Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill: Pitfalls

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill: Pitfalls

Question: Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, though a positive legislation in many ways, has several negative implications as well. Examine the latter.

- Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill needs to be recast to preserve India’s forests

- Compensatory Afforestation has been a concept in place since 1980; a corpus of INR 35,000 crore has accrued from levies in a fund known as CAMPA/Compensatory Afforestation Management Planning Authority

- Central government now releases 90% of the money to states for afforestation projects

- Bill is anchored on flawed premises and only aims at covering up destruction of forests in the name of development

- Ill planned development will break large forest blocks into smacker patches; habitat fragmentation threatens flora as well as fauna

- This also exposes the forest to exploitation and extreme degradation

- Ecological disaster can result from compensatory afforestation approach For example, from 1980 to 2005, KIOCL or Kundremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd has strip mined hill slopes in Karnataka’s Kundremukh national park

- Apart from damage to the fragile ecosystem, around 150 million tonnes of tailings were dumped on the 100 m deep forested valley

- KIOCL planted massive number of trees which were non native species with zero biodiversity value and planted on adjoining areas of natural grassland, an integral part of the Bhadra River watershed

- CAF Bill 2015 in its current form needs to be modified to allow major percentage of CAMPA funds to be utilised for consolidation of large blocks of natural old growth in the forests rather than unsuitable flora

- Regardless of investment of more than INR 4600 crore during the past 3 decades from international aid agencies, the poor outcome is visible for all to see.

- With investment of more than INR 4600 crore in the past 30 years, more than INR 1500 crore has been spent on afforestation projects in Karnataka, FSI data shows

- The dense forest cover of the state of Karnataka however fell by 2898 sq km between 1997 and 2011

- In Maharashtra, recent official evaluation of 10 year old plantations in all 11 forest circles has indicated 74% of them had failed while 13% are partially successful and only 13 percent are successful

- As per the 12th Plan, allocation of INR 2500 crore was made for the National Afforestation Programme but less to show on the ground

- Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology and Environment and Forests in 2015 has recorded despite massive budgetary provisions, there is forest degradation to the tune of 40%

- Presently, the Japan International Cooperation Agency has committed INR 15,000 crore for 22 forestry projects in 13 states

- MoEF is pushing forward with the ill conceived CAF Bill without considering benefits for the nation

- Further justification for review of the CAF Bill needs to be undertaken

- CAMPA is the sovereign fund of India and is available for only large forest blocks

- None of the global aid agencies funding afforestation projects allows for ecologically vital activity

- Consolidating large reserved forest blocks, and creation of wildlife corridors needs to be funded through CAMPA is natural restoration or regeneration of degraded forests

- Approach is for identifying degraded forests with existent root stock and invest on appropriate protection measures such as trenching, fire prevention and fencing

- Degraded forests will recover through natural process at nominal cost to the exchequer

- Degraded forests will be recovered in a way that is ineffective because artificial plantations cannot affect the habitat in a positive way

- Ecological security needs to be followed while social and economic progress needs to be attained

- CAF Bill 2015 should form a genuine strategy rather than squandering away money and not attaining ecological security

Facts and Stats

- Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill 2015 was introduced by MoEF on May 8, 2015

- Bill seeks establishment of fund at national and state level to attain money for compensatory afforestation

- Definition of compensatory afforestation: Afforestation in lie of diversion of forest land for non forest usage and Forests (Conservation) Act 1980

- Bill also seeks permanent National Afforestation Fund under the public account of India

- It will established a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund
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