Karnataka tops the country in generating the maximum forest cover in the past two years, though a significant portion of it could be areas under plantation crops, according to the new India State of Forest report released here on Monday.
The forest cover in Karnataka has increased by 1,025 sq km between 2017 and 2019 followed by Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km) and Kerala (823 sq km). There were also an increase of more than 300 sq km of forest cover in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
The increase in all the three southern states, according to the report, can be attributed to the plantation and conservation activities within and outside the forest areas.
“These states have lots of areas under coffee, rubber and coconut plantation. Such patches of plantation of size more than one ha (0.01 sq km) was counted as forest cover. If the area is less than one ha, it was counted as tree cover,” Subhash Ashutosh, director general of Forest Survey of India that brings out the report told DH.
For the country as a whole, the total forest cover has increased by 3,976 sq km whereas the growth of tree cover is 1,212 sq km. Taken together the total increase in forest and tree cover is 5,188 sq km compared to the last assessment carried out two years ago.
According to the survey, the total forest and tree cover in India stands at 8,07,276 sq km (80.73 million ha), which translates to 24.56% of the geographical area.
“We will take some time to reach the national target of putting 33% of the country under forest and tree cover. It won’t happen by 2030 even though the area under tree and forest cover is on the rise,” said Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
In Karnataka, the maximum increase in forest cover was recorded in Tumkur district (308 sq km) followed by Udupi (145 sq km) and Dakshin Kannada (140 sq km). The forest rich Shimoga, on the other hand, lost nearly 50 sq km of its jungles.
While the forest and tree cover grew in the south, four North Eastern states – Manipur (499 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (276 sq km), Mizoram (180 sq km) and Meghalaya (27 sq km) reported loss of forest. Javadekar attributed the loss to traditional farming practice of Shifting Cultivation.
In addition, the forest cover inside the recorded forest areas shows a decline of 330 sq km.
The new report found that 22% of forest is highly prone to forest fire even though the number of such fires declined in 2019 after a spike in the previous year. The area under mangrove has expanded by 54 sq km.