Report on forest cover in India

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India’s forest and tree cover has increased by 8,021 sq. km, up 1% since 2015, to 802,088 sq. km, which is about 24.39% of the total geographical area (GA) of the country, revealed the Union environment ministry on Monday.


• India’s forest cover increased by 6,778 sq km over the last two years with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha and Telangana increasing their green footprint during the period though there is a worrying decline in six northeastern states, including a shrinkage of 630 sq km in the eastern Himalayas.

The report comes every two years and the 2017 report is the 15th such report. ISFR 2017 is also more comprehensive as it is based on information from 633 districts of the country compared to 589 in 2015.

• While overall green cover, including tree patches outside recorded forest areas, reported an incremental 1% increase (8,021 sq km) over the last assessment year in 2015, the quality of forests remain a hotly debated subject even as satellite monitoring has increased availability of data.

• The increase, based on satellite data and subsequent ‘ground truthing’, has put the total forest cover at 7,08,273 sq km which is 21.54% of the country’s geographical area.
• Though this figure puts green cover at 24.39% of India’s geographical area, this does not reflect a complete picture as it includes tree cover of 93,815 sq km, primarily computed by notional numbers.

• Taking into account the density (canopy covering branches and foliage formed by the crowns of trees), forest cover is divided into ‘very dense’, ‘moderately dense’ and ‘open’ forest. The ‘very dense’ forest cover has increased over the last assessment of 2015, but the ‘moderately dense’ category reported a decline — a sign which environmentalists consider quite worrying.

• Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long standing goal of the government since 1988.

• Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala topped the States that posted an increase in forest cover. “Much of this increase can be attributed to plantation and conservation activities both within and outside the Recorded Forest areas as well as an improvement in interpretation of satellite data,” the survey notes.

• Currently, 15 States and union territories have 33% of their geographical area under forests. In India’s north-east however, forest cover showed a decrease; 1,71,306 square kilometres, or 65.34%, of the geographical area was under forest and this was a 630 square kilometre decline from the 2015 assessment.

• The category of ‘very dense forest’— defined as a canopy cover over 70% — and an indicator of the quality of a forest, saw a dramatic rise from 85,904 square kilometres to 98,158 square kilometres this year but the category of ‘moderately dense forest’ (40%-70%) saw a 7,056 square kilometre-decline from 2015.

“India is ranked 10th in the world, with 24.4% of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17% of human and 18% livestock population.
• The forest survey for the first time mapped 633 districts and relied on satellite-mapping. Earlier this year, the government ceased to define bamboo as a tree to promote economic activity among tribals. The survey found that India’s bamboo bearing area rose by 1.73 million hectares (2011) to 15.69 million hectares (2017)


Forest Distribution

Dense forest                                        98,158 sq. km (2.98% of GA)

Moderately dense forest                                  308,318 sq. km (9.38% of GA)

Open forest                                          301,797 sq. km (9.18% of GA)

The increase is good news for India which has a target of having 33% of its GA under forest cover. The report said that 15 states and Union territories have more than 33% of their GA under forest cover.

The top five states where maximum forest cover increased

Andhra Pradesh                       2,141 sq. km

Karnataka                                1,101 sq. km

Kerala                                      1,043 sq. km

Odisha                                                 885 sq. km

Telangana                                565 sq. km

Top five states where forest cover decreased

Mizoram                                  531 sq. km

Nagaland                                 450 sq. km

Arunachal Pradesh                   190 sq. km

Tripura                                                 164 sq. km

Meghalaya                               116 sq. km

Q.According India state forest report 2017, which of the following states are registered as maximum forest growth.

1) Karnataka 
2) Andhra Pradesh
3) Arunachal Pradesh 
4) Kerala 
Choose the correct answer from the codes given below

a) 3 and 4 only
b) 1, 2 and 3 only
c) 1, 2 and 4 only
d) All of the above

Answer: c) 1, 2 and 4 only
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