Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released the India State of Forest Report-2021.
Highlights of India State of Forest Report
- Forest cover is increasing
- ISFR 2021 has found that the forest and tree cover in the country continues to increase with an additional cover of 1,540 square kilometres over the past two years.
- India’s forest cover is now 7,13,789 square kilometres, 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019.
- Tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
- Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.
- State-wise gain/losses
- The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
- The Northeast states account for 7.98% of total geographical area but 23.75% of total forest cover.
- Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.
- The report has attributed the decline in the NE states to a spate of natural calamities, particularly landslides and heavy rains, in the region as well as to anthropogenic activities.
- Increase in Mangrove cover
- Mangroves have shown an increase of 17 sq km. India’s total mangrove cover is now 4,992 sq km.
- Increase in carbon stock
- The total carbon stock in country’s forests is estimated at 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.
- Big cats population
- ISFR 2021 has some new features. It has for the first time assessed forest cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors and the Gir forest which houses the Asiatic lion.
- The forest cover in tiger corridors has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32%) between 2011-2021, but decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%) in tiger reserves.
- Buxa, Anamalai and Indravati reserves have shown an increase in forest cover while the highest losses have been found in Kawal, Bhadra and the Sunderbans reserves.
- Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has the highest forest cover, at nearly 97%.
- Impact of climate change
- The report estimates that by 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will experience the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, and forests in all states will be highly vulnerable climate hot spots.
- Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be the most affected.
- India’s forests are already showing shifting trends of vegetation types, such as Sikkim which has shown a shift in its vegetation pattern for 124 endemic species.
- Forest fires
- The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires.
- Out of this, 2.81 % is extremely prone, 7.85% is very highly prone and 11.51 % is highly prone
- The highest numbers of fires were detected in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
About India State of Forest Report?
- India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is a biennial publication of Forest Survey of India (FSI) an organization under the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change Government of India.
- The report is published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country including wall-to-wall forest cover mapping in a biennial cycle.
- Starting 1987, 17 assessment have been completed so far. ISFR 2021 is the 17th report in the series.
- In the current report, FSI has introduced a new chapter related to the assessment of forest cover in the tiger reserves, corridors, and lion conservation area of India.
Forest Survey of India
- Forest Survey of India (FSI) is an organisation under the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India Its principal mandate is to conduct survey and assessment of forest resources in the country.
- It started as an organization called Pre- Investment Survey of Forest Resources (PISFR) in 1965 as FAO/UNDP/GOI Project.
- The changing information needs resulted in enlarging the scope of activities of PISFR and it was re- organized as Forest Survey of India in 1981.
The growth rate in forest cover has been marginal. This marginal growth in India’s forest cover is primarily due to an increase in the area under open forests (canopy density 10-40%). The increase in open forests is led by commercial plantations. This is a cause of concern.
Despite overall increase in mangrove cover, very dense mangrove cover has decreased in Sunderbans. This is also a cause of concern because very dense mangrove cover acts a barrier against cyclones, protecting West Bengal from directly bearing the brunt of storms that originate in the Bay of Bengal. The mangrove also acts as a source of livelihood for locals by acting as a spawning ground for several fish and other aquatic animals such as crabs and prawns.
Degradation of forests: The decline, in natural forests in conjunction with an increase in open forest areas – shows a degradation of forests in the country. This means that natural forests are degrading to less dense open forests. Also, increase in scrub area, indicates the complete degradation of forests in these areas.
Since 2003, more than 19,000 sq. km of dense forests have become non-forests in the country. The decadal rate of this destruction of natural forests has doubled from ~7,000 sq. km in 2003-13 to 12,700 sq. km since 2013.
Loss of forest cover in NE region: This loss is of great concern, as the Northeastern states are repositories of great biodiversity. Loss of forest cover will increase the impact of landslides. It will also impact water catchment in the region, which is already seeing degradation of its water resources.
What are some issues with the survey?
As per experts, survey results could be misleading as it includes plantations – such as coffee, coconuts or mango and other orchards – under forest cover.
These plantations are distinctly different from natural forests where one hectare would be home to hundreds of species of trees, plants and fauna, whereas commercial plantations house only one species of tree.
– In India, the extent of natural forests is unknown. It’s very important to segregate the extent of natural forests and commercial plantations like mango or coconut. The qualitative forest cover can’t be improved unless the extent of natural forest is known.
– The decline in natural forests (moderately dense forests) merits attention since certain amendments to the Forest Act, 1980 are likely to further make easier the diversion of forest land for non-forest use.
- National Mission for a Green India:
- It is one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
- It was launched in February, 2014 with the objective to safeguard the biological resources of our nation and associated livelihoods against the peril of adverse climate change and to recognize the vital impact of forestry on ecological sustainability, biodiversity conservation and food-, water- and livelihood-security.
- National Afforestation Programme (NAP):
- It has been implemented since 2000 for the afforestation of degraded forest lands.
- It is being implemented by the MoEFCC.
- Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, (CAMPA Funds):
- Launched in 2016, 90% of the fund is to be given to the states while 10% is to be retained by the Centre.
- The funds can be used for treatment of catchment areas, assisted natural generation, forest management, wildlife protection and management, relocation of villages from protected areas, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation, supply of wood saving devices and allied activities.
- National Action Programme to Combat Desertification:
- It was prepared in 2001 to address issues of increasing desertification and to take appropriate actions.
- It is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPM):
- It is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.
Source: Indian Express