India’s Forest Cover – An Overview

Published on 28/05/2012

Preceding animals in the evolutionary history of the earth, forests have had since times immemorial, a very important role in the habitat management for all life on this earth. An essay on the role of forests in habitat management is not intended here. What we are concerned here is about the state of forests particularly in Uttar Pradesh, India.

India is one of the mega diversity countries in the world possessing about 7 to 8% of the world’s biodiversity represented by 45,500 plant species (12% of worlds flora) and 91,000 animal species (6% of worlds fauna). Nearly 6,500 native plants are used predominantly in the indigenous medicine system of India. Among species found in India only 12.6% mammals, 4.5% birds, 45.8% reptiles and 55.8% amphibians are endemic. India contains 172 IUCN designated threatened species.

As per the State of Forest report published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for 2011, the forest and tree cover is 782871 (692,027 Forest; 90,844 Tree Cover) which is 23.81% of the geographical area and includes the 2.76% tree cover. This is certainly below the target of 33% laid down in the National Forest Policy of 1988.

In 2010, the FSI has estimated the change in Carbon Stocks held in forests. It has registered a net increaseof 592 million tons between 1994 (6071 million tons) and 2004 (6663 million tons).

The total growing forest stock, a key indicator of the forest health and productivity in the country, estimated through forest cover, forest type and sample plots laid out during a field inventory from 2002 to 2008, have been estimated as 6047.15 million cubic meter out of which forests contribute 4498.73 and Trees outside forests (TOF) contribute 1548.42 million cubic meter. The maximum is reported from Arunachal Pradesh (567.2) followed by Uttaranchal (481.01), Maharashtra (440.07), Karnataka (416.9) and Chattisgarh (404.5). U.P. reports only 205.09 million cubic meter of growing stock as per these estimates. More may need to be done.

India's Forest Cover
India’s Forest Cover

Out of the total forest cover in the country, very dense forests contribute 83,471 (2.54%), moderately dense forests 320,736 sq. km. (9.76%) and Open forests 287,280 (8.75%). Madhya Pradesh followed by Arunachal, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra and Orissa have the highest forest cover. Mizoram (90.68%), Lakshwadeep (81.51%), Arunachal Pradesh (80.50%), Nagaland (80.33%), Meghalaya (77.02%) and Tripura (76.07%) have the highest percentage in terms of total geographical area.

At the national level the change in forest cover between the two assessment periods of 2009 and 2011 indicates a reduction of 367 sq. km.,in spite of the fact that there has been an increase in the very dense forests (43 and the moderately dense forests (498 sq. km). The open forested areas in this period have registered a decline of 908 sq. km. The change can be attributed to management intervention such as harvesting of short rotational plantations, clearances in encroached areas, biotic pressures, shifting cultivation practices etc.

The total tree cover of the country has been estimated at 90,844 km2. The total forest and tree cover is 782, which is 23.81% of the total geographic area of the country, an increase from the 23.4% as presented in the State of Forest Report of 2009.

The forest cover in the country has been divided unto 04 classes based on the tree canopy density- all lands with a tree canopy density of more than 70% are classified as very dense forest, between 40 and 70% as moderately dense, between 10 and 40% as open forest, degraded forest lands with less than 10% as scrubs and areas not included in any of these as non forest. As per the 2011 assessment, the total forest cover of the country is 692,027 km2 which is about 21.05% of the geographical area. Areas covered by very dense forests are 83,471 (2.54%), with moderately dense forest 320,736 and 287,820 of open forest.

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