7 PM |What carbon numbers mean for climate target: On release of Forest Survey of India Report| 4th January 2020

Context:The recent India State of Forest Report (ISFR) and the carbon stocks in Indian Forests.

More in news:

  • India State of Forest Report 2019 has been prepared by Forest Survey of India (FSI).
  • Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on December 30, 2019, released a report depicting forest cover in India.

India State of Forest Report 2019:

  • India State of Forest Report 2019 has been prepared by Forest Survey of India (FSI). It is a biannual report.
  • The report is prepared after mapping of forests and trees through satellite.
  • Since 1987, 15 such assessments have been completed and the current assessment is the 16th in the series.
  • Methodology:
  • In tune with the Government of India’s vision of Digital India, FSI’s assessment is largely based on digital data whether it is satellite data, vector boundaries of districts or data processing of field measurements.
  • The report provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock inside and outside the forest areas, carbon stock in India’s forests, Forest Types and Biodiversity, Forest Fire monitoring and forest cover in different slopes & altitudes.
  • Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report.

Key findings of the report:

  • The total forest cover of the country is 7,12,249 sq km which is 21.67% of the geographical area of the country. The tree cover of the country is estimated as 95,027 sq km which is 2.89% of the geographical area.
  • In terms of canopy density classes, area covered by Very Dense Forest (VDF) is 99,278 sq km (3.02%), Moderately Dense Forest (MDF) is 3,08,472 sq km (9.39%) and Open Forest (OF) is 3,04,499 sq km (9.26%).
  • The current assessment shows an increase of 3,976 sq km (0.56%) of forest cover, 1,212 sq km (1.29%) of tree cover and 5,188 sq km (0.65%) of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level as compared to the previous assessment i.e. ISFR 2017.
  • The top five States in terms of increase in forest cover are Karnataka (1,025 sq km), Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km), Kerala (823 sq km), Jammu & Kashmir (371 sq km) and Himachal Pradesh (334 sq km).
  • Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram (85.41%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%), Meghalaya (76.33%), Manipur (75.46%) and Nagaland (75.31%).
  • Decline in forest cover of Hilly areas:
  • The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 4,22,351 sq km, which is 37.54% of the geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows a decrease of 741 sq km of forest cover.
  • Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 1,70,541 sq km, which is 65.05% of its geographical area. The current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45%) in the region. Except Assam and Tripura, all the States in the region show decrease in forest cover.
  • Mangrooves:
  • Mangrove cover has been separately reported in the ISFR 2019 and the total mangrove cover in the country is 4,975 sq km.
  • An increase of 54 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2017.
  • Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Gujarat (37 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).
  • Bamboo Resources of the country:
  • Bamboos are one of the fastest growing perennial plants in the world. Large tracts of natural bamboo forest are found in tropical Asian countries between 15° and 25° North latitudes. In India, bamboo grows naturally almost throughout the country except in Kashmir region.
  • The extent of bamboo bearing area of the country has been estimated 16.00 million hectare.
  • There is an increase of 0.32 million hectare in bamboo bearing area as compared to the last assessment of ISFR 2017.
  • The total estimated green weight of bamboo culms is 278 million tonnes, slowly an increase of 88 million tonnes as compared to ISFR 2017.

Carbon Stock in India’s Forests:

  • Forests play an important role in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Forests are considered as sink, reservoir and source of carbon. Healthy and growing forests sequester and store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem. Carbon sequestration by forests has attracted much interest globally as it is a relatively inexpensive means of mitigation of climate change.
  • India is committed at the highest level to meet its commitments under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) made to the international community under the Paris Agreement (2015). According to the forestry target under NDC, India has committed to create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 eq through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • Under the current assessment the total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated 7,124.6 million tonnes and there an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2017.
  • The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.2 million tonnes CO2 eq.

Challenge in meeting the targets of INDCs:

  • An assessment by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) last year had projected that, by 2030, the carbon stock in forests as well as tree cover was likely to reach 31.87 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the business as usual scenario.
  • An additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of sink, as India has promised to do, would mean taking the size of the sink close to 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • Considering the rate of growth of the carbon sink in the last few years, that is quite a stiff target India has set for itself. In the last two years, the carbon sink has grown by just about 0.6%%.
  • Even compared to 2005, the size of carbon sink has increased by barely 7.5%.
  • To meet its NDC target, even with most optimistic estimates of carbon stock trapped in trees outside of forest areas, the sink has to grow by at least 15% to 20% over the next ten-year period.

Way Forward:

  • The shortfall of 0.25 billion tonnes and 0.75 billion tonnes of CO2 eq against the target of 2.5 – 3.0 billion tonnes respectively can be achieved by activities such as restoration of open forests and afforestation on different kinds of available lands like wastelands, agro-forestry, along national & State highways, railway siding, urban landscapes etc.
  • The study further shows that restoration of open forests is the most cost effective strategy to achieve the NDC target and at the same time it holds large potential of creating additional carbon sink.


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