The ‘India State of Forest Report(ISFR) is an exercise conducted by the Forest Survey of India every two years. The biennial report is formulated to take stock of the forest resources of India and as of now, 16 such reports have been prepared. The ISFR 2021 is the 17th edition of this project. The Forest Survey of India is established under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). It was set up in 1981 and operates in Delhi as its headquarters.
The ISFR 2021 has concluded that India has a forest cover of 7, 13,789 sq km i.e. 21.71% of the country’s total geographical area. An increase of 1,540 sq km has been noticed in the forest cover. The ISFR is widely used by both the Central and state governments, and the policymakers, forest officials among others.
The National Forest Policy of India, 1988 strived at having 33% of the geographical area of the nation under forest and tree cover. The target was to have a periodic evaluation for the same purposes. Considering the present status of forest and tree cover, achieving the stated target still seems like a task. However, the Coordinated and committed efforts of all stakeholders based on the comprehensive assessment of ISFR 2021 can reap rich dividends in this regard.
The ISFR took note of the forest cover, mangrove cover, bamboo resources, tree cover, and forest fire monitoring among other relevant information. The report also had certain fresh endeavours as –
It included a chapter on the assessment of forest cover in the Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area of India.
The ‘Above Ground Biomass’ is also measured this time. The research was also done by FSI in coordination with Space Application Centre(SAC), and ISRO for measuring the same.
The key results of the ISFR 2021 are as follows
- Russia has the most forest cover in the entire globe followed by Brazil and Canada at 2nd and 3rd spot respectively. India has the 10th largest forest area in the world. (as per 2020 estimates). However, India is 3rd in the world when it comes to the list of countries with an annual net gain in the forest area. (2010-2020). China tops in this category and the second position is with Australia.
- The total tree and forest cover is estimated to be 80.9 million hectares and that comes out to be 24.62% of the country’s total geographical area. There is a significant growth of 2261 sq km from the 2019 findings. Among all forest classes, the Open forest area is the most (9.34% of the total geographical area of the country) and is followed by Moderately dense forests.
- The top 5 states with an increase in forest cover are as follows
- Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km)
- Jharkhand (110 sq. Km.)
- In terms of area, Madhya Pradesh is the state with the largest forest cover in the country. It is followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra. 5. In terms of forest cover as a percentage of the total area in the country, the list of top 5 states are
- Mizoram (84.53%)
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Nagaland (73.90%)
- Five states/UTs have > 75% of their area under forests –
Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Meghalaya.
- Tree cover, which includes all patches of trees less than one hectare outside the Recorded Forest Area is increasing.
- India’s forest and Trees Outside Forests (TOF) are more promising than those recorded in ISFR 2019.
- It is also remarked that the stock of Bamboo in India has grown larger. The net increase concerning ISFR 2019 is 13,882 million. 402 mn tonnes is the whole green weight of bamboo films.
- The aggregate Mangrove cover in the country is measured at 4992 sq. Km. and that comes out to be an increase of 17 sq km concerning the assessment conducted in 2019. Among states, West Bengal hosts most Mangrove forests, followed by Gujarat, and Andaman & Nicobar Island.
- A forest fire has been a concern of late and ISFR 2021 mapped the forest fire-prone areas to better the prospects of averting it. The Dry Deciduous forests are most threatened due to the risk posed by forest fires. It calculates that 35.47 percent of the country’s area is home to forest fires.
- The first-of-its-kind examination of forest cover in Tiger Reserves and Lion Conservation areas of India revealed the following analysis
A total of 52 tiger reserves in 18 states have 55,666.27 sq km of the country’s total forest cover I.e. 7.80%.
- The mapping of Climate change hotspots in Indian Forests is conducted with computer analysis for their different years- 20230, 2050 & 2085. It was conducted by FSI and BITS Pilani, Goa. It is concluded that Ladakh, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand have the chance of confronting the highest increase in temperature. The States/UTs bearing the least impact of temperature rise are- Andaman & Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.
- The 7 major cities were also considered with respect to Forest Cover measurement. They host 10.21 percent of the total geographical area of cities. India’s political capital, Delhi has the largest forest cover followed by the Financial capital, Mumbai, and the IT hub Bengaluru.
- The report has also stressed separately the status of hill areas, tribal states, and the North East region of the country. It is commendable as it helps in assisting the fragile areas in locations that are of significant importance and also occupied by vulnerable sections of society.
The team relied on digital initiatives to capture the information. The use of the National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC) and other space initiatives was also witnessed. This is in line with the Government’s vision of ushering in Digital India.
The task undertaken by the FSI of formulating ISFR 2021 is commendable as it significantly helps India in tracking its short-term, medium-term, and long-term environmental commitments at various international forums. It will also help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.