India State of Forest Report 2017


Forest Survey of India


Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change


12 Feb, 2018



The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017 is published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), a national organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This biennial report, published since 1987, maps the changes in forest cover across the country. More than 70 per cent of India’s forest cover qualifies as tropical semi-evergreen, tropical moist deciduous and tropical dry deciduous.

ISFR uses both satellite and field inventory data to give an estimate of ‘growing stock’ or the volume of all trees within and outside forests, hilly areas, tribal areas and northeastern states as also carbon and biomass, bamboo groves and mangroves. This helps measure the growing stock of the forest as well as determine its carbon and biomass levels.

This report points to a thinning of India’s forests as they move from being very dense to moderately dense and scrub. There is also a sharp fall in forest cover in the North East – home to a quarter of India’s forests. Given the importance of carbon stock and its impact on climate change, there is a chapter on it too. As also on bamboo – a quick remedy for reclaiming degraded land.

The Introduction to the ISFR 2017 is uploaded to Resources. Read the report's remaining eight chapters here.


  1. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) categorised forests spread out over 14 physiographic zones into three distinct kinds: very dense forest (VDF) with over 70 per cent canopy; moderately dense forest (MDF) with 40-70 per cent canopy; and open forest (OF) with 10-40 per cent canopy. Reserved forests (RF) and protected forests as well as any land designated as ‘forest’ in revenue records came under the purview of the FSI survey. Of the total forest cover of 21.54 per cent, very dense forest was 2.9 per cent, moderately dense was 9.38 and open forest, 9.18.

  2. The report showed an increase of less than one per cent in forest cover from 701,673 square kilometres in 2015 to 708,273 square kilometres in 2017.

  3. This estimate included orchards, plantations of bamboo, palm, rubber, tea and coffee, private lands, roads, rail and canal sides, and land with over 10 per cent canopy and an area of one hectare only. These were classified as ‘forest’ regardless of their origin and ownership or legal status. Forests with less than 10 per cent cover such as degraded lands, wetlands, riverbeds, glaciers, cold deserts and grasslands were excluded.

  4. The increase in forest cover could be attributed to the inclusion of the areas mentioned above, the increase in tree cover outside forest areas and conservation efforts.

  5. Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover. However, as a percentage of total area, Lakshadweep topped with 90.33 per cent followed by Mizoram at 86.27 per cent.

  6. An area of 4,148 square kilometres of very dense forest had been downgraded to moderately dense and scrub. Similarly, 17,520 square kilometres of moderately dense forest had turned into scrub and other forest.

  7. In the North East, 65.34 per cent of the geographical area was forest, which was roughly three times the national average. There had been a decrease of 630 square kilometres of forest cover in the region. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura contributed to this deforestation figure.

  8. The total forest cover in tribal areas was 421,170 square kilometres or 37.43 per cent of the geographical area. That is an increase of 86.89 per cent from 2015.

  9. The survey used various kinds of data, including that from remote sensing technology which had inherent limitations. It could not discern seasonal data, prevalence of weeds such as lantana, and young plantations. Further, satellite imagery of forest fires was flawed as it was only recorded when the satellite passed over forests, and controlled burning was also included. Satellite sensors did not recognise ‘tree outside forest’ (TOF) and tree patches less than one hectare in size either, so high-resolution remote sensing data and field inventory measurement was carried out.

  10. To improve the management of forest fires, a weekly pre-warning alert system was instituted, and the reaction time of forest departments had come down to two hours. In 2016, the proportion of fires in MDF and VDF areas was higher compared to that in open forests.

  11. Water bodies within forests are critical to overall ecological health. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh showed a decline in the size of water bodies. In other states, 2,647 square kilometres of water bodies had been recorded in forested areas.

  12. Mangroves occupied 4,921 square kilometres or 0.15 per cent of the geographical area. The net increase of 181 square kilometres of mangroves from 2015 could be attributed to plantation and regeneration.

  13. Bamboo occupied 15.69 million hectares. From 2011, there was a decrease in the size of pure bamboo and dense bamboo groves. However, bamboo had started growing in other areas. So, an increase of 19 million tons of the green weight of bamboo was recorded.

  14. The carbon stock for 2017 was estimated to be 7,083 million tons, an increase of 39 million tons from 2015. Arunachal Pradesh had the maximum of 994.5 million tons, but the per hectare stock was highest in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  15. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Global Forests Research Assessment (GFRA) 2015 says that India accounts for two per cent of global forest area, and 22 per cent of the country is classified as forest.

    Factoids and Focus compiled by Priti David.