Towards Sustaining Environment and Ecosystem

Towards Sustaining Environment and Ecosystem

Ecosystem is a unit of ecological community, comprised of biological, physical, and chemical components. Tropical ecosystems undergo changes caused by season, climate or multiple anthropogenic impacts. The increased population and associated increased demand of resources has led to significant impact on forest cover and is negatively impacting forest produce as well as various ecosystem services i.e., hydrology, soil conservation, wildlife support, biodiversity and environmental protection etc. The loss of biological diversity reduces our ability to adapt to the change compounded. by the loss of knowledge of biodiversity especially among people with close relationship with the natural ecosystem.
The focus now is on preserving the overall balance and redefining the short, medium and long term considerations to reflect benefits of consumption and conservation.


Forest Cover

Forest conservation and the sustainable use of its products are the cornerstone of our forest policy and forests are one of the nature’s effective eco-system. Remote Sensing data has been of significant help in understanding the loss of forest cover, resource depletion, assessment of trees outside forest and planning for sustainable use of forest. Forest Survey of India assesses the forest cover of the country on a two-year cycle, at National and State level, to plan for conservation measures and places the stage of forest report before Parliament.
As per ‘India State of Forest Report 2011’, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectares, which is 23.81% of the geographical area.

Forest Working Plan inputs in the North East Region (NER)

Preparation of forest working plan inputs in NER was taken up at the behest of North Eastern Council. Compartment-wise stock estimation has been completed for 27 reserve forests and 17 riverine reserve forests in Mizoram. Preparation of working plans for Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya are in progress, with the participation of the respective state forest departments.


The natural (climatic, geological, topographical) and manmade factors have influenced the country’s bio-resources. The satellite data has helped in deriving the spatial distribution of different vegetation communities at landscape level especially at Eastern and Western Himalayas, Shivaliks, Vindhyans, Eastern and Western Ghats and Coastal areas, and studying the impact of human activities on these plants and vegetations. About 125 vegetation types have been mapped for the entire country and database of 6000 species has been generated under the “Biodiversity Characterisation Project”, funded by Department of Bio-technology. The study provided the vital input on very high and high biological richness and disturbance area for conservation and prioritization.

Natural Rubber (NR) Cultivation

There is a need to gather scientific information about potential land available in North-Eastern India for cultivating natural rubber without any land use conflict. A pilot study was carried for the State of Tripura, jointly with Rubber Research Institute and Rubber Board to demonstrate the methodology to estimate the spatial extent of Natural Rubber (NR) and identify wasteland pockets suitable for the cultivation of NR. The extent of NR for Tripura is estimated at 48,037 ha. Suitability of the wasteland pockets for NR cultivation was analysed, considering pedo-climatic variables, continuity to the existing NR-patches and land characteristics like soil fertility, climate, slope, drainage, etc. About 22,947 ha of wasteland pockets were found to be suitable for NR cultivation. The methodology once established will be extended for the entire North Eastern region for promoting NR cultivation. The project was completed and the report was submitted to the user and the database generated is ported to Bhuvan portal for visualisation. Capacity building and transfer of technology to Rubber Board is also taken up.

Sericulture Development

Application of remote sensing and GIS for sericulture development, funded by the Central Silk Board, has been completed in all the selected 106 districts covering 24 states in the country. Sericulture Information Linkages and Knowledge System (SILKS) developed under the project is ready for hosting.

Snow & Glaciers

The Himalayas possess one of the largest resources of snow and ice, which act as a huge freshwater reservoir. Monitoring the glaciers is important to assess the overall reservoir health. However, monitoring of Himalayan glaciers is normally difficult using conventional methods due to the rugged and inaccessible terrain.
Significant information on glaciers (retreat/ advance) in the 13 sub-basins of Himalaya has been generated using satellite images of 1989-1990 to 1997-2008 time frames under the “Snow and Glacier Studies Phase-I”, at the behest of Ministry of Environment and Forest. Out of 2190 glaciers, about 76% glaciers have shown loss in area of ice cover and about 24% glaciers either did not show any change or show gain in area.


Under the “Snow and Glacier Studies Phase-II” project, funded by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, atlases of sub-basin-wise snow cover maps of Indus, Chenab, Sutlej, Ganga and Bramaputra basins have been prepared for the year 2010-11. A two day training on Carbon Soot monitoring in Glaciated Regions of Himalayas (2012-2013) was also organised at SAC under the Snow and Glaciers Studies Project. A glacier expedition was organised for glaciated region of Kargil-Leh sector of Indian Himalayas during August - September 2012 and some more glaciers were covered (one in Chandra valley and the other near Bathal, including one at ChhotaShigri glacier) during the period September 09-23, 2012. Geomorphological investigations and position of the snout of Bathal glacier were studied using GPS and ground observations. 
As part of monitoring of glacial lakes / water bodies within the Himalayan region of Indian River basins, 2028 glacial lakes and water bodies were inventoried using 2009-10 satellite data. Of these, 503 are glacial lakes and 1525 are water bodies. Monitoring of large lakes and water-bodies so identified (433 in number, with more than 50 Ha area) during 2011 monsoon revealed an increase in water spread in 218 water-bodies, while it was observed that 35 water-bodies have shrunk and the rest did not show any major change. 
Snow cover areas are also monitored on every 10 day cycle using satellite imagery and seasonal snow melt runoff forecast is generated for five major Himalayan river basins, namely, Chenab, Beas, Yamuna, Ganga and Sutlej basin during the summer months.

Coastal Zone Studies

Coastal zones represent diverse ecosystems and support highly productive habitats such as mangroves, corals, mudflats and other marine species. India has a coast line of 7,500 km, which is intersected by rocky outcrops and shores with stretches of sandy beaches. It supports over 25% of countries population within 100 km of the coastline. As a consequence of anthropogenic and socio-economic factors, the coastal zones of India are subjected to enormous pressures. Dynamic nature of the coastal zones necessitates regular monitoring in order to realize integrated management plans for sustainable conservation of coastal areas. Satellite data proved its immense value in the coastal zone studies including coastal land use mapping, inventory of vital coastal habitats, ecological status of all marine protected areas and impact of sea level rise.

Wetland Inventory and Assessment

Wetlands are areas of critical ecological significance that support rich biodiversity including a large variety of plant and animal species adapted to fluctuating water levels. The diverse climatic conditions in the country resulted in a variety of wetland systems ranging from high altitude cold desert wetlands to hot and humid wetlands in coastal zones. The wetlands are under threat due to developmental activities, and population pressure, and their preservation and conservation calls for a long term planning. 
The satellite data has been used to map the wetlands in the country and National and State level atlases have been brought out to improve our understanding of the dynamics and distribution of wetlands and their status as well as in planning conservation measures. A detailed study has been carried out under “National Wetland Inventory and Assessment” project, funded by Ministry of Environment and Forest. As per the study, the total wetland area in the country is estimated as 15.26 million hectares, which is around 4.63% of the geographic area of the country.

Indian Forest Cover Change Alert System (InFCCAS):

Indian Forest Cover change Alert System, using high temporal resolution Resourcesat AWiFS data, has been initiated at the behest of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to establish a sub-annual forest cover change monitoring. Under the pilot study, forest cover change-alerts were provided for the area of Yaval Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounding region, Jalagaon as well as part of Gadchiroli districts of Maharashtra. Alerts were generated for three months (Oct–Dec 2011), which reflects the full foliage status of moist and dry deciduous forests. Results were validated along with Maharashtra State Forest Department and an overall accuracy of 80% was obtained in the pilot study. It is planned to upscale the alert detection protocol for the entire country once the validated results are discussed with all the stakeholders and peer-reviewed in a national workshop.