Measuring forest cover in India: A doubtful green cover

Source: The post is based on the article “A doubtful green cover” published in the Indian Express on 7th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 3 – Environment and Bio-diversity Conservation.

Relevance: About measuring forest cover in India.

News: The Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Reports has shown a steady increase in the country’s forests. For instance, the recent report also showed that the country added more than 1,500 sq km of forest between 2019 and 2021. But, experts have maintained that these reports are not satisfactory indicators of ecological health.

Why increasing forests does not indicate ecological health?

a) Bungalows of ministers and senior officers, the Reserve Bank of India building and parts of the campuses of AIIMS and IIT in Delhi are classified as “forests” in official maps, b) The area under plantations have gone up while the country has consistently lost good forests in the past three decades, c) In the last 10 years, more than 1,600 square km of forest land has been cleared for infrastructure or industrial projects — nearly a third of this has been diverted in the past three years.

Must read: Lutyens’ bungalows, RBI, encroachments are ‘forests’ in govt’s forest cover map

What are the challenges associated with Compensatory Afforestation Programme (CAP)?

In 2016, the government made that the developers must offset the loss of forests due to developmental projects and initiated the Compensatory Afforestation Programme (CAP).

Issues with generated forests: The programme follows a plantation-centred approach means that compensatory afforestation takes place in discontinuous patches — the new green tracts are a far cry from the dense forests they are meant to replace.

Plantations cannot replace forests: Plantations are mostly monocultures that are no substitute for biodiverse ecosystems. They are susceptible to fires, pests and epidemics and often act as a barrier to natural forest regeneration.

Underutilised funds: The investigation shows that large sums of money deposited in the afforestation fund are lying unused.

Read more: States fall short of target to improve forest cover, quality

Why India needs to properly measure India’s forest cover?

Properly assess afforestation: The ambiguities and grey areas in measuring forest could prevent India’s afforestation programme from achieving its potential.

Fulfilling India’s commitment: India has committed to creating an additional sink of 2.5 billion to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by increasing its forest cover. To fulfil that, India has to increase its forest cover by about 25 million hectares in the next seven years.

The government needs to be more transparent in the way it maps the country’s forests.

Print Friendly and PDF