The Union Ministry of Environment releases the State of Forest Report (2021) every two years. The last report was released in 2019. The 2021 report is the 17th in a series that began in 1987.
Overall, the latest report describes the state of forest development as positive. Between 2019 and 2021, the forest area in the country has increased by 1,540 sq km. With this, the forest area in the country has increased to 7,13,789 sq km.
This is 21.71 per cent of the total geographical area of the country, which is a slight increase compared to 2019 per cent (21.67 per cent). The area of trees has increased by 721 sq km.
The question of dense forests
Saltwater mangroves have grown by 17 percent and now cover 4,992 square kilometers. The highest forest growing states are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
Forest cover has declined in 11 states. Forests in the northeast have been severely damaged and deforestation has occurred in five states. These include Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
But a closer look at the report reveals that the increase in forest cover is not in dense but in less dense forests. Dense forests are constantly declining, which is a matter of concern.
At present, the share of dense forests in the total forest area is only 3.04 per cent, while the highest share (9.34 per cent) is in the open forests.
In the last two years, the “very dense forest” category has increased by only 501 sq km, while the open forest has increased by 2,612 sq km. In the “normal dense forest” category, 1,582 sq km of forests have been destroyed. Experts say that this shows that natural forests in the country are turning into open forests, which means the existence of forests as a whole.
Deforestation in India