"The report has stated that although there is a decreased in the recorded forest areas, it has been offset due to the increased tree cover outside the forest areas". This area reported a net loss of 630 sq km of pristine forests. Forest cover grew by 6,778 sqkm and tree cover by 1,243 sqkm.
The mangrove cover of the country has shown improvement as the report shows that it has increased by 181 sq kms with Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat being the top three gainers in terms of mangrove cover. "The increase in forest cover in VDF is followed by increase in open forest", the Minister said.
Bengal has added 21sqkm forest cover, which FSI officials say can be attributed to plantation activities mostly outside recorded forest areas and because of conservation efforts on the coastal mangrove vegetation.
The estimation exercise has found a reduction of over 1,000sqkm in the forest cover in five northeastern states - Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya.
However, the situation continues to worsen in the northeast which is constantly seeing its rich forest cover shrink as shown by forest survey reports since 2013.
In fact, the decrease in MDF and huge open forests have been identified as areas that need to be addressed on priority in order to increase India's forest cover.
Though estimation of carbon stock is a regular feature of the India State of Forest Report, the present report has highlighted the state level estimates.
According to the report, the increasing trend of forest and tree cover is largely due to the various national policies aimed at conservation and sustainable management of forests like Green India Mission, National Agro-Forestry policy (NAP), REDD plus policy, Joint Forest Management (JFM), National Afforestation Programme and funds under Compensatory Afforestation to States.
Released by Union Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and his deputy Mahesh Verma, the report notes that the States where forest and tree cover increased the most are in the South - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha and Telangana.
This means a total of 802,088 square kilometres of the country, or 24.4 percent, is now covered in vital carbon sinks.
The total growing stock of India's forest and trees outside forests is estimated as 5,822.377 million cum, of which 4,218.380 million cum is inside the forests and 1,603.997 million cum outside. There is an increase of 19 million tonnes in the bamboo-growing stock as compared to the last assessment done in 2011.
FSI used remote sensing as well as ground work. However, in the 2017 report, mangrove cover increased to 10 sq km, all of it in Uttara Kannada district.
R. K. Dobriyal, additional principal chief conservator of forests says, "We have begun replanting saplings that died in the first two drives".
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