Indian report shows steady increase in forest cover - GulfToday

Indian report shows steady increase in forest cover

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Indian forest cover has recorded an increase in its size but remains vulnerable to wildfire.

Indian forest cover has recorded an increase in its size but remains vulnerable to wildfire.

Last week, the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021. The report showed a continuing increase in forest cover across the country, but a decline in moderate dense forest and an increase in forest fires.

Releasing the report, Minister Bhupender Yadav said that that the total forest and tree cover of the country stands at 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country. As compared to the assessment of 2019, there is an increase of 2261 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country.

The present assessment reveals that 17 states/union territories(UTs) have above 33% of the geographical area under forest cover and points out that the focus was not just to conserve the forests quantitatively but to enrich it qualitatively. The ISFR-2021 provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock, carbon stock in India’s forests, forest fire monitoring, forest cover in tiger reserve areas, above ground estimates of biomass and climate change hotspots in Indian forests.

The biennial assessment of forest cover of the country using mid-resolution satellite data is based on interpretation of data from Indian Remote Sensing satellite data (Resourcesat-II) with a spatial resolution of 23.5 meters with the scale of interpretation 1:50,000 to monitor forest cover and forest cover changes at the district, state and national levels. This information provides inputs for various global level inventories and reports and international targets reporting.

The major findings of the report, as per the Ministry’s statement, are listed below.

The total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectare which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country. As compared to the assessment of 2019, there is an increase of 2261 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country. Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 1540 sq. km and that in tree cover is 721 sq. km.

Increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest followed by very dense forest. Top three states showing increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq. km) followed by Telangana (632 sq. km) and Odisha (537 sq. km).

Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five states are Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76.00%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.90%).

17 states/UTs have above 33% of the geographical area under forest cover. Out of these states and UT’s, five states/UTs namely Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have more than 75% forest cover while 12 states/UTs have forest cover between 33% to 75%.

Total mangrove cover in the country is 4992 sq. km. An increase of 17 sq. km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2019. Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Odisha (8 sq. km) followed by Maharashtra (4 sq. km) and Karnataka (3 sq. km).

Total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes and there an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2019. The annual increase in the carbon stock is 39.7 million tonnes.

In the present ISFR 2021, the Ministry adds that the accuracy level achieved in the current assessment is the significantly high. The accuracy of forest cover classification has been assessed at 92.99% and that between forest and non-forest classes at 95.79% against internationally accepted accuracy of classification of more than 85%.

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has included a new chapter related to the assessment of forest cover in the Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area of India. In this context, the decadal assessment of change in forest cover within Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area helps in assessing the impact of conservation measures and management interventions that have been implemented over the years.

The report also contains information on various parameters State/UT wise. Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report. It is expected that the report would provide valuable information for policy, planning and sustainable management of forest and tree resources in the country.

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