NEW DELHI, Dec 30 - While the country’s forest and tree cover has increased by 5,188 square kilometres at the national level, in the northeastern States, barring Assam, it has seen a decrease.
Releasing the Indian State of Forest Report 2019 here today, Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar said the forest cover of the country is 712,249 sq km, which is 21.67 per cent of the geographical area of the country. The tree cover of the country is estimated at 95,027 sq km which is 2.89 per cent of the geographical area, he added.
The forest cover in Assam has increased by 221.54 sq km as compared to the previous assessment report of 2017, the report said.
The minister said the current assessment shows an increase of 3,976 sq km (0.56 per cent) of forest cover, 1,212 sq km (1.29 per cent) of tree cover and 5,188 sq km (0.65 per cent) of forest and tree cover put together at the national level as compared to the previous assessment in 2017.
Javadekar, however, flagged a warning stating that the current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45 per cent) in the northeastern region. The northeastern States that recorded a decrease in forest cover are Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland, he said.
Later replying to question, he said the government is aware of the illegal activities being carried out in the forest areas. He was reacting to allegation of rampant rat hole mining in Meghalaya and open cast mining in the Dihing Patkai region of Assam where large scale destructions were detected.
“We have to pay attention but one of the reasons for decrease in forest cover in the Northeast could be the practice of shifting cultivation in the region,” he added.
The report said that the recorded forest area of Assam is 26,832 sq km, of which 17,864 sq km is reserve forest and 8,968 sq km is un-classed forest. In Assam, during the period from January 1, 2015 to February 5 this year, only one hectare of forest land was diverted for non-forestry purpose.
Dibrugarh and Dima Hasao districts of Assam have, however, shown a decrease in forest cover.
Among the northeastern States, Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed a decrease of 276.22 sq km of forest cover, which can be attributed to shifting cultivation and development activities, the report said.
The forest cover in Meghalaya has decreased by 27.21 sq km, the report said, adding, the forest cover in Manipur has decreased by 499.10 sq km.
The forest cover in Mizoram has decreased by 180.49 sq km, while that in Nagaland has decreased by 2.60 sq km. Tripura also witnessed a decrease of forest cover by 0.41 sq km.