Q What is the context ?
A The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021.
Q What is India State of Forest Report ?
- ISFR is an assessment of India’s forest and tree cover, published every two years by the Forest Survey of India under the MoEFCC.
- The first survey was published in 1987, and ISFR 2021 is the 17th.
- It compiles data computed through wall-to-wall mapping of India’s forest cover through remote sensing techniques.
Q Why is there need India State of Forest Report?
- It is used in planning and formulation of policies in forest management as well as forestry and agroforestry sectors.
Q How are forests categorized?
A The Forest Survey of India has listed four categories of forests. They are:
- Very Dense Forest (with tree canopy density of 70 per cent or above)
- Moderately Dense Forest (tree canopy density of 40 per cent or above but less than 70 per cent)
- Open Forest (tree canopy density of 10 per cent or above but less than 40 per cent)
- Scrub (tree canopy density less than 10 per cent)
Q What are the Highlights of the ISFR, 2021 ?
A 1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Increase in Mangrove cover
- Mangroves have shown an increase of 17 sq km. India’s total mangrove cover is now 4,992 sq km.
4. 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.
5. 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%.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Q What are Concerns with the declining trends ?
- It is worrying that a 1,582 sq km decline was in moderately dense forests, or “natural forests”.
- This decline shows a degradation of forests in the country, say experts, with natural forests degrading to less dense open forests.
- Also, scrub area has increased by 5,320 sq km – indicating the complete degradation of forests in these areas.