Dense forests lost; increase in net green cover: Forest Survey of India 2015

While northeastern states are the most hit, Andaman & Nicobar Islands gained maximum forests

By Anupam Chakravartty
Published: Monday 07 December 2015

India may have lost 2,511 sq km of prime forests, says the latest Forest Survey of India (FSI) report released on Friday, December 4.

Prime forests are classified as very dense and mid-dense with canopy densities of at least 70 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

On the other hand, the report stated that India has added 3,775 sq km to its net green cover since 2013. It reported an increase of 2,402 sq km in the very dense forest category that had remained static since 2007. 

Using satellite images to establish forest cover of the country, the study found that 1,135 sq km of non-forest areas have become either very dense or mid-dense forests since 2013, when the last forest survey was conducted. As per FSI definition, an area of at least one hectare (0.01 sq km) with a canopy density of 10 per cent is considered a forest. However, most of the newly-added areas are existing forests that had not been recorded until now.

According to Anmol Kumar, Director General of FSI, it is impossible for a non-forest area to become a dense forest in two years. “Some of these are plantations that have grown enough to be identified in satellite images. And there were certain existing forest areas that were not clearly identifiable from the images earlier,” said Kumar while releasing the report in Dehradun.

Even if one counts the non-forest areas now recorded as dense and mid-dense forests and growth in very dense forests, the net loss of forests works out to be 1,376 sq km in two years.

The states and union territories that suffered major losses in their forest cover include Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In fact, northeastern states took a major hit with a decline of 628 sq km of forest area since 2013.

FSI officials explained that the overall gain of 2,402 sq km of very dense forests is largely due to favourable results from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The Islands have gained a remarkable 1,932 sq km of very dense forests, putting 5,686 sq km ­— or 84 per cent — of its entire forest cover in the top category. It is believed that a large number of mangroves have been planted by Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration since the tsunami of 2004. Uttar Pradesh added 572 sq km of very dense forest — a jump of 35 per cent since 2013. Tamil Nadu reported a net gain of 100 sq km of very dense forest.

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