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Celebrating India’s forests: The lungs of our land

Celebrating India’s forests: The lungs of our land

Context:

The biannual State of the Forest2017 report, released in February by the Forest Survey of India, celebrates a 1% increase in cover. At 21.5%, the country is still far short of its target of 33% forest cover. With the International Day of Forests coming up on 21 March, there could be no better time to take a pledge to celebrate and protect India’s forests.

Other countries:

  • According to World Bank figures, India’s neighbour, Bhutan, has a forest cover of 72%.
  • In Vietnam, where forest cover had depleted significantly in the 1980s, it is up to 47% now.
  • Costa Rica has successfully stopped and reversed deforestation, upping its cover to over 54%.

Forestry in India:

  • India is a mini world with the diverse forest landscapes. Every kind of forest ecosystem and habitat is represented within its borders.
  • Our challenge is not just to conserve our forests but also their diversity. Understanding ecosystems is a must. Planting trees everywhere is not the solution, we have to protect the arid forests and grasslands because these harbour unique life forms as well.
  • Forestry in India is a significant rural industry and a major environmental resource. India is one of the ten most forest-rich countries of the world along with Russia, Brazil, Canada, United States of America, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Australia, Indonesia and Sudan. Together, India and these countries account for 67 percent of total forest area of the world. India's forest cover grew at 0.20% annually over 1990-2000, and has grown at the rate of 0.7% per year over 2000-2010, after decades where forest degradation was a matter of serious concern.
  • Forestry in India is more than just about wood and fuel. India has a thriving non-wood forest products industry, which produces latex, gums, resins, essential oils, flavours, fragrances and aroma chemicals, incense sticks, handicrafts, thatching materials and medicinal plants. About 60% of non-wood forest products production is consumed locally. About 50% of the total revenue from the forestry industry in India is in non-wood forest products category. In 2002, non-wood forest products were a source of significant supplemental income to over 400 million people in India, mostly rural.

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