India's forest cover increased marginally to 24.62%: Survey

The total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectare, which is 24.62 per cent of the geographical area of the country. This is an increase of 2,261 sq km compared to the assessment of 2019, as per the ‘India State of Forest Report 2021.’

Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 1,540 sq km and that in tree cover at 721 sq km.
The latest assessment reveals that 17 states/UT’s have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover, minister for environment, forest and climate change Bhupender Yadav said while releasing the report prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on Thursday. 
He said the focus of the Narendra Modi-led government is not just to conserve the forests quantitatively but to enrich it qualitatively. 
ISFR-2021 provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock, carbon stock in India’s forests, forest fire monitoring, forest cover in tiger reserve areas, above ground estimates of biomass using SAR data and climate change hotspots in Indian forests.
Increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest followed by very dense forest. Top three states showing increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km) followed by Telangana (632 sq km) and Odisha (537 sq km).
Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five states are Mizoram (84.53 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33 per cent), Meghalaya (76.00 per cent), Manipur (74.34 per cent) and Nagaland (73.90 per cent).
17 states/UTs have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover. Out of these states and UT’s, five states/UTs namely Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have more than 75 per cent forest cover while 12 states/UTs, namely Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Assam, Odisha, have forest cover between 33 per cent and 75 per cent.
Total mangrove cover in the country is 4,992 sq km. An increase of 17 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2019. Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Odisha (8 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (4 sq km) and Karnataka (3 sq km).
Total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes and there an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2019. The annual increase in the carbon stock is 39.7 million tonnes.
The biennial assessment of forest cover of the country using mid-resolution satellite data is based on interpretation of LISS-III data from Indian Remote Sensing satellite data (Resourcesat-II) with a spatial resolution of 23.5 meters with the scale of interpretation 1:50,000 to monitor forest cover and forest cover changes at district, state and national level.
This information provides inputs for various global level inventories, reports such as GHG Inventory, Growing Stock, Carbon Stock, Forest Reference Level (FRL) and international reporting to UNFCCC targets under CBD Global Forest Resource Assessment (GFRA) for planning and scientific management of forests.
Satellite data for the entire country was procured from NRSC for the period October to December 2019. The satellite data interpretation is followed by rigorous ground truthing. Information from other collateral sources are also used to improve the accuracy of the interpreted image.
The accuracy level of 92.99 per cent achieved in the current assessment is the significantly high. The accuracy of classification between forest and non-forest classes has been assessed 95.79 per cet against internationally accepted accuracy of classification of more than 85 per cent. 
In ISFR 2021, FSI has included a new chapter related to the assessment of forest cover in the Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area of India. In this context, the decadal assessment of change in forest cover within Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation area helps in assessing the impact of conservation measures and management interventions that have been implemented over the years.
A new initiative of FSI has also been documented in the form of a chapter, where the ‘Above Ground Biomass’ has been estimated. FSI, in collaboration with Space Application Centre (SAC), ISRO, Ahmedabad, initiated a special study for estimation of Above Ground Biomass (AGB) at pan-India level, using L- band of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. The results for the states of Assam and Odisha (as well as AGB maps), were presented earlier in ISFR 2019. The interim results for AGB estimates (and AGB maps) for the entire country are being presented as a new chapter in ISFR 2021. The detailed report will be published after completion of the study.
FSI in collaboration of with Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) Pilani, Goa Campus has performed a study based on ‘Mapping of Climate Change Hotspots in Indian Forests’. The collaborative study was carried out with the objective to map the climatic hotspots over the forest cover in India, using computer model-based projection of temperature and rainfall data, for the three future time periods, ie, year 2030, 2050 and 2085.
The report also contains information on various parameters state/UT wise. Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report.