GA) respectively.
  • India targets having 33% of its GA under forest cover. According to the report, at present 15 states and Union territories have more than 33% of their GA under forest cover.
  • Forest cover in hill districts grew by 754 sq.km, while tribal districts saw an increase of 86.89 sq.km . But, worryingly, forest cover in the biodiversity rich northeastern region showed a decline of 630 sq.km.
  • The report highlighted that about 40% of forest cover is contained in nine large patches across the country, each more than 10,000 sq.km in extent.
  • Among the states, Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover (77, 414 sq. km), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq. km), Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq. km) Odisha (51, 345 sq. km) and Maharashtra (50,682 sq. km).
  • However the forest area in all these states, except Odisha, has decreased since 2015, according to the report.
  • The top five states where forest cover grew are Andhra Pradesh (by 2,141 sq.km), Karnataka (1,101 sq.km), Kerala (1,043 sq.km), Odisha (885 sq.km) and Telangana (565 sq.km).
  • while the top five states where forest cover declined are Mizoram (by 531 sq.km), Nagaland (450 sq.km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq.km), Tripura (164 sq.km) and Meghalaya (116 sq.km).
  • The report also revealed that 21,054 sq. km of non-forest area became forest area during the last two years, hinting that this may have been due to an increase in activities like plantation.
  • However, 24,175 sq. km of forest area of different categories such as very dense forest and moderate forest turned into non-forest area due to deforestation or diversion of forest land for developmental projects.
  • The latest ISFR report includes information about water bodies in forests, a new feature. The report revealed that there has been an increase of 2,647 sq.km in the extent of water bodies in forest areas over the decade 2005-2015.
  • All the states and Union territories show an increase (in water bodies) except Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar.
  • Another interesting finding of the report is that the “net increase in forest cover has been observed in areas less than 1,000 metre altitude”, while in all other “altitudinal zones small net decrease has been observed”.
  • According to the report, the total bamboo bearing area was estimated to be 15.69 million hectares, 1.73 million hectare more than what it was according to the 2011 ISFR.
  • As per the latest FAO report, India is 8th in the list of top 10 nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area.

LEARNING WITH TIMES

The term ‘Forest Area’ (or recorded forest area) generally refers to all the geographic areas recorded as forest in government records. Recorded forest areas largely comprises Reserved Forests (RF) and Protected Forests (PF), which have been constituted under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.

The term ‘Forest Cover’refers to all lands more than one hectare in area, having a tree canopy density of more than 10%. Thus the term ‘forest area’ denotes the legal status of the land as per the government records, whereas the term ‘forest cover’ indicates presence of trees over any land.

Very dense Forest:All Lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.

Mod Dense forest: All lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70% above.

Open forest: All lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.

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