Country's Forest and Tree cover has increased by 8,021 sq km (1 percent) as compared to assessment of 2015, said the Indian State of Forest Report 2017.
Forest cover in the hill districts in NE, J&K, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh is about 40 per cent of the total geographical area of the districts and has seen an increase of 754 sq kms. The mangrove forest area as per this report is 304 sq km against 222 sq km assessed in 2015.
As per the current assessment, India's total forest cover is 7,08,273 sq km, which is 21.54% of the country's geographical area. "Mangrove ecosystem is rich in biodiversity and provides a number of ecological services", said the report.
They also play a major role in protecting coastal areas from erosion, tidal storms and tsunamis. "Seven out of 12 mangrove growing states reported positive growth whereas the remaining five managed to maintain the previous level", said union environment and forest minister Harsh Vardhan.
Another interesting finding of the report is that the "net increase in forest cover has been observed in areas less than 1000 metre altitude", while in all other "altitudinal zones small net decrease has been observed".
The northeast is home to one-fourth of India's green cover; the decrease is attributed to shifting cultivation and development activities. The good thing is that even if we talk of global ranking, the population density of top nine countries ahead of India in terms of forest cover is about 150 while for India it is 350. This area reported a net loss of 630 sq km of pristine forests. The report, however, for the first time contains information on decadal change in water bodies in forest during 2005-2015, forest fire, production of timber from outside forest, state wise carbon stock in different forest types and density classes.
Secretary, environment ministry, C.K. Mishra, said the economic value of forests must be realised and forests should be used economically.
"Forests do not exist in isolation and the benefits of the forests must be transferred to the people", he said, while stressing that issues related to agro-forestry and degraded forests must be paid attention to.
He said Madhya Pradesh (77,414 sq km) has the largest forest cover in the country in terms of area, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq km) and Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq km).
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