The country’s forest cover has increased by six per cent in the past two years — from 6,37,293 sq km to 6,75,538 sq km — taking the country closer to the goal of bringing 25 per cent of the geographical area under forest by 2007. The State of the Forest Report 2001, released by the Union Environment Minister, T.R. Baalu, here today has assessed the forest cover and tree cover to be about 7,57,010 sq km constituting 23.03 per cent of the country’s geographical area.The forest cover has been assessed as 20.55 per cent of the country’s geographical areas. Of this, dense forest area is spread over 4,16,809 sq km (12.68 per cent) and the open forests over 2,58,729 sq km (7.87 per cent). The remaining included the area under tree cover along roads, canals, scattered green patches on agricultural farms, homes and urban areas.
The total area under such tree cover is estimated to be 81,472 sq km or 2.48 per cent of the land area. The report, which is the first of the millennium, is the eighth assessment of the forest cover carried out by the Dehra Dun-based Forest Survey of India. The assessment is done after every two years and this time it was done by using the Digital Image Processing techniques where the accuracy is close to 95.9 per cent. Earlier, the assessment of forest cover was based on the interpretation of data available from the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites.
The latest technology has enabled delineation of forest cover down to 1 hectare while earlier reports were based on visual interpretation of satellite data where the limit was 25 hectares. However, the increase could be because of inclusion of smaller green areas, saying that the technology had also identified smaller patches of non-forest areas which could have been earlier categorised as forest areas. Forest cover information of 589 of the 593 districts has been presented in the report with statistics showing that Madhya Pradesh has the maximum forest area of 77,265 sq km followed by Arunachal Pradesh (68,045 sq km) and Chhattisgarh (56,448 sq km).