What's New :
1st September 2022 (6 Topics)

Definition of Forests


The on-going situation in Chattisgarh (land transfers) has spurred a debate on the definition of ‘forest land’, its contentious history and many of the associated facts related to such lands.


How Forests are defined in India?

  • The definition of forest cover has clearly been defined in all the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) and in all the International communications of India.
  • The forest cover is defined as ‘all land, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status.
  • Such land may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo, and palm’.
  • As per the Conference of Parties (CoP) 9-Kyoto Protocol, the forest can be defined by any country depending upon the capacities and capabilities of the country. The three criteria based on which the forests are defined comprise, crown cover percentage, the minimum area of the stand, and the minimum height of trees.
  • Forest is defined structurally on the basis of:
    • Crown cover percentage: Tree crown cover- 10 to 30% (India 10%)
    • Minimum area of stand: the area between 0.05 and 1 hectare (India 1.0 hectare) and
    • Minimum height of trees: Potential to reach a minimum height at maturity in situ of 2 to 5 m (India 2m).
  • India’s definition of the forest has been taken on the basis of the above three criteria only and is accepted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for their reporting/communications.

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) classifies forest cover into 4 classes:

  • Very Dense Forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above.
  • Moderately dense forest: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70%.
  • Open forests: All lands with tree cover (including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%.
  • Scrubs: All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10%.

Classification of forest cover- In ISFR 2021 recently published has divided the forest cover as:

  • Inside Recorded Forest Area: These are basically natural forests and plantations of the Forest Department.
  • Outside Recorded Forest Area: These cover mango orchards, coconut plantations, and block plantations of agroforestry.

The current definition of 'forest cover in the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) does not differentiate between natural forests and plantations, thereby providing an incomplete picture of the status of forests.

Indian Forest Act of 1878 classifies Forests into Reserved, Protected, and Village Forests:

Reserved forests:

  • They constitute more than half of the total forest area of India.
  • It has a certain degree of protection.
  • They are protected by the respective state governments unlike wildlife sanctuaries and national parks which are supervised by the Government of India.
  • Rights to activities like collecting timber or grazing cattle or hunting and public entry are banned in these forests.

Protected forests:

They are of two types- Demarcated and Undemarcated.

  • They have a limited amount of protection.
  • These are looked after by the government but certain activities like hunting, grazing, or timber collecting are allowed to people who live on the boundaries of forests and are partially or wholly dependent on the forest resources for livelihood, provided they don’t cause severe damage to the forests.

Village forests:

  • They are protected and managed by village communities which are assigned by the state governments.
  • The local communities may use it for timber or other forest produce, pasture, recreation, plantation, and so on under prescribed conditions by state governments.

Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now