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India State of Forest Report 2017

India State of Forest Report 2017

India State of Forest Report 2017

The Environment Ministry’s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ based on satellite imagery, may present a net positive balance in the form of 24.4% of India’s land area under some form of forest or tree cover, but this is but a broad-brush assessment. According to the report, forest and tree cover together registered a 1% rise over the previous estimate two years ago. However, such an estimate listing very dense, moderately dense, open and scrub forests mapped through remote sensing does not really provide deep insights into the integrity of the green areas. The emphasis in environmental policy to raise forest cover to 33% of the geographical area will yield some dividends. There has been an increase over the baseline cover of 20% at the turn of the century. Yet, tree cover is not the same as having biodiverse, old-growth forests. The ecosystem services performed by plantations that have a lot of trees grown for commercial purposes cannot be equated with those of an undisturbed assemblage of plants, trees and animals. India may be endowed with 16 major forest types, and 221 types and sub-types based on the Champion and Seth classification, but retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation. Latter-day development pressures are also taking their toll. Forest restoration should, therefore, aid the return of native vegetation.

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