India’s forest and tree cover grows by an astonishing 1% in two years

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Almost one quarter of India is now covered by either forests or trees, according to new data published by the government.

The latest India State of Forest Report 2017, released this week, highlights that forests and trees have increased by 8,021 square kilometres since the last survey was taken in 2015.

This means a total of 802,088 square kilometres of the country, or 24.4 percent, is now covered in vital carbon sinks. This is close to the entire size of its neighbouring country Pakistan.

So-called ‘very dense forest’ increased by 1.36 per cent, a particularly good sign given its strong capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.

India’s Environment Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, pointed out that the country is now ranked 10th in the world for such covering “even though it accounts for 2.4 per cent of the world surface area and sustains the needs of 17 per cent of humans”.

The total ‘carbon stock’ in the country’s forests, defined as the amount of carbon stored in an ecosystem, is now estimated to be just over 7 billion tonnes, an increase of 38 million tonnes.

The government largely cited improved conservation efforts as the main cause behind the increase in green covering. These include new agroforestry practices, and an improvement in scrub and mangrove areas.

The country has ramped up its efforts to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement to create additional carbon sinks of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.

Andhra Pradesh was the most improved state since 2015, increasing its forest cover by an astonishing 2,141 square kilometres; an area roughly the size of Luxembourg.

However, other states fared less well with a number decreasing their coverage by up to 500 square kilometres. The government gave a number of reasons for this, including increased development activities, agricultural expansion and the impacts of natural disasters.

The cover photo shows the Mahabaleshwar region in central India.

Image Credit: Rakesh Nagula

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