Land Suitability Assessment for Forestation, Mayiladuthurai District, Tamil Nadu

Land is a finite resource with competing and conflicting use. Unplanned and unscientific use of land can exacerbate climate change, and disasters like drought or floods. Judicious use of land resources is key in meeting the state’s social, economic and environmental development goals. A comprehensive land suitability assessment can guide responsible and sustainable development practices and land-use policies.

As per its intended Nationally Determined Contribution under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India is targeting the creation of an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030 – through additional forest and tree cover of 25-30 million hectares. In this context, the State Government of Tamil Nadu has set a target to increase its percentage of tree cover from 23% to 33% by the year 2030.

A forestation land suitability assessment for the Mayiladuthurai district in Tamil Nadu, India was carried out using a geospatial digital tool LiLa (LifeLands). LiLa uses satellite imagery, AI & GIS mapping to create critical data-based insights and visualization that supports decision-making by providing detailed information. This includes geo-spatial and socio-economic data-layers to address the core aspects of sustainable land-use management. It identifies and evaluates unused lands for its potential in terms of solar energy, forestation and water management.

The objective of this report is to identify unused lands in Mayiladuthurai district and evaluate its potential for forestation initiatives that can contribute meeting the state’s tree-cover target of 33% by the year 2030.

Identified unused lands were evaluated based on multiple-criteria methodology including parameters pertaining to terrain suitability, existing road, rail and electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure, elevation, water potential and potential to create forest corridors. The lands are also further assessed based on their potential for competing climate action, such as areas that are suitable for water harvesting and solar energy generation.

The land use mapping indicates that 8% of the district’s geographical area is under tree cover. Agriculture land use is by far the most dominating land use category accounting for 63%. Identified unused lands account for an area of 118 km2 or 10% of the total geographical area. Out of the total identified unused lands 56% or 16,237 acres have been found to be suitable for forestation. If all the unused lands suitable for forestation were put under tree cover Mayiladuthurai district would increase its share of lands under tree cover from 8% to 13.5% creating a carbon stock of 0.55 million tonnes of carbon.