The word Assam has its origin in the Sanskrit word Asom meaning Unparalleled or Peerless. In the mythological text this land is described as Pragjyotishpura or the "City of eastern lights"; the site where Lord Brahma first created the stars. This land which the Ahom Rulers described as "Nung Dun Chun Kham" or the "Country of Golden Gardens", is endowed with natural bounty rarely found elsewhere.
The State of Assam; criss-crossed by mountains, valleys and an intricate river system; is located in the eastern most part of India between 24°.07' N to 28°.00' N Latitude and 89°.42' E to 96°. 02' E Longitude and extends over geographical area of 78,438 sq. km. which constitute 2.39% of the country's total area. In his book Red Rivers and Blue Hills, the eminent scholar Hem Barua wrote, "To many outsiders Assam is no more than a land of mountains and malaria, earthquakes and floods and the Kamakhya Temple. To others it is a green woodland where slothful serpents, insidious tigers, wild elephants and stealthy leopards peep and peer with virulent eyes and claws. Assam to most of the people is mentally a distant horizon like Bolivia or Peru – less known and more fancied".
The state is famous for its tea gardens and one horned Rhinoceros. Topographically the state can be divided in to three parts viz the Brahmaputra valley, the Surma valley and the mountainous Assam Ranges. The state has subtropical climate with temperature ranging from 5°C to 32°C and mean annual rainfall varying from 1,500 mm to 3,750 mm.
The population of the state is 31.17 million (Census 2011). The rural and urban population accounts for 85.92% and 14.08% respectively. The population density is 397 persons per sq km. The livestock population of the state is 17.23 million (Livestock Census 2007)
The recorded forest area of Assam is 26,832 sq km accounting for 34.21% of its geographical area. According to their legal status, Reserved Forests constitute 66.58% and Unclassed Forests 33.42% of the total forest area.
The protected area network of Assam includes 5 National Parks and 18 wildlife sanctuaries covering an area of 0.40 million ha constituting 4.98% of the geographical area. The state has three Tiger Reserves, namely Kaziranga, Manas and Nameri. Kaziranga National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary are in the list of World Heritage sites.
Forest type mapping using satellite data has been undertaken by the Forest Survey of India with reference to Champion and Seth Classification. As per this assessment, the state has 18 forest types belonging to five forest type groups viz Tropical Wet Evergreen, Tropical Semi Evergreen, Tropical Moist Deciduous, Tropical Dry Deciduous and Sub Tropical Pine Forests.
The estimated tree cover in the state is 1,564 sq km which is1.99% of geographical area of the state. Forest cover in the state is 27,673 sq km that is 35.28% of the geographical area of the state. Thus the Forest and tree cover in the state is 29,237 sq km which is 37.27% of the geographical area. Source: India State of Forest Report 2011, Forest Survey of India.
Assam is endowed with wide ranging flora and fauna. It is one of the best destinations where tourist can encounter a great variety of wildlife. The State of Assam is famous worldwide as the home of great one horned Rhinoceros which is largely concentrated in the Kaziranga National Park. Other notable faunal species found here are Hoolock Gibbon, Stump Tailed Macaque, Capped Langur and Golden Langur, Pigmy Hog, Clouded Leopard, Golden Cat and White Winged Wood Duck. Elephants are found in all parts in Assam. The floral and faunal basket consists of:
|Biodiversity Particulars||Estimated Number of Species|
|Bird||800+ (280 migratory)|
Source: Assam Forests At a Glance, Forest Department, Assam, 2011-12
Forests provide a variety of products for both commercial as well as household consumption that include industrial wood, fuel, bamboo, thatch and thatching material, cane, traditional medicines, edible fruits, bark, gum and resin, fiber and floss etc. This magnificent array of plant and animals products is however, facing high incidence of biotic and extractive pressure affecting their physical and ecological integrity, bringing serious repercussion to the State's biodiversity, wildlife and overall ecology. To ensure the wellbeing of the people, through effective conservation and management of the natural resources, the Government of Assam (GOA) with the support of Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency - AFD), is implementing the Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC). The Project aims to restore forest ecosystems, in collaboration with the forest dependent communities to enhance their livelihoods, ensuring conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. To achieve this, the project is organized around four main technical components and one component for project management.