Current Affairs - December, 2019

India State of Forest Report, 2019: Key Findings

On 30th December 2019, the Union Environment Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar has released State of Forests Report, 2019. India State of Forest Report is released every two years and it provides comprehensive information about the forest cover, forest vegetation density, tree cover, progress of plantation outside the designated forests etc. for India as well as States.

The key findings of the ISFR 2019 are as follows:

  • The total forest cover of the country is 7,12,249 sq km which is 21.67% of the geographical area of the country. The tree cover of the country is estimated as 95,027 sq km which is 2.89% of the geographical area.
  • The total Forest and Tree cover of the country is 8,07,276 sq km which is 24.56% of the geographical area of the country.
  • The current assessment shows an increase of 3,976 sq km (0.56%) of forest cover, 1,212 sq km (1.29%) of tree cover and 5,188 sq km (0.65%) of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level as compared to the previous assessment i.e. ISFR 2017.
  • Forest cover within the RFA/GW has shown a slight decrease of 330 sq km (0.05%) whereas there is an increase of 4,306 sq km of forest cover outside the RFA/GW as compared to previous assessment of 2017.
  • The top five States in terms of increase in forest cover are Karnataka (1,025 sq km), Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km), Kerala (823 sq km), Jammu & Kashmir (371 sq km) and Himachal Pradesh (334 sq km).
  • Forest cover in the hill districts of the country is 2,84,006 sq km, which is 40.30% of the total geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows an increase of 544 sq km (0.19%) in 140 hill districts of the country.
  • The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 4,22,351 sq km, which is 37.54% of the geographical area of these districts. The current assessment shows a decrease of 741 sq km of forest cover within the RFA/GW in the tribal districts and an increase of 1,922 sq km outside.
  • Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 1,70,541 sq km, which is 65.05% of its geographical area. The current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45%) in the region. Except Assam and Tripura, all the States in the region show decrease in forest cover.
  • Mangrove cover in the country has increased by 54 sq km (1.10%) as compared to the previous assessment.
  • The total growing stock of wood in the country is estimated 5,915.76 million cum comprising 4,273.47 million cum inside forest areas and 1,642.29 million cum outside recorded forest areas (TOF). The average growing stock per hectare in forest has been estimated as 55.69 cum.
  • Total bamboo bearing area of the country is estimated as 1,60,037 sq km. There is an increase of 3,229 sq km in bamboo bearing area as compared to the estimate of ISFR 2017.
  • In the present assessment, total carbon stock in forest is estimated as 7,124.6 million tonnes. There is an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 2017. The annual increase is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.1 million tonnes CO2 eq.
  • Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) represents the largest pool of carbon stock in forests, which has been estimated 4,004 million tonnes. The SOC contributes 56% to the total forest carbon stock of the country.
  • There are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.83% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country. The total number of wetlands located within the RFA/GW is 8.13%. Amongst the States, Gujarat has largest area of wetlands within RFA in the country followed by West Bengal.
  • Dependence of fuelwood on forests is highest in the State of Maharashtra, whereas, for fodder, small timber and bamboo, dependence is highest in Madhya Pradesh. It has been assessed that the annual removal of the small timber by the people living in forest fringe villages is nearly 7% of the average annual yield of forests in the country.
  • The information on area affected by five major invasive species in States/UTs based on analysis of NFI data has been given in the present ISFR.
  • Fire prone forest areas of different severity classes have been mapped in the grids of 5km x 5km based on the frequency of forest fires. The analysis reveals that 21.40% of the forest cover of the country is highly to extremely fire prone.

World’s oldest rhino’ dies in Tanzania

Fausta, a female black rhino, who was believed to be the world’s oldest rhino has died at the age of 57 in a Tanzanian conservation area.  Fausta died of natural causes in captivity in Ngorongoro Crater, which lies in Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania.

Key Highlights

The records kept by Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority showed that Fausta lived (longer) than any rhino in world. She survived free-ranging in Ngorongoro, for more than 54 years before being kept in a sanctuary for last 3 years of its life in 2016. Hher health deteriorated from 2016 after hyena attacks, thus she was taken into refuge.

Fausta was first located in 1965 at the age of between 3 and 4 years’ old by a scientist. However, Fausta survived 57 years without bearing calves.

Average Rhino Life: As per Ngorongoro authority, Rhinos’ life expectancy is around 40 years in wild but they can live an extra decade in captivity.

About Black rhinoceros

They are also called as ‘hook-lipped rhinoceros’. This species of rhinoceros although is referred to as ‘black’, but its colors vary from brown to grey. They are smaller of two African species (other being the white rhinoceros’ species), and are found around south and east Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

IUCN Status: Critically endangered; (although South-western black rhinoceros is classified as vulnerable).

According to charity ‘Save The Rhino’, Black rhinos who are now decimated by poaching, now numbers only around 5,500.