Jharkhand with a geographical area of 79,714 km2 constitutes 2.42% of the country’s area. The total recorded forest area of the state is 23,605 km2 which is 29.61% of the geographical area of the state. Of the total recorded forest area, Reserved Forests constitute 18.58%, Protected Forests 81.28%, and Unclassed Forests 0.14%. As per State of Forest Report of Forest Survey of India, forest cover in the state is 22,977 km2 which is 28.82% of the state’s geographical area. The total forest and tree cover put together, it constitutes about 32.48% of the geographical area of the state against the national average of 23.81%. The recorded forest area of the state is about 2.36 million hectares which constitutes 29.61 % of the geographical area of the state. By legal status, Reserve Forests constitute 18.59%, Protected Forests 81.27% and Unclassed Forests a mere 0.14%.There are three forest types viz., Tropical Moist Deciduous, Tropical Dry Deciduous, and Subtropical Broad leaved Hill Forests, Sal (Shorea robusta) being the major forest tree species. The Chhotanagpur Plateau is very rich in its flora and fauna.
Jharkhand ranks 10th among all the States and Union Territories of India considering the geographical area under forest cover. The dense forest distributed in the northwest and the southeast of the State constitutes about 15%, the open forest areas are evenly distributed in the north, central and south-eastern parts of the State and constitute about 13.6% of the forested area whereas the non-forested area is about 71.6% of the state’s geographic area. The total recorded forest area is about 23,605 sq km which contains reserve forest of about 18.6%, protected forest of 81.3% and unclassified forest about 0.1% (Ministry of Environment and Forest 2001). The main forest types in the state are:
(a) Peninsular Dry and Moist Sal Forests,
(b) Hill Valley Swamp Forest,
(c) Moist Sal Savannah,
(d) Moist Mixed Deciduous Forest,
(e) Riverine Forest,
(f) Bamboo and Cane brakes
State constitutes of One National Park and ten Wildlife Sanctuaries, devoted to in situ conservation of wildlife. They cover 0.21 million hectares, i.e., 2.63% of the state’s total geographical area and 9% of the recorded forest area. In addition, there is one Biological Park, at Chakla (Ormanjhi), one Deer Park at Kalamati and one Crocodile Breeding Centre at Muta, all in Ranchi District, devoted to ex situ conservation of wildlife as well as for serving as centres for sensitizing people for conservation of wildlife resources of the state and the country at large. The state is implementing two national research-cum-conservation projects viz., the Project Tiger since 1973-74 for in situ conservation of the Indian Tiger and the Project Elephant since 1991-92 for conservation of viable populations of wild Asiatic Elephants and their habitats. Under these conservation projects, special management units of the Palamau Tiger Reserve and the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve have been created.
Some of the important forests and national parks of Jharkhand are:
- Betla National Park
- Hazaribagh Wild Life Sanctuary
- Dalma Wild Life Sanctuary
- LAWALONG Wild life Sanctuary
- UDWA Bird Sanctuary
- Saranda – The Sal Forest
- MAHUADAR Wild Life Sanctuary
- Koderma Sanctuary
- Crocodile Breeding Centre – Muta
- vTopchanchi Sanctuary
Based on the forest canopy density classes, the forest land of Jharkhand can be classified under three broad categories, 2,590 Km2 is classified as very dense forest, 9,917 km2 as moderately dense and remaining 10,470 km2 as open forest (Forest Survey of India, 2011). Due to the efforts by the state forest department, the quality of the forest in the state has improved. There has been an increase of 18 km2 in the moderately dense forest and 65 km2 in open forest. The estimated tree cover in the state (estimated using TOF inventory data collected over a period of six years, i.e. 2004-10) is 2,914 km2 which is 3.66% of its geographical area (Forest Survey of India, 2011).
The forests at Jharkhand are home to the rich biodiversity within the territory of Jharkhand. Some of the major animals found in the forests of Jharkhand are:
- Wild boar
- Blue bull
- Honey badger
- Malabar giant, etc.
Furthermore, the flora of the forests at Jharkhand also contributes towards the enhancement of the tourism industry at Jharkhand. Among the important trees in Jharkhand are sal, bamboo, mango, jackfruit, kendu, katha, gambhar, jamun, harhe, mahua, shisham, sagwan, baheda, etc.
It is noteworthy in this context that the forests in Jharkhand fall under the Ministry of Forest and Environment. In fact, the Ministry of Forest and Environment in Jharkhand takes care of the Jharkhand forests. The Department of environment and forests at Jharkhand basically deal with the following:
- Conservation of Forest
- Control of Forest Development and Corporation
- Conservation of Wild Animals and Birds
- Protection of the Environment
- Conservation of Environment
- Formulation of Rules and Planning of Human Habitation in Jharkhand
- Environment Research and Education
- Biological Parks Management, etc.