Updated: December 30, 2019 6:00:39 pm
Releasing the biannual India State of Forest Report, 2019, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Monday said that the forest cover in all categories including Very Dense Forest, Moderately Dense Forest and Open Forests have shown an increase since the last Forest Survey was conducted two year ago.
Javadekar announced that as compared to the 2017 Forest survey, the 2019 survey has found an increase of 5,188 sq km in total forest and tree cover in the country. The increase in the forest cover has found to be 3,976 sq km and that of tree cover has been 1,212 sq km in the past two years.
He said that India was among the top ten countries in the world to maintain and increase its forest and tree cover. Apart from mapping the country’s forest and tree cover, the 2019 report for the first time has assessed the qualitative nature of the forest cover, including listing its biodiversity and the type of plants and trees found, created a national forest inventory for the first time on produce from forests, drawn up estimates of population dependent on forests and forest produce, listed wetlands and assessed forest carbon stock.
“This is very encouraging for us as it means that we are on the right track to achieve our Paris Agreement commitment of 2.5 -3 billion carbon sinks. The top five states to have shown an increase in forest cover include Karnataka (1,025 sq km), Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km), Kerala (823 sq km), J&K (371 sq km) and Himachal Pradesh (334 sq km),” said Javadekar today.
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The country’s forest cover includes all patches of land with a tree canopy density of more than 10 per cent and more than 1 hectare in area, irrespective of land use, ownership and species of trees. It is assessed by a wall-to-wall mapping exercise. Tree cover includes all patches of trees less than 1 hectare. The survey is conducted every two years, with the last survey having been conducted in 2017.
The total forest cover of the country is 7,12,249 sq km, which is 21.67 per cent of the geographical area of the country. The tree cover of the country is estimated as 95,027 sq km, which is 2.89 per cent of the geographical area. The total forest and tree cover of the country is 8,07,276 sq km, which is 24.56 per cent of the geographical area of the country.
Forest cover within the Recorded Forest Area/ Green Wash (RFA/GW) has shown a slight decrease of 330 sq km (0.05 per cent) whereas there is an increase of 4,306 sq km of forest cover outside the RFA/GW as compared to previous assessment of 2017. The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 4,22,351 sq km, which is 37.54 per cent of the geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows a decrease of 741 sq km of forest cover within the RFA/GW in the tribal districts and an increase of 1,922 sq km outside.
Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 1,70,541 sq km, which is 65.05 per cent of its geographical area. The current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45 per cent) in the region. Except Assam and Tripura, all the States in the region show decrease in forest cover.
Mangrove cover in the country has increased by 54 sq km (1.10 per cent) as compared to the previous assessment.
Total bamboo bearing area of the country is estimated as 1,60,037 sq km. There is an increase of 3,229 sq km in bamboo bearing area as compared to the estimate of ISFR 2017.
“There has been a slight decrease in RFA as well as in the North East states – but this is where jhum cultivation is conducted. As far as the north east is concerned, you have to remember that over 60 per cent of the region is covered in forest, so this decrease is marginal. Tree cover, meanwhile has been increasing. Maharashtra has had the highest increase in tree cover and a large part of that is due to horticulture. Every year a crore of new saplings are planted – of mangoes, pomegranates and other fruits. So in 18 years, the cover has increased by 18 crore trees. Even water paucity states like Rajasthan have shown a healthy increase in tree cover,’’said Javadekar adding that the technology used for mapping ensures that farm land and plantations are not mistakenly included in the survey.
DG Forest Siddhanth Das said that the Ministry has decided that apart from the four regional centres of the FSI, 19 additional regional centres “with all the departments of the Ministry” will be opened soon. “Work for that is underway. While we have 2.4 per cent of the total global land mass, we have 17 per cent of its population and high numbers of cattle – all of whom are dependent on forests and forest produce. Despite this the forest cover has increased,”said Das.
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