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Environment facts

Forest Cover in India

Forests are a very crucial natural resource and have always been central in human life. Forests provide renewable raw materials and energy, maintain biological diversity, mitigate climate change, protect land and water resources, provide recreation facilities, improve air quality and help alleviate poverty.

Forest cover indicates all lands, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10% irrespective of land use, ownership and species of trees.

India State of Forest Report 2021

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has been publishing a series of biennial assessment report of the forest cover in the country since 1987. The India State of Forest Report is recognized as the authoritative assessment of the country’s forest resources.

The India State of Forest Report 2021 is the 17th report in the series. The report is based on interpretation of LISS-III data from Indian Remote Sensing satellite data (Resourcesat-II) with a spatial resolution of 23.5 meters and with the scale of interpretation 1:50,000. Satellite data for the entire country was procured from NRSC for the period October - December, 2019. The satellite interpretation was followed by extensive and rigorous ground truthing. In addition, periodic ground data collected by field parties and information from other collateral sources were also used to improve the accuracy of the interpreted image.

The ISFR-2021 provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock, carbon stock in India’s forests, forest fire monitoring, forest cover in tiger reserve areas, above ground estimates of biomass using SAR data & climate change hotspots in Indian forests. 

New additions in ISFR 2021

  • FSI has included a new chapter related to the assessment of forest cover in the Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area of India. In this context, the decadal assessment of change in forest cover within Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area helps in assessing the impact of conservation measures and management interventions that have been implemented over the years.
  • The ‘Above Ground Biomass’ has been estimated. FSI, in collaboration with Space Application Centre (SAC), ISRO, Ahmedabad, initiated a special study for estimation of Above Ground Biomass (AGB) at pan-India level, using L- band of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. The results for the States of Assam and Odisha (as well as AGB maps), were presented earlier in ISFR 2019.   The interim results for AGB estimates (and AGB maps) for the entire country are being presented as a new chapter in ISFR 2021. 
  • ‘Mapping of Climate Change Hotspots in Indian Forests’. The collaborative study with Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) Pilani, Goa Campus was carried out with the objective to map the climatic hotspots over the forest cover in India, using computer model-based projection of temperature and rainfall data, for the three future time periods i.e. year 2030, 2050 and 2085.

Salient findings

The key findigs of the ISFR 2021 are as follows : 

  • The total forest cover of the country is 7,13,789 sq km which is 21.71% of the geographical area of the country. The tree cover of the country is estimated as 95,748 sq km which is 2.91% of the geographical area. Thus, the total Forest and Tree cover of the country is 8,09,537 sq km which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country.
  • The current assessment shows an increase of 1,540 sq km (0.22%) of forest cover, 721 sq km (0.76%) of tree cover and 2,261 sq km (0.28%) of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level as compared to the previous assessment i.e. ISFR 2019.
  • Forest cover inside the RFA/GW has shown a slight increase of 31 sq km whereas there is an increase of 1,509 sq km of forest cover outside the RFA/GW as compared to previous assessment of 2019.
  • The top five States in terms of increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km), Telangana (632 sq km), Odisha (537 sq km), Karnataka (155 sq km) and Jharkhand (110 sq km).
  • Forest cover in the hill districts of the country is 2,83,104 sq km, which is 40.17% of the total geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows a decrease of 902 sq km (0.32%) in 140 hill districts of the country.
  • The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 4,22,296 sq km, which is 37.53% of the geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows a decrease of 655 sq km of forest cover inside the RFA/GW in the tribal districts and an increase of 600 sq km outside.
  • Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 1,69,521 sq km, which is 64.66% of its geographical area. The current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 1,020 sq km (0.60%) in the region.
  • Mangrove cover in the country has increased by 17 sq km (0.34%) as compared to the previous assessment.
  • The total growing stock of wood in the country is estimated as 6,167.50 million cum comprising 4388.15 million cum inside forest areas and 1779.35 million cum outside recorded forest areas (TOF). The average growing stock per hectare in forest has been estimated as 56.60 cum.
  • Total bamboo bearing area of the country is estimated as 1,49,443 sq km. There is a decrease of 10,594 sq km in bamboo bearing area as compared to the estimate of ISFR 2019.
  • In the present assessment, total carbon stock in forest is estimated as 7,204.0 million tonnes. There is an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 20J9. The annual increase is 39.7 million tonnes, which is 145.6 million tonnes CO2 eq.
  • Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) represents the largest pool of carbon stock in forests, which has been estimated as 4,010.2 million tonnes. The SOC contributes 56% to the total forest carbon stock of the country.
  • Fire prone forest areas of different severity classes have been mapped in the grids of Skm x Skm based on the frequency of forest fires. The analysis reveals that 22.27% of the forest cover of the country is highly to extremely fire prone.
  • The correlation analysis between the AGB and the HV, HH and HV/HH polarized backscatter reveals that the HH, HV polarized backscatter has better correlation as compared to HH/HV polarization.As per the Climate Hotspot projections for the studied periods i.e. 2030, 2050 and 2085, it has been observed that Ladakh, jammu 6 Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are projected to witness highest temperature increase while Andaman 6 Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are projected to witness the least temperature rise over these periods. The North-Eastern States and Upper Malabar Coast of India are projected to experience the highest increase in rainfall; whereas, part of North-Eastern States like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim; North-Western parts of the country namely Ladakh, Jammu 6 Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are projected to experience least increase and sometimes even decline in rainfall.

To read the complete report, click here

Land–use classification in India

  1. Forest: Includes all lands classed as forests under any legal enactment dealing with forests or administered as forests.
  2. Area under Non-agricultural Uses: Includes all lands occupied by buildings, roads and railways or under water, e.g. river, and canals and other lands used for non-agriculture purpose.
  3. Barren and un-cultivable land: Includes all barren and un-cultivable land like mountains, desert etc.
  4. Permanent pastures and other grazing lands: Includes all grazing lands where they are permanent pastures and meadows or not. Village common grazing land is included under this head.
  5. Land under miscellaneous tree crops and groves etc: This includes all cultivable land, which is not included in ‘Net Area Sown’ but is put to some agricultural uses. Lands under Casuarina trees, thatching grasses, bamboo bushes, and other groves for fuel, etc which are not included under ‘Orchards’ are classified under this category.
  6. Culturable Wasteland: This includes lands available for cultivation. Such lands may be either fallow or covered with shrubs or jungles, which are not put to any use. Land once cultivated but not cultivated for five years in succession should be include in this category at the end of the five years.
  7. Fallow lands other than current fallows: This includes all lands, which were taken up for cultivation but are temporarily out of cultivation for a period of not less than one year and not more than five years.
  8. Current Fallows: This represents cropped area, which are kept fallow during the current year. For example, if any seeding area is not cropped in the same year again, it may be treated as current fallows.
  9. Net Area Sown: This represents the total area sown with crops and orchards. Area sown more than once in the same year is counted only once.

Agriculture land/Cultivable land/Culturable land = 5+6+7+8+9

Cultivated Land= 8+9

Reporting area of land utilization= 1 to 9

State of Environment Report

The main objective of the State of Environment Report of India is to bring out an overview of the environmental scenario of India that serves as a baseline document and assists in logical and information-based decision-making.

The SoE Report aims to provide policy guidelines and strategies for resource allocation for the coming decades, based on analysis of the state and trends of the environment and provide guidance for national environmental action planning.

The State of the Environment Report for India covers the state and trends of the environment (land, air, water, biodiversity) and five key issues viz. Climate Change, Food Security, Water Security, Energy Security and Managing Urbanization.

The report provides an insight on various priority issues for India related to the current status of environment and natural resources, the pressures behind environmental changes and the impacts associated with these changes. The report also assesses the Government's current and proposed policy initiatives or programmes as a response to check and monitor further degradation of environment and also suggests policy options.

Salient points of State of Environment Report 2009

  • About 45 percent of India's land is degraded due to erosion, soil acidity, alkalinity and salinity, water logging and wind erosion. The prime causes of land degradation are deforestation, unsustainable farming, mining and excessive groundwater extraction. However, over two-thirds of the degraded 147 million hectares can be regenerated quite easily. India's forest cover is also gradually increasing (currently about 21%).
  • Air pollution is increasing in all its cities. The level of respirable suspended particulate matter (the small pieces of soot and dust that get inside the lungs) had gone up in all the 50 cities across India. The main causes of urban air pollution were vehicles and factories.
  • India is using 75 percent of the water it can use, and it has "just enough for the future if it is careful. Lack of proper pricing of water for domestic usage, poor sanitation, unregulated extraction of groundwater by industry, discharge of toxic and organic wastewater by factories, inefficient irrigation and overuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides are the main causes of water problems in the country.
  • While India remains one of the world's 17 "megadiverse" countries in terms of the number of species it houses, 10 percent of its wild flora and fauna are on the threatened list. The main causes for this were habitat destruction, poaching, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution and climate change.
  • About one-third of India's urban population now lives in slums.
  • India contributes only about five percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate change. However, about 700 million Indians directly face the threat of global warming today, as it affects farming, makes droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe and is raising the sea level.

Related Resources

  1. State of Forest Report 2021
  2. Environment Statistics - EnviStats India 2021


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