India, Sept. 27 -- Nearly 2%, or 13,000 sq km, of India's total forest area is occupied by encroachers, the environment ministry has said in reply to a query filed under the Right to Information Act. India's total forest cover is 708,273 sq km.

The largest area encroached on is in Madhya Pradesh with about 5347.17 sq km, or nearly 7%, of 7,7414 sq km of forests being occupied by squatters; followed by Assam (11.28%) and Odisha (1.5%), according to the ministry.

The RTI application was filed by Akash Vashisht, a Ghaziabad-based legal activist ,and the reply from the environment ministry was dated July 23. Vashisht received the reply in August and made it public on Friday.

"We have only compiled the encroachment data shared by states with ...