Who owns the forest lands?

In India, the forest lands are owned by the Government.

Classification of Forests in India

In India, much of its wildlife resources and forests are either managed or owned by the Government through the Forest Department or other government departments. The different categories of forests in India are given below:

  1. Reserved Forests
  2. Protected Forests
  3. Unclassed Forests

Reserved Forests

  1. When conservation of forest and wildlife resources are taken into consideration, Reserved forests are regarded as the most valuable.
  2. More than half of the total forest land has been declared reserved forests.
  3. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand have large percentages of reserved forests of its total forest area.

Protected Forests

  1. This type of forest is protected from any further depletion.
  2. As per declaration of Forest Department, almost one-third of total forest area is protected forest.
  3. Odisha, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Punjab have a bulk of its forest area under protected forests.

Unclassed Forests

  1. These are other forests and wastelands belonging to both government and private individuals and communities.
  2. Parts of Gujarat and all Northeastern states have a very high percentage of their forests as unclassed
    forests managed by local communities.

Permanent Forests

  1. Reserved and protected forests are also referred to as permanent forest estates.
  2. Permanent forests are maintained for protective reasons, and for the purpose of producing timber and other forest produce.
  3. Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under permanent forests.
  4. Permanent forests constitutes 75 per cent of the total forest area of Permanent Forests.

Land-Use Records – Forests

Land-use records are maintained by land revenue department. Forests is one of the 9 classifications under the land-use categories as per land revenue records.

It is important to note that area under actual forest cover is different from area classified as forest. The latter is the area which the Government has identified and demarcated for forest growth. The land revenue records are consistent with the latter definition. Thus, there may be an increase in this category without any increase in the actual forest cover.

The 9 different land-use categories as maintained in the Land Revenue Records are given below:

  1. Forests
  2. Land put to Non-agricultural Uses
  3. Barren and Wastelands
  4. Area under Permanent Pastures and Grazing Lands
  5. Area under Miscellaneous Tree Crops and Groves(Not included is Net sown Area).
  6. Culturable Waste-Land
  7. Current Fallow
  8. Fallow other than Current Fallow
  9. Net Area Sown

Forest Cover in India

  • The forest and tree cover in the country is estimated at 79.42 million hectare.
  • Open forest comprises 9.14 % , dense forests covers 12.2% and mangroves comprises 0.14%. Forests in India cover 24.16% of the total geographical area.
  • According to the State of Forest Report (2015), the dense forest cover has increased by 3,775 square km since 2013.


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