Environment minister Prakash Javadekar released the biennial report “India State of Forest Report 2013” on Tuesday. The report states that the forest cover continues to stand at 21 per cent of the country’s geographical area despite huge population pressure, increased grazing, encroachment and diversion of forest land.
As per the biennial report prepared by the Forest Survey of India, there has been a marginal increase of less than one per cent in India’s forest cover – the total area under the green cover now stands at 697,888 sq km (21.23 per cent of geographical area) and up by 5871 sq km (0.92 per cent) from 692,027 sq km in 2011.
While there has only been a marginal increase of just 31 sq km in very dense forests, moderately dense forests went down by 1991 sq km, while there has been an increase in the open forests by 7831 sq km, Director General of Forest Survey of India Anmol Kumar said. The country’s carbon stocks have also increased by 4.07 per cent and 48 per cent of our recorded forest area has regeneration capacity as per the report.
West Bengal and Orissa have the highest forest cover followed by Kerala, Jharkhand, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the North East which harbours one fourth of India’s green cover has seen some decrease — a move that Javadekar said was an issue for concern.
The environment minister said the next step should be to use the potential lying untapped in degraded forest areas and to make afforestation a people’s movement. He also said the report showed that India was on the right path to counter effects of climate change.
“Degraded forests account for 8 per cent of the country’s total cover. These areas present many possibilities… in areas with degraded forests we can harvest forests – in the total area we could earmark a portion say 20 per cent for livelihood use of the local people and the remaining 80 per cent area could be used for harvesting forests. This would have the benefit of creating jobs as well as increasing the forest cover”, the minister said.
The report also indicated a loss of 1257 sq km of forests across 13 states — with the North Eastern states most affected, arguably due to shifting cultivation practices — Nagaland (274 sq km) leads the tally and is followed by Tripura (111 sq km), Manipur (100 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (89 sq km) and Mizoram (63 sq km). Among other states, Andhra Pradesh has lost forest cover to the tune of 273 sq km, Madhya Pradesh lost 178 sq km, Karnataka 62 sq km and Chhattisgarh (53 sq km).