Forest cover in India

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Forest cover in India

According to the Indian Statistical Report, 2011 [1], the following is the statewise distribution of forests in India.

Observed trend Description of figure Comments
IndiaForestArea 1987-2009.jpg Data obtained from India Statistical Report, 2011, Chapter 33 (Table 33.1 - Forest Cover Estimates). All percentages are based on 32,87,263 sq. km as total area of India. This figure shows the increase in estimated forest area of India as a percentage of the total area of the country. On superficial examination, this figure shows that the area under forests in India has increased drastically since 1999. However, not only is it important to note that the percentage increase in the last three decades has only been 1.5%, but also that two extrinsic factors may affect the trend:
  1. Better satellites and sensors may lead to better estimates of forests:
  2. Policy change in definition of what constitutes a forest and what does not

Without further analysis, it would be difficult to gauge the impact of these factors on the observed trend.

IndiaStatewiseForestArea2009.jpg Percentage of area of each state covered by various kinds of forests. Each row is a different state while each column represents a particular type of forest. Green represents areas with high cover of the particular type of forest while black indicates very little area, as a percentage of the total area of the state.

All data was obtained from Indian Statistical Report 2011, Table 33.2. Clustering was done using hierarchical clustering in R. Most of the data for mangroves was missing in Table 33.2.

As you can see, states with the most forest cover lie in the North-East. Most of the forests are moderately dense forests, as defined by Indian Forest Survey, 2009. Kerala, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Goa also have a fair bit of forest cover. Karnataka and Kerala need to have more forest cover than what they currently have since they are highly biodiverse regions. Similarly, large states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal etc. have very little forest cover.
AreaUnderWildlifeSanctuariesIndia2006.png Area in square kilometres. Data was obtained from India Statistical Report, 2011 - Table 33.6. Data in Table 33.6 is from the year 2006. Area for Andaman and Nicobar Islands is not included. Those islands have a total of 1546 sq. km designated as wildlife sanctuaries. One can make out quite easily that some states have large tracts of land designated for wildlife. Most of these states tend to be large (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh) or remote (Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh) or have some special land forms (Gujarat, Rajasthan). Many North Indian states - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana - need to increase their sizes of protected areas, however, this may not be possible given the intense population pressure and increased need for agricultural and industrial productivity.

However, superficial appearances can be deceptive. One might think that the states with the largest size are doing a lot for wildlife conservation. However, the next figure, which compares area under wildlife sanctuaries to the total area of the state shows a different picture!

PercentAreaUnderWildlifeSanctuariesIndia2006.png Figure shows percent area of each state in India under wildlife sanctuaries. Numbers on top of each bar is the actual percentage. Data was obtained from India Statistical Report, 2011 - Table 33.6. and Table 33.2. Data in Table 33.6 is from the year 2006, which was the latest data available for India Statistical Report. It turns out the biggest states are the biggest culprits. Not only is the forest area low in large states as shown above, but also the biggest states in India have less than 5% of their area under wildlife sanctuaries!


  1. ^ Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, India (Chapter 33 - Environment and Forests)


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Semantic tags

Title Forest cover in India Article is on this general topic Biodiversity data Author Gaurav Moghe
Specific location(s) where study was conducted Not noted General region where study was conducted Not noted State where study was conducted Pan-India
Institutional affiliation Not noted Institution located at Not noted Institution based around Not noted
Species Group Plants User ID User:Gauravm Page creation date 2012/02/27

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