India’s forest cover has increased by 3,976 sq km or 0.56% since 2017. For the second successive time since 2007, the biennial State of Forest Report (SFR) recorded a gain — an impressive 1,275 sq km — in dense forest (including Very Dense Forest with a canopy density of over 70%, and Moderately Dense Forest with a canopy density of 40-70%).
Important facts –
- SFR data show 2,145 sq km of dense forests became non-forests since 2017. A dense forest can deteriorate into an open forest (10-40% canopy density) but conversion to non-forest signifies total destruction. This means India has lost dense forests one-and-a-half times Delhi’s expanse in just two years.
- Since 2017, plantations with high canopy density have added 2,441 sq km to the dense forest category, while 1,858 sq km of non-forests have become dense forests. These are plantations of fast-growing species since natural forests rarely grow so fast.
- Since 2003 when data on “change matrix” were first made available, 18,065 sq km — more than one-third of Punjab’s landmass — of dense forests have become non-forests in the country, nearly half of this (8,552 sq km) in the last four years.
- Making up for much of this destruction of quality natural forests, 10,227 sq km of non-forests (read plantations) became dense forests in successive two-year windows since 2003, over half of this (5,458 sq km) since 2015.
- While hill forests have gained in quality, large tracts of tropical forests have fallen off the “dense” category since 2017. The biggest loss — 23,550 sq km — is under the tropical semi-evergreen head in SFR 2019. In India, tropical semi-evergreen forests are found along the western coast, lower slopes of the eastern Himalayas, Odisha and Andamans.
- Of India’s 7.12 lakh sq km forest cover, 52,000 sq km is plantations that, in any case, cannot substitute natural forests in biodiversity or ecological services.
- Of 7,28,520 sq km recorded forest area from digitised data and the Survey of India’s topographic maps of greenwash areas (forestland), 2,15,084 sq km (nearly 30%) recorded no forest cover in SFR 2019. In other words, forestland roughly the combined area of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal holds no forests.
- There has been no recovery since 2017 as forest cover on forestland has shrunk by 330 sq km in the last two years.
Source – The Indian Express