India’s forest cover declines

North-eastern states and tribal districts witness unprecedented forest loss

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Wednesday 08 February 2012

India has lost 367 square kilometres of forest cover in the past two years. According to the India State of Forest Report, 2011, released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on February 7, the total forest cover in the country is now at 6,92,027 sq km. This accounts for 21.05 per cent of the total geographical area of India.



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Andhra loses, Punjab gains

  • Andhra Pradesh has lost the maximum forest cover—281 sq km—as compared to 2009
  • Northeastern states saw an unprecedented loss in forests this year. The region which accounts for nearly one-fourth forest cover of the country has seen a decrease of 549 sq km of forests
  • The other states that lost forest cover are Kerala (24 sq km), Chhattisgarh (4 sq km), Maharashtra (4 sq km), Uttar Pradesh (3 sq km), Gujarat (1 sq km) and Chandigarh (0.22 sq km)
  • Punjab registered maximum growth of 100 sq km forest cover followed by Jharkhand (83 sq km), Tamil Nadu (74 sq km), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (62 sq km), Rajasthan (51 sq km), Odisha (48 sq km) and Bihar (41 sq km)
  • Other states that registered forest growth include Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and West Bengal
  • A total of 548 sq km forest cover has decreased in the 124 hill districts of the country
  • In the 188 districts of the country dominated by tribal population forest cover has decreased by 679 sq km
  • The mangrove cover in the country has increased by 23.34 sq km. They are now spread over an area of 4661.6 sq km
  • The total growing stock of India’s forests and trees is now 6,047.15 million cubic metre which comprises of 4,498.73 million cubic metre of growing stock inside the forests and 1,548.42 million cubic metre outside the forests
  • FSI has for the first time estimated the growing stock of bamboo.
  • Total bamboo bearing area in the country is 13.96 million hectare (ha).
  • Arunachal Pradesh has maximum bamboo-bearing area of 1.6 m ha followed by Madhya Pradesh (1.3 m ha), Maharashtra (1.1 m ha) and Odisha (1.05 m ha) 

More dense forests

  • The dense forest cover (lands with tree canopy density of 70 per cent and above) increased by 43 sq km since 2009 and stand at  83,471 sq km.
  • The dense forests now account for 2.54 per cent of the geographical area of the country        
  • The moderately dense forest (lands with tree canopy density between 40 per cent and 70 per cent) now occupy 320,736 sq km and account for 9.76 per cent geographical area of the country
  • The moderately dense forest saw an increase of 498 sq km       
  • The area covered by open forests (lands with tree canopy density between 1O per cent and 40 per cent) saw a decrease of 908 sq km and stand at 287,820 sq km

Vague reasons

  • In Andhra Pradesh, the survey says, the forest cover has decreased due to harvesting of short rotation crops followed by new plantation and forest clearance in the encroached areas
  • In the Northeast, the decrease in forest cover has been attributed to shortening of shifting cultivation cycle and biotic pressure
  • The reason for increase in forest cover in Punjab, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Tamil Nadu is enhanced plantation in and outside forests and effective protection measures


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