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Increase in India's Forest Cover May Have Only Occurred in Plantations

India's forest cover may have gone up to 7,08,273 sq km, 21.5 percent of the country’s geographical area, from 7,01,495 sq km two years ago.

News18.com

Updated:February 15, 2018, 1:23 PM IST
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Increase in India's Forest Cover May Have Only Occurred in Plantations
Picture for Representation.
New Delhi: India's latest report on forest cover which recorded an increase has been a celebrated, but it could be masking a larger problem.

The country's forest cover increased by 6778 sq km, or 1 percent, between the two India State of Forest Reports (ISFR) of 2015 and 2017.

The increase, said the 2017 report, was due to forest cover going up in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, due to plantation and conservation activities "both within and outside the Recorded Forest areas as well as improvement in interpretation due to better radiometric resolution of the recent satellite data from Resourcesat-2".

India's forest cover may have gone up to 7,08,273 sq km, 21.5 percent of the country’s geographical area, from 7,01,495 sq km two years ago.

However, according to Scroll, this could be masking deforestation as the increase in forest cover could be happening largely on plantations, instead of forests. There was a loss of 21,000 sq km of standing forests, between 2015 and 2017, while 24,000 sq km of denuded land turned green, said the report. This is too fast for a natural forest to grow.

Plantation has been mentioned in the ISFR, as an area where forest cover is increasing. They are included in the government's definition of forest cover. However, unlike a forest, a plantation is managed area of mono-specific trees, sometimes alien to the land that can harm the natural vegetation of the area. They cannon hope to match the rich bio-diversity and ecosystems of natural forests.

The fact that the ISFR touches on improved mapping technology is important, too. With better technology, it is a possibility that existing forest cover is being more minutely surveyed, instead of it actually increasing.

Another news report, in the Hindu, today, pointed out the alarmingly slow growth of green cover in Tamil Nadu. At only 102 sq.km in the past two years, it has had the slowest growth rate in all the southern states. This has happened due to "legal tree felling". The Nilgiris were the worst hit, with a loss of nearly 144 sq.km.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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