4.17.1 Reliable forestry statistics are required for planning, policy-making, analysis and decision-making on forestry investment and development programmes. These statistics are collected mainly as a by-product of administrative reports of the State Forest Departments. On the recommendation of the National Commission on Agriculture (1976), the Forest Survey of India (FSI) was created in 1981 with the objective of monitoring the forest resources at a macro level, storing and retrieving forestry related data, designing methodology for forest surveys, etc. Besides the FSI, the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) is mandated to collect, collate and compile primary and secondary data generated by the State Forest Departments and various Central ministries. The data on the forestry are obtained through a set of periodical reports (45 in number) furnished by the State Forest Departments and other concerned agencies. In addition to details of forest area, the reports provide information on forest products (wood and non-wood), forest land under cultivation, and grazing land, etc.
4.17.2 Since 1987, the FSI has begun using Remote Sensing (RS) technology to collect data on forest cover under three broad classes (dense forest, open forest and mangroves) on a country-wide scale through a biennial survey. The latest survey (October-December, 1998) used satellite data having a resolution of 23.5 metres with digital image processing. Introduction of digital interpretation has helped in reducing the time lag in the availability of the area estimates to just a few months after the completion of the survey.
4.17.3 The Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture (DESMOA) also publishes statistics of area under forests as part of Land Use Statistics according to the definition adopted in the nine-fold classification of land. This includes all land categorised as forests under any legal enactment dealing with the forests or administered as forests whether State or private owned, whether wooded or maintained as potential forest land.
4.17.4 The main drawback in the compilation of forestry statistics (as in the case of several other sectors) is the inordinate delay in the availability of data. Except the area under forest cover now being assessed by the biennial RS satellite survey, all the other published data have long time lags. The FSI faces the problem of delayed transmission of data by the States, which tend to accord low priority to the reporting work. Nearly half the States do not furnish the statistics in time, which delays the national compilation. The latest estimates of forest area based on Land Use Statistics pertain to 1996-97.
4.17.5 The present contribution of the forest sector to the GDP is considered as an underestimate as it does not take into account several important items such as head loads of fire wood, wood used for power generation, eco-tourism, etc.
4.17.6 There is a large discrepancy between the area under forest cover as published by FSI and by DESMOA mainly due to the differences in the concepts and definitions followed by two agencies (see Annexe 4.9).
Conclusions and Recommendations.
4.17.7 Forest area statistics are generated through two sources, the FSI and DESMOA, each using different sets of concepts and definitions resulting thereby in a wide divergence between the two estimates. It is desirable to reconcile these differences to the extent possible, which can be attempted only at the micro level. It is necessary to have the FSI survey data at the village level for this purpose.
4.17.8 Early measures are required to cover all forest products in the State reports in order to improve the GDP estimates of the forest sectors. It is reported that a Working Group set up by the FSI is presently examining this question. It is expected that its recommendation, when implemented, will improve the estimates of the share of forestry and logging sectors in the GDP.
4.17.9 To obviate delay in the transmission and to reduce the time lag in the availability of forestry statistics, it is desirable to set up statistical units under the State Conservators of Forests to oversee collection and compilation of forest statistics and make use of latest tools of Information and Communication Technology for storage, retrieval and rapid transmission of data.
4.17.10 The Commission recommends that:
Remote Sensing techniques should be extensively used to improve and develop forestry statistics.
The State Forest Departments should be adequately supported by the establishment of appropriate statistical units to oversee the collection and compilation of forestry statistics from diverse sources on forest products including timber and non-timber forest products.
Arrangements should be made for storage and speedy transmission of forestry data through Information Technology devices.
In view of the unavoidable nature of the divergence between statistics from the two sources – land records and State Forest Departments – because of different coverage and concepts, the two series should continue to exist; but the reasons for divergence should be clearly indicated to help data users in interpreting the forestry statistics.
A Statistics Division in the Ministry of Environment and Forests with adequate statistical manpower should be created for rationalisation and development of proper database on forestry statistics.