New Delhi (Sputnik) — India has seen a marginal increase in forested land in the last two years despite massive infrastructure activities across the country, according to the India State Forest Report — 2017. However, the report also points to a worrying trend of violence in resource-rich states where rebel groups claim that the state's mining activities have destroyed natural habitats. 572 civilians lost their lives and 199 personnel belonging to security forces were killed in left-wing extremism in 2015-17, the report suggests.
The report unveiled by India's Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan says the country stands eighth in terms of annual forest gain.
"The global trend is decreasing while in India the forest land is increasing. The good thing is that even if we talk about global ranking, the population density of top nine countries ahead of India in terms of forest cover is about 150 while for India it is 350. This means, we are doing good in terms of preservation and expansion despite the pressure of population and livestock," Harsh Vardhan said.
Forest and tree cover of the country has increased by 8,021 sq km (1 %) and very dense forest has increased by 1.36 % as compared to the last assessment conducted in 2015. Successful agroforestry practices, better conservation of forests, improvement of scrub areas to forest areas, increase in mangrove cover, conservation and protection activities have led to an increase in the forest and tree cover, the government has claimed.
The biennial report hopes that the trend will further gain momentum due to the ongoing green highway policy.
"Green Highways (Plantations & Maintenance) Policy to develop 140,000 kilometers long tree line with plantation along both sides of national highways will go a long way in enhancing the forest & tree cover," the report reads.
However, twelve states have seen a dip in their forest cover. These include Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and six resource rich states in the northeast — Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Government officials cite shifting cultivation, other biotic pressures, rotational felling and diversion of forest lands for developmental activities, submergence of forest cover, agriculture expansion and natural disasters as reasons for the decrease in forest cover in these states.