India's Forest Coverage, Total Trees witness - Background
Recently the “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)” was released by Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) published this report, which is mandatory for FSI to evaluate the forest resources of India, which includes complete mapping of forests every two years.
Since its initiation in 1987, FSI has completed 16 evaluations so far. The ISFR 2019 is the sixteenth report. To align with the government’s Digital India Initiative, FSI’s forest and trees evaluation are largely carried out through, vector boundaries, satellite data, image processing, and processing of fields measurements.
Benefits of these Reports
The core principle of the India State of Forest Report (ISFR), is to maintain ecological balance and safeguard environment stability, which includes atmosphere and environmental equilibrium, which are important to support all life forms, including humans. The direct economic benefits must be attached to this environmental assessment.
The report mentions data on total forest and tree cover, mangrove and wetlands cover, growing stock inside and out of the reserved forest area, carbon stock holding in India’s forests, Forest Types and Biodiversity, fire monitoring, and forest cover on several slopes & altitudes.
This 16th Forest assessment report is unique in the way it captures Special thematic information on forest vegetation cover (i.e. tribal settlement and districts, regions of northeastern India, hills & mountains), this respective information is separately mentioned in the report.
The data collected from satellite remote sensing is coupled with thorough ground-truthing. Data from a few more sources is collected to collate them all together for data correctness and to enhance the accuracy of the image interpreted.
Findings from the Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) - 2019
From the context of forest area coverage, the largest vegetation cover is claimed by the state of Madhya Pradesh, the second spot is claimed by the state of Arunachal Pradesh, then the state of Chhattisgarh, the state of Odisha, and the state of Maharashtra.
From the context of the percentage of forest area cover or total geographical area cover, the leading five states are as such;
- Mizoram – 85.41% of the area under forest coverage
- Arunachal Pradesh – 79.63% of the area under forest coverage
- Meghalaya – 76.33% of the area under forest coverage
- Manipur – 75.46% of the area under forest coverage
- Nagaland – 75.31% of the area under forest coverage
India’s Mangrove ecosystems are unique of their kind, very biodiverse, and support various ecological services.
These Mangroves in India, are so vast, that the Indian Govt. has to create a separate assessment to report them. They cover around 4975 km.
The most recent observation of the Mangrove assessment report found an increase in 54 sq. km vegetation coverage from the previous assessment report of the year 2017.
This increase in the Mangrove cover of 54 sq. km is found in the following states
- State of Gujarat – 37 sq. km
- State of Maharashtra – 16 sq. km
- State of Odisha – 08 sq. km
From the findings of 2017, the Indian forest holds 7,124.6 million tonnes of carbon stock, and from the current assessment of 2019, it was found that there is growth in carbon stock, and 42.6 million tonnes are now added (increase) to the carbon stock of India forest.
21.3 million tonnes are the yearly growth in carbon stock. This is approximately around 78.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The small areas of the wetlands that are within forest areas are the vital ecosystem and add abundance to the biodiversity of the forests and play an important role in shaping the flora and fauna.
After identifying the vital role of the wetlands and their importance, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) at a national level started a practice of identifying wetlands (1 hector i.e. 2.47 acre and above) within Recorded Forest Area (RFA).
62,466 wetlands make up around 3.8% of the area of Recorded Forest Area/Green Wash (RFA/GW) of India.
Forest Cover in Tribal Districts
- Total forest cover: 4,22,351 sq.km.
- Total forest cover (percentage): 37.54% of the area of tribal districts.
- A decrease in forest cover (741 sq. km) within RFA/GW due to land titles to tribal.
- 1922 sq. km of increase in forest area out of the tribal area due to afforestation.
The decrease in Forest Cover in North Eastern Region
- Total forest cover: 1,70.541 sq.km.
- Total forest cover (percentage): 65.05% of the geographical region.
- Except, for the state of Assam and Tripura, the rest of the states show a decline in the forest (765 sq. km, i.e. 0.45%)
The basic goal to be fulfilled is to increase the Green cover.
Conservation of environmental stability – through forest preservation, restoration, and the plantation of native flora species wherever necessary. Finding ways to restore the ecological balance between flora and fauna that has been adversely affected by the decrease in the forest area.
Assessment of soil erosion - in the drainage area of rivers, freshwater lakes, and water bodies from the context of “soil and water conservation” to reduce floods and unexpected droughts and deceleration of siltation of water reservoirs.
Assessment of desert cover of Rajasthan and along coastal tracks.
Increasing Forest Coverage – through the social forestry program, afforestation and replantation program to bare lands (strip of the area), unproductive lands.
Making sure the tribal population meets their requirements of wood-for fuel, forest produce-for food, fodder for the cattle, and timber.
Maximizing the production of forests according to national requirements.
Promote resourceful utilization of forest produce and maximize the efforts to replace wood.
Promote nationwide people involvement, especially the involvement of women to attain the nation's forest objectives. Minimize the existing pressure on all national forests.
Preserving the natural heritage – Indian forests the living and natural heritage, they need measures from public and private participation for their conservation at every level. There is a wide influx of flora and fauna, that represents the notable and unique biodiversity and genetic resource of the Indian forest.
Indian forest has a consistent increase in its cover throughout all Indian states. In the present. In the present evaluation report, it is mentioned that the total forest cover of India is 80.73 million hectares (i.e. around 24.56% of the total geographical area of the country). The assessment derived the following data from their findings
- State of Andhra Pradesh – 990 sq. km
- State of Kerala – 823 sq. km
- State of Jammu and Kashmir – 371 sq. km
- State of Himachal Pradesh – 334 sq. km
- State of Karnataka - 1025 sq. km
This is impressive from the context of achieving the Paris Agreement goal of 3 billion carbon sinks.