There has been a marginal increase in the forest cover across the country, according to sources in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Forest Survey of India, which functions under the ministry.
A Forest Survey of India is released every two years to take account of the total forest cover in the country. A senior official at the Forest Survey of India in Dehradun told this correspondent over telephone: “The Forest Survey of India report is ready and final touches are being given to it. The report will be released from Delhi and it is likely to show a marginal increase in the forest coverage across the country. However, greater details will only come to light on 12 February when the report is released.”
The Forest Survey of India report of 2015 had also shown a marginal increase in the total forest cover in India, with some 3,775 sq km of net increase in forest cover reported, compared to 2013. The total forest cover in India is 701,673 sq km, comprising 21.34% of the total geographical area of the country.
According to the 2015 survey, the highest increase in forest cover was seen in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu and Chandigarh and stood at 52.73% and 21.65% respectively compared to 2013.
However, loss of forest cover was noticed from states like Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, among some others. Environmentalists, however, feel that the survey does not represent the true forest area coverage and has blamed the survey’s nature of sampling for it.
Dr Ajay Saxena, project director at the Centre for Science and Environment, argued, “The change in the forest cover that the survey generally shows is not any increase in the dense forest cover, but what it shows is mostly an increase in the plantation. The faulty sampling also includes the inclusion of plantations in forest category. In reality, there has been no such increase in any forest cover in the country; rather the coverage is on the decline.”
However, the Centre has been working towards increasing the total forest cover in the country, for which several afforestation programmes have been taken up under various Centrally-sponsored schemes such as National Afforestation Programme (NAP), Green India Mission, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, among many others.
The National Afforestation Programme of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is a Centrally sponsored scheme that is implemented through a decentralised mechanism of the State Forest Development Agency at the state level.
The programme aims at afforestation and eco-restoration of degraded forests and adjoining areas through people’s participation in the country.