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India’s green cover up by over 5,000 sq km but existing forests lost trees: 2018 survey

India State of Forest Report shows maximum increase in tree and forest cover in Karnataka, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

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New Delhi: Forest and tree cover in India increased by 5,188 square kilometres in 2018, but existing forest areas are losing tree cover, according to the India State of Forest Report 2019.

Of the 5,188 square kilometres, forest cover has increased by 3,976 square kilometres and tree cover by 1,212 square kilometres, says the report released by Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar Monday.

The maximum increase in both tree and forest cover was recorded in Karnataka (1,025 sq km), followed by Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km) and Kerala (823 sq km).

The report, however, says tree cover in the Recorded Forest Area (RFA) has decreased by 742 sq km in tribal districts and 330 sq km across the country.

While forest cover denotes the canopy area covered on land, RFA is the region that has a legal status of forest irrespective of the actual presence of tree cover on the ground.

The report, prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), shows over 7.1 lakh sq km or 21.67 per cent of the country is currently under forest cover. India has a target of having 33 per cent forest cover.

Progress is being made in that direction, but it is unlikely that the target will be achieved by 2030, Javadekar told the media at the event.

Also read: India’s forest cover grows, but picture looks grim in northeast

22% of forest areas prone to fires

The report estimates that the total carbon stored in the country’s forest is about 7,124.6 million tonnes — an increase of 42.6 million tonnes since the last assessment done in 2017.

The FSI found that India has a mangrove cover of over 4,975 sq km, which is an overall increase of 54 sq km since 2017.

The top three states showing an increase in mangrove cover are Gujarat (37 sq km), Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).

It is important to note that the only two regions that have ‘very dense’ mangroves — West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands — have lost mangrove cover since the 2017 assessment.

Majority of the other parts of India have ‘moderately dense’ or ‘open’ mangroves.

The report also says 22 per cent of the forest areas are prone to fires.

The FSI used fire-detection data of the last 13 years to map these areas. The data showed that forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur are extremely prone to fires.

Also read: Western Ghats forest cover improved after active ecological restoration, says study


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