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India state of forest report 2019

  Jul 06, 2020

India state of forest report 2019

What is ISFR 2019?

India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is Biennial report 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, 16 assessment have been completed so far. ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.

What are the major findings of the report?

According to ISFR 2019 the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectare which is 24.56 percent of the geographical area of the country.

Total forest cover of India in 2019 is 21.67 per cent of the total geographical area (TGA) of the country as against 21.54 per cent (of TGA) in 2017

Compared to the assessment of 2017, forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, bamboo bearing area, carbon stock all increased in ISFR 2019. There are 62,466 wetlands (of more than 1 ha) covering 3.8% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country.

What is methodology used in ISFR 2019?

ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series. In tune with the Government of India’s vision of Digital India, FSI’s assessment is largely based on digital data whether it is satellite data, vector boundaries of districts or data processing of field measurements.

The report provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock inside and outside the forest areas, carbon stock in India’s forests, Forest Types and Biodiversity, Forest Fire monitoring and forest cover in different slopes & altitudes. Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report.

What are worrisome aspects of reports? 

  1. The report presents a gloomy picture of the forests in North Eastern States. The forest cover of six states, excluding Assam, has decreased by nearly 18 per cent between 2011 and 2019.
  2. A look at the forest cover this decade shows a consistent increase in the area under the OF category, which includes commercial plantations. And this seems to be happening at the cost of the MDF* category, which is normally the area close to human habitations. 
  3. 'Very dense forests'*, which absorb maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, increased by a mere 1.14 % between 2017 and 2019, according to the State of India’s forest Report 2019.
  4. Loss of very dense forest cover is being filled will commercial plantations. However, a monoculture cannot substitute natural forests in biodiversity or ecological services. Some of these are fast-growing species such as bamboo in the north-eastern region and also rubber and coconut plantations in the southern states. 
  5. The forest report also reveals that the forest area under the category “recorded forest area” (land notified as forest by the government) in tribal districts, which are home to about 60 percent of India’s forests, is decreasing as well. (forest cut down for mining and other developmental projects)
  6. The analysis reveals that 21.40% of the forest cover of the country is highly to extremely fire prone.

*Dense forests are defined by canopy cover: 

Over 70 percent is considered very dense forest and 40-70 percent moderately dense forests. More than 10% canopy is considered as open forests.

Plantations-are they forests?

Plantation are monocultures and in terms of their ecological services and biodiversity support they lag far behind natural forests.

Plantations cause land and soil degradation. Thus, Tree plantations are not forests. They are a monoculture which causes huge impacts throughout the world. Plantations are a huge number of very rapidly growing single species of trees of the same age that are sawn to occupy considerable land areas, with very high consumption of soil nutrients and water. When they reach their reproductive cycle, they are all cut down to the ground. Plantations are uniform agricultural systems which replace in many cases natural ecosystems or Agro-ecological systems which are richer in terms of biological and cultural diversity, and where many peasant and indigenous communities live.

Plantations are pursued for the production of cellulose pulp to produce paper, timber, oils and agrofuels. Plantations are not as biologically and socially rich as forests; on the contrary, they cause serious negative impacts: displacement of entire communities, violation to the rights of the Peoples, decay of local culture, generalized violence and pesticides contamination, loss of biological diversity and alteration of hydrological cycles. Besides, these impacts are most detrimental to women.

However, there is a strong tendency towards the expansion of tree, oil palm and soybean monocultures in the whole world. According to information provided by FAO, by 2030, the global area occupied by tree plantations will increase by 30%. Markets for cellulose pulp and products produced from palm oil are constantly growing, at a rate that is expected to be increasing as a result of the growing demand for agrofuels.

This mis-definition of plantation as forests seriously harms real forests and forest peoples as it justifies the clearance of real forests and their replacement with cash crops of trees.