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Insights into Editorial: Total tree, forest cover in India increased by 5,188 sq km

Insights into Editorial: Total tree, forest cover in India increased by 5,188 sq km

 

Green_Cover

 

Context:

The Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, released the biennial “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)”.

The report is published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country including wall-to-wall forest cover mapping in a biennial cycle.

Starting 1987, 16 assessment have been completed so far. ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.

ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series. In tune with the Government of India’s vision of Digital India, FSI’s assessment is largely based on digital data whether it is satellite data, vector boundaries of districts or data processing of field measurements.

Benefits of these reports:

The principal aim of India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium which are vital for sustenance of all life forms, human, animal and plant.  The derivation of direct economic benefit must be subordinate to this principal aim.

The report provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock inside and outside the forest areas, carbon stock in India’s forests, Forest Types and Biodiversity, Forest Fire monitoring and forest cover in different slopes & altitudes.

Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report.

The satellite data interpretation is followed by rigorous ground truthing. Information from other collateral sources are also used to improve the accuracy of the interpreted image.

Some Major Findings of “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)”,2019:

  • 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 (85.41%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%), Meghalaya (76.33%), Manipur (75.46%) and Nagaland (75.31%).
  • The Mangrove ecosystems are unique & rich in biodiversity and they provide numerous ecological services.
  • Mangrove cover has been separately reported in the ISFR 2019 and the total mangrove cover in the country is 4,975 sq km.
  • An increase of 54 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2017.
  • Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Gujarat (37 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).
  • Under the current assessment the total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated 7,124.6 million tonnes and there an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2017.
  • The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.2 million tonnes CO2 eq.
  • Wetlands within forest areas form important ecosystems and add richness to the biodiversity in forest areas, both of faunal and floral species.
  • Due to importance of wetlands, FSI has carried out an exercise at the national level to identify wetlands of more than 1 ha within RFA.
  • There are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.8% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country.

Forest Cover in Tribal Districts:

The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 4,22,351 sq km, which is 37.54% of the geographical area of these districts.

There has been a decrease of 741 sq km of forest cover within the Recorded Forest Area/ Green Wash (RFA/GW) in the tribal districts and an increase of 1,922 sq km outside.

There has been a decline in tree cover inside forests due to tribal populations getting “land titles” (patta) and there has been a rise in trees outside the forest area due to an increase in tree plantation and afforestation activities.

Decline of Forest Cover in North Eastern Region

Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 1,70,541 sq km, which is 65.05% of its geographical area.

There has been a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45%) in the region. Except Assam and Tripura, all the States in the region show decrease in forest cover.

Basic objectives that should be fulfilled to increase Green cover:

  • Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance that has been adversely disturbed by serous depletion of the forests of the country.
  • Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchments areas of rivers, lakes, reservoirs in the “interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts and for the retardation of siltation of reservoirs.
  • Checking the extension of sand-dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan and along the coastal tracts.
  • Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands.
  • Meeting the requirements of fuel-wood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations.
  • Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs.
  • Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of wood.
  • Creating a massive people’s movement with the involvement of women, for achieving these objectives and to minimise pressure on existing forests.
  • Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represent the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.

Conclusion:

India is among few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing.

In the present assessment, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectare which is 24.56 percent of the geographical area of the country.

The top five states to have shown an increase in forest cover include Karnataka (1,025 sq km), Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km), Kerala (823 sq km), J&K (371 sq km) and Himachal Pradesh (334 sq km)

The government applauded that this is very encouraging for us as it means that we are on the right track to achieve our Paris Agreement commitment of 2.5 -3 billion carbon sinks.