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India State of Forest Report 2021, Tree cover of India increases by 1540 sq km

India State of Forest Report 2021, Tree cover of India increases by 1540 sq km

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Conservation Efforts

Why in the news?

  • India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 was recently released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • The report’s findings suggest that forest cover is increasing across the country, but experts have raised concerns about several other elements, such as a loss in forest cover in the Northeast and the destruction of natural forests.

Key findings of the report

  • Total forest cover– The total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country. 21.71% is the forest cover.
  • Increase in forest and tree cover: As compared to the assessment of 2019, there is an increase of 0.28% in the total forest and tree cover of the country.
    • Three types of forests have been surveyed: Very dense (pristine)moderately dense (natural forests close to human habitation), and open forests. Scrubs have also been surveyed, but they are not categorized as forests.
    • The open forest has seen an increase in forest cover, followed by very dense forest, while moderately dense forests (natural forests) have seen a decrease.
  • States with Highest Forest Area/Cover
    • The top five states in terms of increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km), Telangana (632 sq km), Odisha (537 sq km), Karnataka (155 sq km), and  Jharkhand (110 sq km).
    • Area-wise: Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest coverin the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.
    • In terms of forest cover as a percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Nagaland.
  • Decrease in Forest Cover
    • Forest cover has decreased in five Northeastern states: Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
  • Increase in carbon stock: In comparison to the previous assessment in 2019, the country’s carbon stock has increased by 79.4 million tonnes.
  • Increase in mangrove cover: The mangrove cover has increased by 17 square kilometers since the previous evaluation in 2019.
  • Forest cover in tiger corridors – Between 2011 and 2021, the forest cover in tiger corridors rose by 0.04 percent, whereas it declined by 0.04 percent in tiger reserves. The forest cover in Arunachal Pradesh’s Pakke Tiger Reserve is about 97 percent.
  • Forest fires- The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires.
  • Bamboo Forests– Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.

Concerns

  • Forest degradation: The loss in natural forests, along with an increase in open forest areas, indicates that the country’s forests are deteriorating.
    • As a result, natural forests are deteriorating and becoming less dense open woods. In addition, an increase in the scrub area shows that the forests in these places have completely degraded.
    • More than 19,000 square kilometers of dense forests have been converted to non-forests in the country since 2003.
    • Since 2013, the decadal pace of natural forest degradation has doubled, from 7,000 sq km in 2003-13 to 12,700 sq km since 2013.
  • Climate change and rising temperatures – According to the India State of Forest Report, climate change and rising temperatures would affect 45-64 percent of India’s forests by 2030, and woods in all states (excluding Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Nagaland) will be extremely sensitive climate hot zones. Ladakh is expected to be the hardest hit.
    • It predicted that Himalayan states and UTs like Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand will record the maximum increase in temperature and also possibly experience a decrease in rainfall.
  • Natural Forests are shrinking: Moderately dense forests, or “natural forests,” are shrinking by 1,582 square kilometers.
    • The decrease, combined with an increase of 2,621 sq km in open forest areas, indicates that the country’s forests are deteriorating.
    • Scrubland has also risen by 5,320 sq km, showing full forest degradation in these places.
    • The area of dense forests has grown by 501 square kilometers.
  • Forest cover loss in the Northeast– The North Eastern states have experienced the greatest loss of forest cover. This is caused to a variety of natural disasters, including landslides and strong floods, as well as manmade activities such as shifting agriculture, development pressure, and tree removal.
    • Furthermore, unlike other states, where woods are administered by the forest service and state governments, the Northeastern states use a system centered on community ownership and tribe land protection. This makes conservation efforts difficult.

Way forward

  • The size of India’s natural forests is unknown. It’s critical to distinguish between natural forests and commercial plantations like mango and coconut. It is impossible to improve the quality of forest cover unless the area of natural forest is recognized.
  • The reduction of natural forests (moderately dense forests) is worth noting since certain revisions to the Forest Act of 1980 are anticipated to make forest area diversion for non-forest use even simpler.
  • India has set a target of bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover, as envisaged in the National Forest Policy, 1988.This was also one of the key targets enlisted in the Strategy for New India @ 75 document, released in December 2018 by the NITI Aayog.
  • Although various efforts have been made by the government to ensure the restoration of the forest cover. Better conservation methods, afforestation initiatives, tree plantation drives, and agroforestry may be responsible for the increase in forest cover.
  • As per Latest ISFR, the country’s total forest cover is 71%of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019. Tree cover has increased by only  721 sq km.  It indicates that India is a long way to go to achieve the target. Active Community participation with effective implementation of laws would help in the long run.

Mains model Question

  • Discuss the impact of climate change and rising temperatures on increasing forest fires. Suggest some mitigation measures.

References