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  Forest cover increases by 2000

The biennial State of Forest Report that India publishes is of interest for two reasons. First of course is to find out how the Government’s afforestation and conservation initiatives are working. And secondly, what further technological progress has been made by the Forest Survey of India, that produces these reports.

The Report for 2001 is to released formally soon and GoodNewsIndia will review it as it did the Report for 1999.. But main media has been reporting highlights of the findings of 2001 Report. And there is news to cheer.

The most exciting bit is that forest cover has increased by 2000 The increase is in both categories, the dense forest [40% canopy] and open forest [10 to 40% canopy]. Also for the first time the forest cover would have crossed 20% [ up from 19.39 in 1999 and 19.27 in 1997]. This confirms UN’s World’s Forest Report, 1999’s finding that India was the only developing country where forest cover was increasing.

Although details are not yet available, India’s skills in mapping forest assets from the sky have increased too. Indian satellites can now map scattered trees and kitchen gardens as well. With details getting finer, comparisons with older data would now become unrealistic. So the 2001 data will become the baseline for future comparisons.

India is still far from the target of foresting a third of its land mass. One of the strategies for that was Joint Forest Management which GoodNewsIndia featured earlier. There are whispers now that the programme is may in fact be failing. At any rate it does not appear to be the ‘revolutionary’ policy it was hoped to be. Another apprehension is whether the remote mapping is able to distinguish between mono-cultural plantations and genuine forests.

Despite these reservations, India’s commitment --and small successes-- should be a matter of pride for all Indians. Since even a back yard tree can be picked by cameras in the sky here’s a reason for you to plant one and have it --and you-- counted as part of the afforesting India.