In the last six years, there has been a net increase of 15,000 square kilometres of tree cover in India, said Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar while responding to a supplementary question in the Rajya Sabha on March 15, 2021.

This statement is false.

There has been an increase of only 3,761 sq kms (4.1%) of tree cover in India in the last six years, revealed a FactChecker analysis of the India State of Forest Report 2013 and 2019. These reports were released by the Forest Survey of India.

In 2013, the total tree cover of the country was 91,266 sq kms and in 2019 it increased to 95,027 sq km, showed the data. This means tree cover held 2.89% of the country's geographical area in 2019 and 2.78% in 2013.

The Forest Survey of India defines and measures tree cover and forest cover differently. Tree cover is defined as all tree patches of size less than one hectare occurring outside the recorded forest area. This covers trees in all formations including scattered trees.

On the other hand, forest cover includes all lands with trees in more than one hectare of area with tree canopy density of more than 10%, irrespective of ownership, legal status of the land and species composition of trees.

However, the forest cover saw an increase of 14,351 sq kms (2.05%) in the country — 7,12,249 sq kms in 2019 from 6,97,898 sq kms in 2013.

Overall, the green cover which comprises tree and forest cover, rose by 18,112 sq kms (2.2%) — 8,07,276 sq kms in 2019 from 7,89,164 sq kms in 2013. This means trees and forests occupied 24.56% of the country's geographical area in 2019 as compared to 24.01% in 2013.

In 2019, Maharashtra with 10,806 sq kms topped the list of states with maximum tree cover. It was followed by Madhya Pradesh (8,339 sq kms), Rajasthan (8,112 sq kms) and Jammu & Kashmir (7,944 sq kms).