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PTI

Odisha's forest cover has increased by 537.44 square kilometre between 2019 and 2020 due to various initiatives under the Joint Forest Management programme of the government to expand green areas in the state, according to a biennial survey.

The forest area growth in the coastal state during the period is the third highest in the country as Andhra Pradesh topped the list with an increase of 647 sq km and Telangana secured the second spot with 632 sq km, the report said.

The rise in the Odisha forest area by 537.44 sq km between 2019 and 2020 is more than the 237 sq km growth during the previous two years.

The forest cover is estimated at 52,155.95 sq km, comprising 33.50 per cent of the total geographical area of Odisha, according to the report of the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun.

Odisha topped among the states and Union Territories in terms of the increase in mangrove forest cover during the last two years.

The Similipal forest is among the "top three tiger reserves in the country in terms of forest cover", the state environment department said in a statement.

India State of Forest Report (lSFR), 2021 was on Thursday released by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav in New Delhi.

Twenty-three districts of Odisha have registered an increase in forest cover, while seven witnessed a decline in the area.

Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Koraput, Sambalpur, Sonepur, Khurda and Cuttack are among districts where the coverage has grown.

Malkangiri, Dhenkanal, Sundargarh, Rayagada and Keonjhar districts have recorded a fall in the forest area.

"About 243 sq km of medium dense forest became very dense forest during the last two years. At the same time, about 317 sq km of MDF turned to open forests in Odisha," the survey said.

It also showed 1,134 sq km of non-forest land now has a perceptible amount of green cover in the state.

The increase in the forest cover in Odisha is attributed to the Joint Forest Management initiatives by the state government along with several other schemes such as 'Increasing Green Cover' and 'Green Mahanadi Mission', an official said.

"About 43.87 per cent of forest in Odisha is prone to forest fire, the report added.

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