The state is the ninth in the country in terms of forest cover at 20% of its total geographical area, as per India State of Forest Report 2021, released by Forest Survey of India (FSI) of the Union ministry of environment and forests.
Trees outside forests refer to all trees outside the notified forest area irrespective of the size of the patch. This has seen a rise of 113sqkm. However, tree cover that is patches of trees and isolated trees on the areas less than one hectare has fallen.
Ashok Upreti, Tamil Nadu principal chief conservator of forests said, “There is only a reduction of 400sqkm of tree cover but the growing stock of trees outside forest is positive. It is difficult to say the reason for reduction since the FSI doesn’t give data on tree cover districtwise, unlike forest cover. The data used by the FSI is also approximately two years prior to the date of publication of the current report. Since thousands of hectares of trees, especially coconut trees were damaged in the Gaja cyclone, that could be the major reason for the reduction of tree cover outside forest.”
Environmentalists point to road improvements and construction by the government agencies as reasons for large-scale deforestation.
projects with no replacement as per court orders. The back-to-back natural disasters faced by the state also added to the problem. There should be committees to oversee the tree plantation drive undertaken by the agencies,” said KKalidasan of Osai, a Coimbatore-based environmental organisation. In terms of canopy density, very dense forest and moderate dense forest account for 55% of the total forest cover in the state. The report also classified scrub areas in 758sqkm though they are not part of the forest cover.
“The positive changes are increase in vegetation, which can be attributed to conservation measures, afforestation activities, enhanced protection measures in plantation as well as in traditional forest areas, expansion of trees outside forest,” the report said, pointing to the national trend of increase of 1,540sqkm in total forest cover.
Significant additions have been recorded in Kancheepuram (17.5sqkm), Pudukkottai (12.3sqkm) and Ariyalur (11.5sqkm) districts since the last assessment report published two years ago. Villupuram district has lost forest cover of 23sqkm.
The FSI also said TN is among the states that is likely to record the least temperature in the coming decades. Bur TN has 7,826 climatic hotspots, an area likely to face severe impact of climatic change, which the report said could be managed by suitable mitigation and adaptation strategies