Environment ministry says forest cover grew by 3,775 sq. km since 2013
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New Delhi: India’s forest cover has increased by 3,775 sq. km since 2013 to 701,673 sq. km, the environment ministry said on Friday, which is about 21.34% of the country.
When scattered trees are added to the country’s forests, the green cover increases to 24.16% of the land mass, according to the India State of Forest Report 2015.
The announcement comes at a time when India is involved in negotiations at the Paris climate summit where more than 190 countries have gathered to finalize a new climate deal.
The tree cover has gone up by 1,306 sq. km since 2013. The increase in total forest cover also includes an increase of 112 sq. km in mangrove cover, taking the total mangrove area in the country to 4,740 sq. km.
The latest report also highlighted that 15 states and Union territories have more than 33% of their geographical area under forest cover.
“We are committed to take this 24% to 33% area in the years ahead,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said while releasing the report that is put out every two years.
The 2015 report is the 14th in the series. More than planting trees, ensuring the survival of trees beyond five years is crucial, Javadekar said.
That the forest cover has stabilized and not decreased despite various pressures is an achievement in itself, said Anmol Kumar, director general of the Forest Survey of India, which prepared the report.
The government is now focusing on getting higher-resolution images through satellites to monitor forests and plantations, said S.S. Negi, special secretary in the environment ministry.
The ministry will collaborate with the Indian Space Research Organization for this and will spend around Rs.100 crore, Javadekar said.
“The total carbon stock in the country’s forest is estimated to be 7,044 million tonnes, an increase of 103 million tonnes, which is an increase of 1.48 in percentage terms over the previous assessments,” the report said.
“The increase in the carbon stock is an assurance to the negotiators at CoP (Conference of Parties) 21 (in Paris) that India remains committed to increase the carbon sink,” Javadekar said. “The increase in the carbon stock is in line with the INDC (intended nationally determined contributions) targets.
The INDC target for the forestry sector envisages the creation of an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.”
INDCs are voluntary pledges that each country has made at the Paris summit to control their carbon emissions.
What is also encouraging for conservationists and the government is that “the majority of the increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest category, mainly outside forest areas, followed by very dense forest”, the report said.
While the open forest area has increased by 4,744 sq. km, which is 9.14% of the country’s geographical area, the area under dense forest has increased by 2,404 sq. km, which is 2.61% of the country.
The report also said that about 40% of the forest cover is in nine big patches of 10,000 sq. km and more.
As per the report, the top three states that saw a maximum increase in forest cover were Tamil Nadu (2,501 sq. km), followed by Kerala (1,317 sq. km) and Jammu and Kashmir (450 sq. km).
The three states that showed the maximum decrease in forest cover were Mizoram (306 sq. km), Uttarakhand (268 sq. km) and Telangana (168 sq. km).
The top three states in terms of largest forest cover were Madhya Pradesh with 77,462 sq. km, followed by Arunachal Pradesh with 67,248 sq. km and Chhattisgarh with 55,586 sq. km.