Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has recently released India State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2019. The report shows 5,188 square kilometres (sqkm) increase in India’s overall forest and tree cover. But, forest cover in northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram declined.
About India State of Forest Report (IFSR):
IFSR 2019 is the 16th edition of IFSR, which was first published in 1987. Forest Survey of India (FSI) publishes IFSR biennially. FSI is an organization under the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Established in 1981, FSI surveys and assesses forest resources in India.
Key findings of India State of Forest Report (IFSR), 2019:
Total forest and tree cover: The report shows 3,976 square kilometres (sq.km.) increase in India’s overall forest cover and 1,212 sq. km increase in overall tree cover. The overall forest and tree cover have increased to 5,188 sq. km and total forest and tree cover have now become 8,07,276 sq. km. Overall forest and tree cover of 80.73 million hectares is equal to 24.56% of the total geographical area of India.
Forest cover: During the last two years, the total forest cover in India increased by 0.56% or 3,976 sq.km. Currently, India’s total forest cover is 21.67% of the total geographical area of India. The forest cover in moderately dense forest and very dense forest categories also increased. Area-wise largest forest cover is found in Madhya Pradesh. It is followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
The report defines forest cover as, “All lands, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status. Such lands may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm.”
Dense forest is the land with a forest cover having a canopy density of 40% and above while land with a canopy density of 70% and above are termed as very dense forest.
Tree cover: Overall tree cover in India has increased from 1.29% to 2.89%. Currently, the overall tree cover in India stands at 95,027 sq.km.
Total mangrove cover: IFSR 2019 shows an increase of 54 sq.km in India’s total mangrove cover. Currently, the total mangrove cover in India is 4,975 sq.km. Gujarat has shown maximum increase (37 sq. km.) in mangrove cover. In terms of the increase in forest cover, Maharashtra and Odisha come after Gujarat. The mangrove cover is the highest in West Bengal, followed by Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar Island.
Mangroves are the salt-tolerant evergreen forests usually found in tropical and subtropical coastal and inter-tidal regions.
Wetlands inside RFA/GW of India: As per IFSR 2019, there are 62,466 wetlands inside RFA/GW of India. They are spread over 3.8% of the total area inside the Recorded Forest Area (RFA) / Green Wash (GW) Area of India. Gujarat has the maximum area of wetlands inside RFA/GW. It is followed by West Bengal.
Recorded Forest Area or Forest Area is the area recorded as a forest in the government records.
Green Wash is the extent of wooded areas.
Wetlands International defines Wetlands as occurring at the meeting point of water and land. They include mangroves, peatlands and marshes, rivers and lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs.
States showing the maximum increase in forest cover: Karnataka has shown the maximum increase in forest cover with an addition of 1,025 sq.km of the area under forest cover. Andhra Pradesh has shown the second maximum increase in forest cover. Its forest cover increased by 990 sq.km. In terms of maximum increase in forest cover, Kerala (823 sq.km.), Jammu & Kashmir (371 sq.km.) and Himachal Pradesh (334 sq.km.) come after Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The reasons for the maximum increase in forest cover of these states are the following:
States showing maximum decrease in forest cover: Manipur has shown maximum decrease as its forest cover decreased by 499 sq.km. Arunachal Pradesh has shown second maximum decrease in forest cover. Its forest cover decreased by 276 sq.km. Arunachal Pradesh is followed by Mizoram, whose forest cover decreased by 180 sq.km.
The reasons for the decrease in forest cover of these states are the following:
The world is facing risks due to increasing pollution and climate change. So, an increase in forest cover in India shown by ISFR 2019 is welcome. But, declining forest cover in the Northeast is a matter of concern. As India still lags behind its National Forest Policy (1988) target of 33% forest cover, the government should take initiatives for reversing the current trend of decline in Forest cover of Northeast and continue with its policies in the rest of India.