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Last Updated : Feb 12, 2018 05:45 PM IST | Source: PTI

India's forest, tree cover up by 1% in 2 years: Centre

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

India's tree and forest cover has registered an increase of one percent or 8,021 sq km in two years since 2015, according to the latest assessment by the government.

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

Harsh Vardhan said India has shown an increasing trend in the forest and tree cover as against the global trend of decreasing forest cover during the last decade.

According to the report, the total forest cover is 7,08,273 sq km, which is 21.54 percent of the total geographical area of the country. Forest and tree cover combined is 8,02,088 sq km or 24.39 percent of the total geographical area.

The environment ministry said in the latest assessment that very dense forest in India has also increased by 1.36 percent as compared to 2015. ISFR is released every two years.

"There is an increase of 8,021 sq km (about 80.20 million hectare) in the total forest and tree cover of the country, compared to the previous assessment in 2015.

"The increase in the forest cover has been observed as 6,778 sq km and that of tree cover as 1,243 sq km," Harsh Vardhan said.

He said that the encouraging sign was that much of the increase in forest cover has been observed in very dense forest (VDF) category, as they absorb maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"The increase in forest cover in VDF is followed by increase in open forest," the minister said, adding that ISFR 2017 has been prepared with the help of scientific tools.

He said Madhya Pradesh (77,414 sq km) has the largest forest cover in the country in terms of area, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq km) and Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq km).

In terms of percentage of forest cover with respect to the total geographical area, Lakshadweep with (90.33 percent) has the highest forest cover, followed by Mizoram (86.27 percent) and Andaman and Nicobar Island (81.73 percent), he said.

"Work has already started for preparing ISFR 2019," he said.

The top five states where maximum forest cover has increased are Andhra Pradesh (2,141 sq kms), Karnataka (1,101 sq kms), Kerala (1,043 sq kms), Odisha (885 sq kms) and Telangana (565 sq kms).

The survey, which has for the first time assessed water bodies, said that these bodies inside forest cover have increased by 2,647 sq kms during last decade.

It said Maharashtra (432 sq kms), Gujarat (428 sq kms), Madhya Pradesh (389 sq kms) are top three states showing increase in water bodies within forest areas.

"Overall, almost all the states have shown a positive change in water bodies," it said.

The five states where forest cover has decreased most are Mizoram (531 sq km), Nagaland (450 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq km), Tripura (164 sq km) and Meghalaya (116 sq km).

Ministry officials said that these states are in the Northeast where the total forest cover is very high -- more than 70 percent in each state.

The main reasons for the decrease are shifting cultivation, other biotic pressures, rotational felling, diversion of forest lands for developmental activities, submergence of forest cover, agriculture expansion and natural disasters, they said.

The present assessment also reveals that 15 states and union territories (UTs) have above 33 percent of the geographical area under forest cover.

Out of these states and UTs, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur have more than 75 percent forest cover, while eight -- Tripura, Goa, Sikkim, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh and Assam have forest cover between 33 percent and 75 percent.

"18,000 points have been physically surveyed in a scientific manner in the preparation of the report," Mahesh Sharma said.

"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's surface area and sustains the needs of 17 percent of human and 18 percent livestock population," Harsh Vardhan said.

The minister said as per the latest Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, India is placed 8th in the list of top ten nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area.
First Published on Feb 12, 2018 05:40 pm
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