West Bengal Forest Natural Vegetation
The state of West Bengal is rich in forest cover for natural vegetation. Due to variations in soil, topography, and other climatic factors, there are wide variations in the West Bengal natural vegetation forest found here. The state is also home to the biggest mangrove forest in the world.
The forests of West Bengal have wide variations. Forests are spread across the state from the Northernmost tip on the slopes of the high Himalayas to the Duars in the foothills of the Western tracts of the state. Before studying the types of forest in West Bengal, it is important to know about its recorded forest area and forest cover.
Recorded Forest Area of West Bengal
The term Recorded Forest Area generally refers to all the geographical areas recorded in the government records. According to the Indian State of Forest Report 2017, the Recorded Forest Area of the state is 11,879 sq km, which comprises 13.38% of its geographical area. It is lower than the national average of 23%. Out of the recorded forest area, the reserved forest area-is 59.4%, the protected forest area is 31.8% and the unclassed forest area is 8.9%.
Forest Cover of West Bengal
The forest cover consists of Very Dense Forests (VDF) (3.37%), Moderately Dense Forests (MDF) (4.67%), Open Forests (OF) (10.94%), and Scrub Forests (SF) (0.16%) of the total geographical area.
The non-forest area of the state is 80.86%. The district with the highest forest cover is Jalpaiguri that has around 45% of its geographical area under forests followed by South 24 Parganas with 28% of forest cover. The least forest cover is in Kolkata with 0.5% of its area under forest cover.
District –wise Forest Cover Area (in sq km)
District Geographical Area Total Forest Area
Bankura 6882 1270
Bardhaman 7024 335
Birbhum 4545 177
Dakshin Dinajpur 2219 87
Darjeeling 3149 2365
Haora 1467 304
Hooghly 3149 160
Jalpaiguri 6227 2857
Cooch Behar 3387 349
Kolkata 185 1
Malda 3733 491
Murshidabad 5324 346
Nadia 3927 480
North 24 Parganas 4094 723
Paschim Midnapore 9368 2151
Purba Midnapore 4713 820
Purulia 6259 904
South 24 Parganas 9960 2792
Uttar Dinajpur 3140 235
Grand Total 88752 16847
Classification of Forests in West Bengal
The forests of West Bengal are classified into six categories on the basis of soil, moisture, altitude, and other climatic factors. These are as follows:
- Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
- Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests iii. Sub-tropical Broad-leafed Wet Hill Forests
- Montane Wet Temperate Forests
- Littoral and Swamp Forests/The Mangroves Forests
- Sub-alpine Forests
(i) Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
This type of forest is found in the lower reaches of North Bengal mainly in the districts of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, and Coochbehar (Terai region). Almost the entire Duars and Terai area are the main sites of these forests. The main species found in these forests are the champ, sissoo, simul, teak, sal, mango, jackfruit, coconut, betel nut, mahua, etc.
(ii) Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests
This type of forest is found in the Western plateau regions in the districts of Bankura, Purulia, East and West Midnapore, Birbhum, and Bardhaman of West Bengal. The main species found in these forests are sal, peasal, kend, mahul, kusum, karam, asan, bahera, rahara, dhaw, mango, jam, etc. Forest products are used in timber, paper mills, and matchbox, bidi, rope making, silk production factories.
(iii) Sub-tropical Broad-leafed Wet Hill Forests
This type of forest is found in the middle reaches of North Bengal with an altitude between 300 m-1650 m. The main areas of these forests are upper Sumbong, upper Reyong, Majua, lower Babukhola, Phuguri, Mirik, Kuhi, etc in the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and some parts of Jalpaiguri. The species commonly found in these forests are mowa, katus, panisaj, lek, malata, kawla, etc.
(iv) Montane Wet Temperate Forests
This type of forest is found in the upper reaches of North Bengal hills with an altitude between 1650 m-3000 m.
The main sites of these forests are Selimbong, Kankibong, Little Rangit, Lopchu, Mahaldiram, Paglajhora, etc in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The species commonly found in these forests are oak, maple, pine, fir, deodar, and spruce.
(v) Littoral and Swamp Forests/The Mangrove Forests
This type of forest is found in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta (Sundarbans) i.e. in the districts of South 24 Parganas and Southern region of North 24 Parganas. This type of forest mostly contains Sundari mangrove trees. The trees of mangrove forests having breathing roots, which are usually very large to stand in deep mud.
The forests of Sundarbans are included in the World Heritage Site in 1987. Tribal people living in these forests do fishing, collect honey and wax. These mangrove forests grow in the coastal intertidal zone. Kewra or keya bushes are also the most common vegetation of these forests, which grow in clumps or groups. These forests are just 0 to 10 m above sea level. The other main species found in these forests are casuarina trees, Goran, baen, dhundal, etc. Honey and wax are commercial products extracted from these forests.
(vi) Sub-alpine Forests
This type of forest is found in the very high reaches of North Bengal hills with an altitude between 3000 m-3700 m in the Northern part of the Darjeeling district. The main sites of these forests are Sandakphu, Sabarkum, Phalut, etc.
The species commonly found in these forests are junipers, birch, rhododendrons, berberis, making bamboo, laurel, etc. Oak and magnolia occur around the region of Kalimpong. In the upper Singalila range, dwarf rhododendrons, meadows, and small flowering bushes occur.
West Bengal Forest Department
It was established in 1864 in Kolkata. The main objective of the Department is the maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of the ecological balance and conservation of the natural heritage. The department runs various projects that are mentioned below:
West Bengal Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project
It aims to develop a forest ecosystem, conserve biodiversity, and improve living conditions for the locals. It is working in association with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) since 2013.
West Bengal Wasteland Development Cooperation Limited
It was established in 1989, this organization takes up the management of forestry and other allied activities. Apart from that it also creates green shelterbelts, landscaping, and timber harvesting
West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited
It was established in 1974 to develop allied activities related to forestries like eco-tourism, wood-based industries, management of plantations, and overall forest area.
This wing of the department takes care of the 6 national parks and 15 wildlife sanctuaries in the state which are constituted under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It also runs animal rescue centers, vulture conservation center and takes estimation of tigers, elephants, leopards, and rhinos.
West Bengal State Forest Development Agency
This agency organizes eco-tourism centers, jungle camps in the Terai region of Jalpaiguri district with a view to conserve forests along with developing income opportunities for the local people.
This mission is run by the Central Government in five states namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and West Bengal. It is managed by West Bengal Forest Department for sustaining the biodiversity of the Ganga river ecosystem along with its purification.
Consolidation of Joint Forest Management
- Joint Forest Management (JFM) has evolved as a major component of forest management in the state. West Bengal is the pioneer of JFM in India. The main objective is to reduce the biotic pressure on the forests so that the forests are conserved to the most productive levels and the biodiversity of the forests remains unaffected. The JFM works in the states and encourages Panchayats to participate in the conservation and management works. This resolution was taken in 1996 and revised in 2008. Presently the JFM is working in the Darjeeling hills and Western plateau areas of the state.
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