Tree cover in India

India is the 7th largest country in the world and supports almost 15% of the world population. With a total land area of 32,87,469 Km Sq, India has a unique combination of climatic zones which supports different types of flora and fauna. From the cold Himalayas to hot deserts of Thar, the vegetation varies greatly. India has 7000 kms of coastline and that too supports a lot of aquatic life and mangrove forests. This uniqueness is found in very few countries in the world. Due to population pressure on the forests and tree resources, the overall area under trees and forests has reduced over a period of time. There are still places which have dense forests, but they are also under stress and pressure. With global warming a reality and effects that can be seen everywhere, all need to do their part to increase tree cover and fix carbon.

The Indian government has put the ambitious plan to have 33% of the total land area under forests. But so far, forests cover 21.71% of the area of the country. With tree cover also added in villages, towns and cities, the total area under forest in India is 8,09,537 Km Sq which is 24.62 % of the land area. 

On an average, the forest cover in India is 24.62 %. But it varies from state to state and region to region. As India is a country with desert, plains, mountains, snow and ocean, the density of forests and % cover of ground varies from state to state and region to region. This variation can be seen in the tables below.

Table showing the forest cover in various states of India

Sl No State Area in Sq Km Forest cover in Sq km % of area under Forests
1 Andhra Pradesh 162968 29784 18.28%
2 Arunachal Pradesh 83743 66431 79.33%
3 Assam 78438 28312 36.09%
4 Bihar 94163 7381 7.84%
5 Chattisgarh 135192 55717 41.21%
6 Delhi 1483 195 13.15%
7 Goa 3702 2244 60.62%
8 Gujarat 196244 14926 7.61%
9 Haryana 44212 1603 3.63%
10 Himachal Pradesh 55673 15443 27.74%
11 Jharkhand 79716 23721 29.76%
12 Karnataka 191791 38730 20.19%
13 Kerala 38852 21253 54.70%
14 Madhya Pradesh 308252 77493 25.14%
15 Maharashtra 307713 50798 16.51%
16 Manipur 22327 16598 74.34%
17 Meghalaya 22429 17046 76.00%
18 Mizoram 21081 17820 84.53%
19 Nagaland 16579 12251 73.89%
20 Odisha 155707 52156 33.50%
21 Punjab 50362 1847 3.67%
22 Rajasthan 342239 16655 4.87%
23 Sikkim 7096 3341 47.08%
24 Tamil Nadu 130060 26419 20.31%
25 Telangana 112077 21214 18.93%
26 Tripura 10486 7722 73.64%
27 Uttar Pradesh 240928 14818 6.15%
28 Uttrakhand 53484 24305 45.44%
29 West bengal 88752 16832 18.97%
30 A & N Islands 8249 6744 81.76%
31 Chandigarh 114 22.88 20.07%
32 Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu 602 227.75 37.83%
33 J & K 54624 21387 39.15%
34 Ladakh 168055 2272 1.35%
35 Lakshadweep 30 27.1 90.33%
36 Puducherry 490 53.3 10.88%
3287913 713789.03 21.71%
Land area under scrub & trees in cities, towns 95748 2.91%
Total land area under Trees and scrubs 809537.03 24.62%

As  the population of the country keeps on increasing, the pressure on the forest resources also keep on increasing. A very large impact can be to actively plant trees, shrubs, grass etc all year round instead of waiting for monsoon. Taking care of the planted saplings is far more important than planting them. A tree can fix large volumes of carbon only when it reaches a certain height. It becomes sustainable only after a few years. A good project management program that targets to plant saplings, nurture them, and grow them all year round shall positively affect the overall forests and trees in the country. 

The survey conducted by the Forest Survey of India in 2021, has some very important findings. These are eye opener for us as more scientific ways to monitor the tree cover has been used this time. Ground truthing and physical visits have made sure that even the pockets of trees that have been detected by satellites are checked and then only the area is added. The report does provide some very important numbers into the increase and decrease in the forest cover in various states. The numbers hopefully will continue to be positive for the tree cover in India in the years to come. 

Greenverz is equally committed to make sure that we go ahead and grow trees all across the country to help increase the forest cover to 33% and more of the national target. Scientific and project management aspects of the same using satellites and data analysis shall help all states to increase the forest cover. People being integral part of the programs shall be trained to grow saplings, transplant, care for the trees to make sure that they grow big and 1 tree alone is able to  fix at least 1 MT of carbon in 10 years to come. 

Greenverz also understands that economic development needs to happen along with carbon fixing. Benchmarking of the actual economic status of farmers who shall be growing the trees on their lands is needed. Farmers or villages or communities shall be interested in growing and saving the trees and increasing the greenery only when they see long term profit. Fruit trees, timber trees, flowering trees that will help them see the benefits are the need of the hour. Making a platform for keeping the data, adding the data and analyzing the data for the long term is a goal and shall be achieved. 

Different type of forests that are present in the country 

Sl No Type of forest Area in Sq Km % of area
1 Very dense forest 99779 3.04
2 Moderately dense forest 306890 9.33
3 Open forest 307120 9.34
4 Total forest cover 713789 21.71
5 Scrub 46539 1.42
6 Non forest 2527141 76.87
3287469 100

As can be seen, the VDF area is very less at 3.04 % of the total. Open forest and Moderately dense forest are almost equal in area. To achieve the target of 33% of the land area under forest cover, the country needs a very focussed approach for the same and partnerships from all walks of life to get it done. 

Chart showing the forest cover in % of land area in various states of India. As can be seen, there are states which have forest cover more than 90% and then there are states where the forest cover is less than 10%. Focus needs to be there to increase the tree cover in states where it is less and maintain the ones which have more. 

Table showing the states along with forest cover less than 33%

State Area in Sq Km Forest cover in Sq km
Ladakh 168055 2272
Haryana 44212 1603
Punjab 50362 1847
Rajasthan 342239 16655
Uttar Pradesh 240928 14818
Gujarat 196244 14926
Bihar 94163 7381
Puducherry 490 53.3
Delhi 1483 195
Maharashtra 307713 50798
Andhra Pradesh 162968 29784
Telangana 112077 21214
West bengal 88752 16832
Chandigarh 114 22.88
Karnataka 191791 38730
Tamil Nadu 130060 26419
Madhya Pradesh 308252 77493
Himachal Pradesh 55673 15443
Jharkhand 79716 23721

As can be seen, all these states have forest cover less than 33% of the total area. The total area of these states is 2575292 Sq Km. The forested area is 360207 Sq km. The % area under forests is 14%. This shows that the biggest states in the country like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Bihar etc have less than 33% area under forest. This provides a very challenging situation for all of us to try and increase the forest cover and also the green cover in all these states. 

Large areas are semi arid or deforested. Growing trees and green vegetation in these lands will pose challenges. Which includes but not limited to – less rainfall, less groundwater, remoteness of the areas, soil type, use of land for agriculture etc. But these challenges can be overcome by systematic designs and proper discussions with municipalities, locals, farmers, Gram Panchayats etc. 

This also provides a great opportunity to make these states green with forests and tree covers.