New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) India has recorded 0.96 per cent increase in forest cover between 2015 and 2017, with northeastern states continuing to be the most densely forested. Mizoram is having the maximum land under green cover, says a government report.
Mizoram, with 86.27 per cent of its geographical area under forest cover, has also lost the maximum forest cover among all states (531 sq km) to developmental activities and shifting cultivation.
According to the India State Forest Report-2017, released by the Environment Ministry here, India has added 6,778 sq km of forest area -- an increase of 0.96 per cent -- between 2015 and 2017 despite population and livestock pressures.
However, the forest cover in five of the seven northeastern states of Mizoram (531 sq km), Nagaland (459 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq km), Tripura (164 sq km) and Meghalaya (116 sq km) have dropped.
With 66,964 sq km, or 79.96 per cent of its area, Arunachal Pradesh comes second in terms of overall forest cover in India, even as it is over three times smaller than Madhya Pradesh that has the maximum forest cover of 77,414 sq km, about 25 per cent of its total geographical area.
Manipur has 76.45 per cent of its total area under forest cover; Meghalaya has 76.45 per cent despite losing 116 sq km to deforestation; Nagaland has 75.33 per cent forest cover despite losing 450 sq km since 2015; and Sikkim has 47.13 per cent forest cover.
Assam, with 35 per cent forest cover, has added 567 sq km since 2015 through plantation drive.
According to the report, shifting cultivation, biotic pressure, rotational felling, diversion of forest land for developmental activities, agricultural expansion and natural disasters were the reasons for shrinking forest land.
The total forest cover in the northeastern region is 1,71,306 sq km, which is 65.34 per cent of its total geographical area in comparison with a national forest cover of 21.54 per cent. This when the region has lost 630 sq km forest area since 2015.
The pan-India biennial report unveiled by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan says the country stands 10th in the world in terms of forest area and eighth in terms of annual forest gain.
"The total forest cover of the county is 708,273 sq km, which is 21.54 per cent of India's geographical area. The tree cover of the country is estimated to be 93,815 sq km, which is 2.85 per cent," the report added.
The Minister said the news was "good" because it reverses the trend of decreasing forest cover the world over.
"The global trend is decreasing while in India the forest land is increasing. 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 means, we are doing good in terms of preservation and expansion despite pressure of population and livestock," he said.
The report said India also added 1,243 sq km of tree cover since 2015.
Andhra Pradesh, with 2,141 sq km increase in total forest and tree cover, is at the top, followed by Karnataka (1,101 sq km) and Kerala (1,043 sq km).
Very dense forests have expanded to 98,158 sq km in 2017 from 88,633 sq km in 2015.
On the flip side, 12 states and union territories have seen a dip in forest cover.