GANGTOK, Aug 18 (IANS): With a forest cover 47.3 percent of its total geographical area -- more than double the national average of 21 percent -- Sikkim is India's greenest state, official data shows.
"The forest cover in the state, based on the interpretation of satellite data, is 3,359 sq km, which is 47.3 percent of state's geographical area," a statement released here Sunday by the Sikkim government said.
In terms of the density of forest canopy, the state has 500 sq km area under very dense forests, 2,161 sq km area under moderately dense, and 698 sq km under open forests.
The forest area in the state under very dense forest, moderate dense forest and open forest is 7.05 percent, 30.45 percent and 9.84 percent respectively, in comparison to the national average of 2.54 percent, 9.76 percent and 8.73 percent, respectively.
The forest cover of the Himalayan state, which was 43.95 percent of the total area in 1993, has now increased to 47.34 percent.
The state government has fixed a target of bringing an additional 1,000 hectares of land under forest cover during the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-17).
The state has achieved the distinction of being the greenest state in the country, mainly due to various protection and conservation measures like Sikkim Green Mission, Ten Minutes to Earth and Smriti Vans, launched by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling.
These efforts have also helped in increasing the number of wild animals and in the regeneration of endangered species of flora.
The state government has spent around Rs.10 crore on the green mission, under which around 45 lakh indigenous trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, creepers, conifers and green foliages, including fruits and medicinal plants, have been planted.
The state has another distinction of minimum diversion of 800 hectare forest land for non-forestry purposes in the last 20 years. It has also brought approximately 2,000 hectare land under forest cover, as part of compensatory afforestation, in the same period.
The state has brought 38 percent of the geographical area under protected area cover network of national parks, sanctuaries and biosphere reserve created for the conservation of bio diversity -- this figure is also the highest in the country.
Sikkim has more than 400 species of orchid, 600 species of butterflies and 550 species of birds found at various altitude.
The state is home to the snow leopard, the red panda, Himalayan black bear, musk deer and flying squirrel, among other endangered species.
In terms of percent of geographical area, maximum 76.13 percent area of south Sikkim is under forest cover, while 73.27 percent area of east Sikkim is under forest cover.
Total 66.21 percent area of west Sikkim is under forest cover while 31.16 percent of north Sikkim is forested, the statement said.