State tops in tree cover across India
For the second consecutive time, Maharashtra recorded maximum tree cover across India as well as maximum trees outside forests, both in number and area, according to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019, prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
Maharashtra’s tree cover was 9,831 sq km in 2017 and increased to 10,806 sq. km in 2019, accounting for 3.51% of the state’s geographical area (3,07,713 sq km). The total tree cover in the country is 95,027 sq km of which Maharashtra accounts for 11.3%. Similarly, the extent of trees outside forests (TOF) spread across 26,945 sq km in Maharashtra (9% of TOF in India). TOF refers to tree resources found outside recorded forest areas. Forest cover presented accounts for tree patches of size one hectare (ha) and more having canopy density more than 10%. Trees in patches less than one hectare, including scattered trees, are assessed through sampling based methodology.
“There has been regular effort to ensure fruit bearing trees outside reserved forest areas are planted well and protected since the early 1990s in Maharashtra. Over the years, there has been a 95% success rate, which has ensured highest tree cover and TOF. In the last four years, forest cover and tree cover growth outside forest areas increased by 13,000 sq. km, and [by] 5,188 sq. km over the past two years,” said Union minister for environment, forest and climate change, Prakash Javadekar.
HT had on December 13 reported, the state and Central governments approved the felling of 13,42,703 trees for various development projects in the state over the past four years. The state has lost nearly 3 million trees over a period of 14 years.
For the first time, IFSR 2019 collated information on the number of wetlands identified within reserved forests in India (62,466 wetlands across 27.9 lakh sq km). Maharashtra has 8,821 wetlands spread across 1.16 lakh sq km with 686 inland natural wetlands; 4,275 man-made ones; 432 coastal wetlands; and 3,446 small wetlands (less than 2.25 hectares). “These wetlands are home to a large biodiversity and play important roles in forest-water regime and forest hydrology, apart from being carbon sinks,” said Siddhanta Das, director-general (forest) and special secretary, MoEFCC.
According to ISFR 2019, over 95 lakh people in Maharashtra are dependent on forest resources such as fuelwood. The total carbon stock of forests in the state, including TOF that are larger than one hectare, came to 440.51 million tonnes (equivalent to 1,615.20 million tonnes of CO) which is 6.18 % of the country’s total forest carbon. “Maharashtra forest department’s 50 crore tree plantation has not only helped ensure the state leads in tree cover, but also functions in line with the Centre’s goal of creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes under the Paris Agreement,” said Shailesh Tembhurnikar, additional principal chief conservator of forest (conservation), Maharashtra.
Extremely fire prone areas in the state were identified across 3.4% of the total geographical area, with 4% as very highly fire prone, 15% as highly prone, and 60% as least prone. There was also an increase in forests along hilly terrain in the state, the report said.