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India Loses 2.33 Million Hectares of Tree Cover Since 2000


Recent data from the Global Forest Watch (GFW) monitoring project shows that India has experienced a loss of 2.33 million hectares of tree cover since the year 2000. This decline represents a 6% reduction in tree cover over this period.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of Global Forest Watch (GFW)
  2. Status of Forest at the Global Level
  3. Status of Forests in India
  4. Major Forest Conservation Initiatives in India

Key Findings of Global Forest Watch (GFW)

Loss of Humid Primary Forest in India:

  • India lost approximately 4,14,000 hectares of humid primary forest (about 4.1% of the total tree cover) between 2002 and 2023.
  • A primary forest is a forest that hasn’t been damaged by human activity.

Carbon Emissions and Absorption:

  • From 2001 to 2022, Indian forests emitted 51 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
  • Indian forests removed 141 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
  • Net carbon balance represents a carbon sink of approximately 89.9 million tons annually.

Tree Cover Loss within Natural Forests:

  • 95% of the tree cover loss in India between 2013 and 2023 occurred within natural forests.
  • Maximum tree cover loss:
    • 189,000 hectares in 2017
    • 175,000 hectares in 2016
    • 144,000 hectares in 2023

States with Highest Tree Cover Loss:

  • Five states accounted for 60% of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2023.
  • Assam experienced the highest tree cover loss at 324,000 hectares (compared to an average of 66,600 hectares).
  • Significant losses also observed in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur.

Impact of Forest Fires:

  • Fires caused 1.6% of tree cover loss in India between 2001 and 2022.
  • Maximum tree cover loss due to fires was recorded in 2008, amounting to 3,000 hectares.
  • Odisha had the highest rate of tree cover loss due to fires, averaging 238 hectares lost per year from 2001 to 2022.

Role of Forests in Climate Change:

  • Forests act as a carbon sink by absorbing carbon dioxide when standing or regrowing.
  • Forest loss accelerates climate change by releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Status of Forest at the Global Level

Humid Primary Forest Loss:

  • From 2002 to 2023, a total of 76.3 Mha (million hectares) of humid primary forest was lost globally, accounting for 16% of the total tree cover loss in the same period.

Total Tree Cover Loss:

  • From 2001 to 2023, the global tree cover loss amounted to 488 Mha, equivalent to a 12% decrease since 2000.

Drivers of Tree Cover Loss:

  • Globally from 2001 to 2022, 23% of tree cover loss occurred due to deforestation.

Tree Cover Distribution:

  • As of 2010, the top 5 countries represented 55% of all tree cover.
  • Russia had the most tree cover at 755 Mha, followed by Brazil, Canada, the US, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tree Cover Loss by Fires:

  • From 2001 to 2022, 126 Mha of tree cover was lost due to fires globally, and 333 Mha from other drivers of loss.

Initial Tree Cover:

  • In 2010, the world’s tree cover spanned approximately 3.92 billion hectares (Gha), roughly 30% of the Earth’s land area.

Tree Cover Loss:

  • Between 2010 and 2023, the global tree cover loss amounted to 28.3 Mha, due to factors like deforestation, land-use changes, and natural disturbances.

Status of Forests in India

Forest and Tree Cover:

  • According to the India State of Forest Report 2021, the total forest and tree cover in India is 24.62% of the country’s geographical area.
  • Total forest cover is 21.71% and the total tree cover is 2.91%.

State-wise Forest Cover:

  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

Top States by Forest Cover (% of Geographical Area):

  • Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76.00%), Manipur (74.34%), and Nagaland (73.90%).

Employment in Forestry Sector:

  • According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 6.26M people were employed in India’s forestry sector in 2010.

Contribution to Economy:

  • According to the FAO, the forestry sector contributed a net -690 million USD to India’s economy in 2010, approximately -0.037% of India’s GDP.

Plantation Area:

  • In India, wood fibre or timber represents the largest plantation area by type, spanning 5.92 Mha and covering 1.9% of the land area.

Largest Relative Plantation Area:

  • Lakshadweep has the largest relative plantation area in India at 76%, primarily consisting of fruit plantations.

Major Forest Conservation Initiatives in India

Forest Cover Assessment:
  • The Forest Survey of India (FSI) conducts biennial assessments of forest cover, with findings published in the India State of Forest Report (ISFR).
  • ISFR 2021 reported India’s forest and tree cover at 8,09,537 sq km, accounting for 24.62% of the country’s geographical area.
  • This marks an increase of 2261 sq km compared to the ISFR 2019 assessment, indicating progress in forest conservation efforts.
Government Initiatives to Boost Forest Cover:
  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC):
    • Launched in 2008 to raise awareness about climate change and counter its effects.
  • National Mission for Green India:
    • One of the eight Missions under NAPCC.
    • Aims to protect, restore, and enhance India’s forest cover and respond to climate change through adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • Nagar Van Yojana (NVY):
    • Launched in 2020 with a goal to establish 600 Nagar Vans and 400 Nagar Vatika in urban and peri-urban areas by 2024-25.
    • Intends to increase green cover, preserve biodiversity, and improve urban dwellers’ quality of life.
  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAMPA):
    • Used by States/UTs for compensatory afforestation to counterbalance forest land diversion for developmental projects.
    • 90% of the CAF funds go to states, while 10% are retained by the Centre.
  • Multi-Departmental Efforts:
    • Afforestation activities are undertaken under various programs and schemes by line Ministries, State Governments/UT Administrations, NGOs, Civil Society, and Corporate bodies.
    • Notable efforts include participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, National Bamboo Mission, and Sub-Mission on Agroforestry.
  • Draft National Forest Policy:
    • A draft was released in 2019 focusing on conservation, protection, and management of forests, and safeguarding the interests of tribals and forest-dependent people.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024