India lost forest cover in the last 30 years

India lost 668,400 ha of forest cover in the last 30 years

India clocked in the second highest rate of deforestation among countries worldwide between 1990 and 2020.

What are the facts? India ranked the second highest for the rate of deforestation after losing 668,400 hectares of forest cover in the last 30 years, a report by UK-based Utility Bidder said. Brazil and Indonesia clocked in at first and third respectively with Brazil recording 1,695,700 hectares and Indonesia recording 650,000 hectares of deforestation. India also topped the chart for biggest increase in deforestation between 1990 and 2020 with a difference of 284,400 hectares in forestry loss.

What is the context?

  • The study highlighted the trend of deforestation of 98 countries with data collated from 1990 to 2000 and from 2015 to 2020 by Our World In Data, an online data repository.
  • India’s deforestation rose from 384,000 hectares between 1990 and 2000 to 668,400 hectares between 2015 and 2020, Down to Earth noted.
  • India plans to restore 20 million hectares of its forest cover by 2030.

Why does it matter?

  • The biggest contributor to increased deforestation is climate change, with 10 million hectares of land getting affected every year.
  • Brazil has lost 1,695,700 hectares of forests between 2015 and 2020, with climate change throwing rainfall and temperature off balance, affecting their growth.
  • In India, the study blamed pressures due to expanding human settlements: “As the country with the second largest population in the world, India has had to compensate for the increase in residents – this has come at a cost in the way of deforestation.”
  • An annual destruction of 2,105,753 hectares has been attributed to cattle, the agricultural product “most responsible for deforestation.”
  • This is followed by oilseeds – particularly palm oil in Indonesia – and forestry logging which has caused 950,609 and 678,744 hectares of deforestation respectively.
Source: THE HINDU BUREAU March 21, 2023 

Planning Process for Development of Forests

Planning Process for Development of Forests

The National Forest Policy, 1988 provides that the holders of customary rights and concessions in forest areas should be motivated to identify themselves with the protection and development of forest from which they derive benefits.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forest Rights) Act, 2006 (in short FRA) is an act to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded.

Section 3(1)(i) of FRA provides rights to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and of other traditional forest dwellers to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use. Section 5 of FRA provides as under: –

The holders of any forest right, Gram Sabha and village level institutions in areas where there are holders of any forest right under this Act are empowered to-

(a) Protect the wild life, forest and biodiversity;

(b) Ensure that adjoining catchments area, water source and other ecological sensitive areas are adequately protected;

(c) Ensure that the habitat of forest dwelling Scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers is preserved from any form of destructive practices affecting their cultural heritage;

(d) Ensure that the decisions taken in the Gram Sabha to regulate access to community forest resources and stop any activity which adversely affects the wild animals, forest and the biodiversity are compiled with.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change have issued a joint communication dated 06.07.2021 to all States/UTs for effective implementation of FRA. As per FRA and rules made there under, State Governments are responsible for implementation of the Act.

National afforestation programmes to improve the forest cover

The year-wise details of budgetary allocations and expenditure on national afforestation programmes, through the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) of the Ministry, National Afforestation Programme (NAP) and National Mission for a Green India (GIM) from 2017-18 to 2021-22, are  as under:

(Amount in Rupees in crore)

Year 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22

(as on  24th January,2022)

Budget Allocated NAP 80.00 GIM










Expenditure 80.00 46.99 176.73* 193.63* 158.04* 200.13*

*Combined allocation and expenditure for Green India Mission-National Afforestation Programme.

NAP has been the flagship afforestation scheme of the Ministry, implemented since year 2000 on pan India basis, for afforestation in identified degraded forest areas with people’s participation and decentralised forest governance. GIM activities were started in 2015-16. NAP and GIM, along with other afforestation schemes, have been contributing in restoration of degraded forest areas in the country. This has helped in stabilization and increase in the extent of forest cover, which is evident from the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) published by Forest Survey of India (FSI). The latest India State of Forest Report (ISFR 2021) revealed that the total forest and tree cover of the country is 8,09,537 square kilometres (which is 24.62 percent of the geographical area of the country) compared to 7,94,245 sq km (24.16 percent) in ISFR 2015. This is an increase of 15,292 sq km of forest and tree cover of the country. The ISFRs also pointed out that the positive change could be attributed to conservation measures or management interventions such as afforestation activities, participation of local people for better protection in plantation areas as well as in traditional forest areas, expansion of trees outside forests, tree plantation drives etc.

In order to achieve the targeted objectives of national afforestation programmes, the Ministry has approved merger of NAP into Green India Mission (GIM) and accordingly financial allocation for both the schemes is provided under one budgetary head so that the overall greening efforts are augmented. The budget allocation for the merged scheme has increased from Rs. 160 crore in the year 2020-21 to Rs. 220 crore during the year 2021-22. Besides, the funds under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)inter-alia, is used for forest and wildlife management related activities including compensatory afforestation.

The Ministry also promotes tree plantation as people’s movement through School Nursery Yojana and Nagar Van Yojana. Tree plantation/afforestation being the multi-departmental effort, taken up cross sector by various departments of the Centre and State Governments, Non-Government Organizations, civil society, corporate bodies etc. also contributes in achieving the targeted objectives of national afforestation programmes.

This information was given by Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change in Rajya Sabha today.

India State of Forest Report 2021 by the Forest Survey of India (FSI)

Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Bhupender Yadav, today released the ‘India State of Forest Report 2021’ prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country.

Sharing the findings, the Minister informed that the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectare which is 24.62 percent of the geographical area of the country. As compared to the assessment of 2019, there is an increase of 2,261 sq km in the total forest and tree cover of the country.

The Minister expressed happiness over the fact that the present assessment reveals that 17 states/UT’s have above 33 percent of the geographical area under forest cover and stated that the focus of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is not just to conserve the forests quantitatively but to enrich it qualitatively.

The 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 & climate change hotspots in Indian forests.


The total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectare which is 24.62 percent of the geographical area of the country. As compared to the assessment of 2019, there is an increase of 2,261 sq km in the total forest and tree cover of the country. Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 1,540 sq km and that in tree cover is 721 sq km.
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%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76.00%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.90%).
17 states/UT’s have above 33 percent of the geographical area under forest cover. Out of these states and UT’s, five states/UTs namely Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have more than 75 percent forest cover while 12 states/UTs namely Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Assam, Odisha, have forest cover between 33 percent to 75 percent.
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.


In tune with the Government of India’s vision of digital India and the need for integration of digital data sets, FSI has adopted using the vector boundary layers of various administrative units upto districts level as provided by Survey of India along with digital open series topo sheets, in order to ensure comprehensive compatibility with the geographical areas as reported in Census, 2011.

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 achieved in the current assessment is the significantly high. The accuracy of forest cover classification has been assessed 92.99%. The accuracy of classification between forest and non-forest classes has been assessed 95.79% against internationally accepted accuracy of classification of more than 85%. A rigorous QC & QA exercise was also carried out.


In the present 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.

For decadal assessment, change in forest cover, during the period between ISFR 2011 (data period 2008 to 2009) and the current cycle (ISFR 2021, data period 2019-2020) within each Tiger Reserves has been analysed.

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 i.e. 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.

It is expected that the information given in the report would provide valuable information for policy, planning and sustainable management of forest and tree resources in the country.

The full report is available at the following URL:

What are Forests?

What are Forests?

Although no definition of Forests has been laid as yet, but a forest is usually defined by the presence of trees, under many definitions an area completely lacking trees may still be considered a forest if it grew trees in the past, will grow trees in the future, or was legally designated as a forest regardless of vegetation type.

Forests can be classified according to a wide number of characteristics, with distinct forest types occurring within each broad category.

Broadly, forests can be classified under the following categories:

  • Forest Type # 1. Equatorial Moist Evergreen or Rainforest
  • Forest Type # 2. Tropical Deciduous Forest
  • Forest Type # 3. Mediterranean Forests
  • Forest Type # 4. Temperate Broad-leaved Deciduous and Mixed Forest
  • Forest Type # 5. Warm Temperate Broad-leaved Deciduous Forest
  • Forest Type # 6. Coniferous Forest

Forest Layers

Forest floor contains decomposing leaves, animal droppings, and dead trees. Decay on the forest floor forms new soil and provides nutrients to the plants. The forest floor supports ferns, grasses, mushroom and tree seedlings.
Understory is made up of bushes, shrubs, and young trees that are adapted to living in the shades of the canopy.

Forest Layers

Canopy is formed by the mass of intertwined branches, twigs and leaves of the mature trees. The crowns of the dominant trees receive most of the sunlight. This is the most productive part of the trees where maximum food is produced. The canopy forms a shady, protective “umbrella” over the rest of the forest.
Emergent layer exists in the tropical rain forest and is composed of a few scattered trees that tower over the canopy.