Asia is leading afforestation activity in the world with a significant contribution from India which is adding 300,000 hectares of forest every year, a senior UN official said.
"I would highlight India, which still has important population growth. The forests in India are growing at 300,000 hectare per annum," Eduardo Rojas Briales, Forestry Director of Food and Agriculture Organisation told journalists on Wednesday.
According to the 'State of the World's Forests' report, published by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, five countries -- India, China, Australia, Indonesia and Myanmar –- had the largest forested area in Asia and Pacific region. These countries accounted for 74% of the forest in the region, with China and Australia alone accounting for almost half the forest area of the region.
In the Asia and Pacific region, forests were lost at a rate of 0.7 million hectares per year in the 1990s but the trend reversed and forests recorded a growth rate of 1.4 million hectares per year over the period 2000–2010, the report said.
"This was primarily due to large scale afforestation efforts in China, where the forest area increased by 2 million hectares per year in the 1990s and by an average of 3 million hectares per year since 2000," it said, adding that Bhutan, India, the Philippines and Vietnam also increased forest area in the past ten years.
The report also highlighted China and India's targets for large scale forest planting in the next few years.
India's target is to cover 33% of its land area with forests and tree cover by 2012. However, 25% per cent of the country land area was covered by forests and trees in 2010, according to the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2010.
"To this should be added an unknown area of line plantings and other 'trees outside forests'," the report stated.
According to the report, China plans a 50 million hectare increase in the area of its planted forests by 2020, with the aim of covering 23% per cent of the total land area with forests, a target which may be reached by 2015 if current planting rates continue.
However, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Timor Leste (Official name of East Timor) and Bangladesh have not seen improvements in their forest cover in the past decade, Rojas Briales said. Forests cover was slightly less than one third of the total land area of Asia and Pacific.
The region's forested area was 740 million hectares in 2010, accounting for about 18% of the global forest area, according to FRA.
UN, which has declared 2011 as the 'International Year of Forests,' found that net global deforestation has declined by 37% but there still exists a billion hectare of degraded forest land. "Forests are vital to our well being," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon on Wednesday.
"They harbour 80% of land based biodiversity, and store more than 1 trillion tons of carbon... Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation account for more than those by the world's entire transportation sector," he added.