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Forest Cover in Bundelkhand

  Much of 'notified' forest land has ceased to be a forest due to overexploitation

Vivid evocations of the forest in the Chitrakoot region in Ramayan, even allowing for poetic exaggeration, indicate a dense forest inhibited by several wild animals.

From medieval times, we get references to hunting for elephants in the forests of Panna. Gazetteers of Bundelkhand districts from British times also refer to a range of wild animals, including tigers, panthers, leopards, hyena, antelopes and deer of several kinds and marine wild life like crocodiles, alligators porpoises and tortoises.

However very little dense forest remains in Bundelkhand today. All wild animals have become a rare sight in Bundelkhand, even in designated sanctuaries.

Extensive forests are now found only in the hilly areas of southern Bundelkhand.

In Bundelkhand Plain sub-region, there is practically no forest land in many tehsils.

In UP Bundelkhand as a whole, less than 8% of the land is notified as forest land; significant forest patches are found only in parts of Lalitpur and Chitrakoot districts. UP Bundelkhand accounts for around a sixth of the forest cover of entire UP, which has a forest cover of less than 6% overall.

In MP Bundelkhand, the notified forest area is high in Panna and Damoh districts, and quite high in Sagar and Chhatarpur districts (see Land Use in Bundelkhand).  However, a notified forest is quite different from an actual forest. Much of 'notified' forest land has ceased to be a forest due to overexploitation, mining and quarrying, encroachment and other reasons.

Actual forest cover is assessed by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, which brings out biennial reports based on satellite-based remote sensing data.

According to FSI’s State of Forest Report 2005,  around 21% of the geographical area of India has a forest cover; 2% of the area is under 'very dense forest', 10% of the area is under 'moderately dense forest' and 9% of the area is under 'open forests'.

Madhya Pradesh accounted for over half the total forest cover of the country, but whereas the notified or recorded forest area constituted around 31% of the geographical area of the state, the actual forest cover was over 25% of the area.

Likewise, as the table below shows, actual forest cover in many MP Bundelkhand districts is much lower than notified forest areas.

Forest cover as percentage of total geographical area (2005)

  Very dense forest Moderately dense forest Open forest Total forest cover
Jhansi 0 0.7 3.3 4
Lalitpur 0 2.9 8.4 11.3
Jalaun 0 1.5 4 5.5
Hamirpur 0 1.6 2.6 4.2
Mahoba 0 0.7 2.6 3.3
Banda 0 0.6 1.7 2.2
Chitrakoot 0 11.2 6.7 17.9
Datia 0 3 2.9 5.9
Chhatarpur 0 11.9 11.3 24.6
Tikamgarh 0 1.9 4.1 6
Panna 0.4 22.2 15.7 38.3
Damoh 0 11.9 24.7 36.6
Sagar 0 16.6 11.8 28.4
UP 0.5 1.9 3.4 5.9
MP 1.4 11.9 11.3 24.6

Source: State of Forest Report 2005, Forest Survey of India, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests. Percentages derived from absolute figures.

'Very dense forest' is found only in some parts of the Panna and Ajaygarh tehsils of Panna district, in the south-east of Bundelkhand, where highest rainfall of the region is recorded.

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