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NEW DELHI : India’s total forest and tree cover has increased by 0.6% in the last two years, shows the latest India State of the Forest Report.

The findings were part of the latest biennial India State of the Forest Report 2019 released by Union minister of environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar on Monday.

According to the report, India witnessed an increase of 3,976sq. km (0.56%) forest cover at the national level, as compared to 2017. The total forest cover is now estimated at 712,249sq. km, which is 21.6% of the country’s landmass.

The total tree cover, which refers to small patches of less than 1 hectare outside forests, has also increased by 1,212sq. km, which roughly amounts to an increase of 1.29%. The total tree cover is now estimated at 95,027sq. km, which is 2.89% of the landmass.

“India is among the few countries in the world where both forest and tree cover has shown a consistent increase," said Javadekar, highlighting that the total forest and tree cover is 80.73 million hectare, which is 24.5% of the geographical area of the country.

Karanataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have recorded the highest increase in forest cover, much of which has been attributed to the conservation activities both within and outside the recorded forest areas. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh took the fourth and fifth spots respectively.

However, in the North-East, barring Assam and Tripura, the total forest cover has declined by 0.45%.

The Forest Survey of India, which also mapped the mangrove cover in coastal areas spread across 12 states and union territories, found an increase of 54sq. km, or 1.1%, increase in such cover in two years.

However, the report warned that nearly 22% of forests in India were highly prone to forest fires. This was estimated using forest fire detection data compiled by the FSI over the last 13 years.

The survey is carried out using remote sensing technique followed by field survey resulting in a forest cover map of India on 1:50,00,000 scale. At present, Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under forest, followed by Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

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