Forest Survey Report 2021: Overall decadal decline in forest cover in India’s 52 tiger reserves, Gir

Tiger reserves in India have lost 22.62 sq km of forest over the last decade while Gir has lost 33.43 sq km

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Thursday 13 January 2022

There has been an overall decadal decline in forest cover across India’s 52 tiger reserves as well as its sole Lion Conservation Area (LCA) of Gir in Gujarat, the latest report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI).

The overall decrease in forest cover across the 52 tiger reserves in the last decade has been 22.62 square kilometres (sq km), according to the biennial India’s State of Forest Report 2021, published by the FSI.

Some 20 of the 52 tiger reserves have shown an increasing trend. These range from 1.28 sq km in Pakke (Arunachal Pradesh) to 238.80 sq km in Buxa (West Bengal).

Buxa, in fact, has recorded the highest decadal growth in forest cover in the country. It is followed by Anamalai in Tamil Nadu (120.78 sq km) and Indravati in Chhattisgarh (64.48 sq km).

But the 32 remaining reserves have shown a declining trend, ranging from 0.06 sq km in Orang in Assam to 118.97 sq km in Kawal in Telangana. Bhadra (53.09 sq km) in Karnataka and Sundarbans in West Bengal (49.95 sq km) have also witnessed sharp declines in forest cover.

FSI defines ‘forest cover’ as all lands of a hectare or more with tree patches with canopy density of more than 10 per cent.

This covers all lands, irrespective of legal ownership and land use. ‘Recorded forest area’ includes only those areas recorded as forests in government records and includes pristine forests.

The Sundarbans Tiger Reserve has the largest area under wetlands at 2,549.44 sq km. This means 96.76 per cent of its area is wetland. The Kanha Tiger Reserve has the highest number of wetlands at 461, most of which are less than 2.25 hectares (ha) in size.

The Kanha to Navegaon-Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati tiger corridor that passes through Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra has the largest forest cover at 2,012.86 sq km.

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It is followed by the Pench-Satpura-Melghat corridor in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh (1,195.79 sq km) and the Similipal-Satkosia corridor in Odisha (810.23 sq km).

The Forest Survey of India has listed four categories of forests. They are:

  • Very Dense Forest (with tree canopy density of 70 per cent or above)
  • Moderately Dense Forest (tree canopy density of 40 per cent or above but less than 70 per cent)
  • Open Forest (tree canopy density of 10 per cent or above but less than 40 per cent)
  • Scrub (tree canopy density less than 10 per cent)

The Kanha to Navegaon-Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati corridor has the highest area under ‘Very Dense Forest’ comprising 857.65 sq km.

It also has the highest area under ‘Moderately Dense Forest’ at 882.87 sq km. The Pench-Satpura-Melghat corridor has the highest area under ‘Open Forest’ at 392.25 sq km.

The Ranthambore-Kuno-Shivpuri-Madhav tiger corridor in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has the highest area under scrub at 15.68 sq km.

The LCA has seen a decrease of 33.43 sq km in its forest cover during the last decade, the report said. It attributed the decrease to ‘habitat improvement measures’ taken in the last decade.

This includes the removal of Prosopis juliflora, an invasive species from grassland areas and canopy manipulation for creating openings in the Very Dense Forest and Moderately Dense Forest areas.

Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary have 31 wetlands, according to the report. These occupy an area of 2,518 ha.

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