Total forest & tree cover in India increases by over 8000 sq km

Total forest & tree cover in India increases by over 8000 sq km

According to the report, the increasing trend of forest and tree cover is largely due to the various national policies aimed at conservation and sustainable management of forests like Green India Mission, National Agro-Forestry policy (NAP), REDD plus policy, Joint Forest Management (JFM), National Afforestation Programme and funds under Compensatory Afforestation to States.

The report said the country of almost 1.3 billion people has also added 1,243 sq km of tree cover since 2015.

The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017 was released by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and his deputy Mahesh Sharma here today.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 is the 15th such report in the series. "In addition, extensive ground data collected by field parties at more than 18000 points all over the country and information from other collateral sources are also used to improve the accuracy of the interpreted image", said the ministry after releasing the ISFR 2017. However, the fact that there is a loss of 4,421 sq kms of "moderately dense forests" (tree canopy density of 40-70 per cent) is a cause for concern. The marginal increase has now put the forest cover at 21.54% of the country's total geographical area.

As per the reprt, mangrove forests also have increased by 181 sq kms. The largest patch lies in the northeast and covers 1,58,439 sq km.

The highest rise in green cover in reported from four southern states - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Kerala but what is worrying is that top three state with forest cover - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh have reported a negative growth.

The report shows that the forest cover in five north-eastern states - Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya - has, however, decreased in 2017 as compared to 2015.

Another good news is that water bodies inside forest cover have also increased by 2,467 sq km in the past decade with Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh showing the increase.

"All the States and Union Territories show an increase except Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar", the report added.

The report further revealed that the total bamboo bearing area of the country was estimated to be 15.69 million hectare, 1.73 million hectare more than what it was in 2011 ISFR.

"India is ranked 10th in the world, with 24.4 percent of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4 percent of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17 percent of human and 18 percent livestock population", the Minister said.

Siddhanta Das, director general of forests and special secretary in the Union environment ministry, said after a long time forests in very dense forest (VDF) category have increased.

A similar picture arises from the assessment of the carbon stock in the forests which has shown only a marginal increase of 38 million tonnes (MTs) over last assessment of 2015 and stands at 7082 MTs now. In 2015, India had announced a voluntary target of creating additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. He stated that forests do not exist in isolation and the benefits of forests must be transferred to the people.

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