Arunachal’s forest cover registers decrease

NEW DELHI, Feb 12: Though India’s tree and forest cover has registered an increase of one per cent, or 8,021 sq km, in two years since 2015, there has been a substantial decrease in Arunachal Pradesh’ forest cover during that period, according to the latest assessment by the government.
With a 190 sq km decrease in forest cover, Arunachal Pradesh is among the five Northeastern states where forest cover has decreased the most, according to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017, which was released by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and his deputy Mahesh Sharma here on Monday.
The other four states where forest cover has decreased are Mizoram (531 sq km), Nagaland (450 sq km), Tripura (164 sq km) and Meghalaya (116 sq km).
However, the total forest cover in these states is still very high, with more than 75 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur, and more than 70 per cent in Tripura, the report said.
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.
Harsh Vardhan said India has shown an increasing trend in its 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 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. Forest and tree cover combined is 8,02,088 sq km or 24.39 per cent 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 per cent compared to 2015. The 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). Tripura, Goa, Sikkim, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh and Assam have forest cover between 33 per cent and 75 per cent.
In terms of percentage of forest cover with respect to the total geographical area, Lakshadweep (with 90.33 per cent) has the highest forest cover, followed by Mizoram (86.27 per cent) and Andaman and Nicobar Island (81.73 per cent), he said.
The top five states where maximum forest cover has increased are Andhra Pradesh (2,141 sq km), Karnataka (1,101 sq km), Kerala (1,043 sq km), Odisha (885 sq km) and Telangana (565 sq km).
The survey, which has for the first time assessed water bodies, said that these bodies inside forest cover have increased by 2,647 sq km during last decade.
It said Maharashtra (432 sq km), Gujarat (428 sq km) and Madhya Pradesh (389 sq km) are the 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 present assessment also reveals that 15 states and union territories have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover.
“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 per cent of land area under forest and tree cover, even though it accounts for 2.4 per cent of the world’s surface area and sustains the needs of 17 per cent of human and 18 per cent livestock population,” Harsh Vardhan said.
The minister said as per the latest Food and Agriculture Organization report, India is placed 8th in the list of top ten nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area. (PTI)