Forest Committee approves scheme to ‘trade’ in forests-The Hindu-10-01-2020
It allows Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.
Forest Advisory Committee :
The Forest Advisory Committee, an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends, has approved a scheme that could allow “forests” to be traded as a commodity. If implemented, it allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.
It is an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends.
What is the system followed at present?
In the current system, the industry needs to make good the loss of forest by finding appropriate non-forest land equal to that which would be razed.
It also must pay the State Forest Department the current economic equivalent called Net Present Value of the forest land.
It’s then the Forest Department’s responsibility to grow appropriate vegetation that, over time, would grow into forests.
Industries have often complained that they find it hard to acquire appropriate non-forest land, which has to be contiguous to an existing forest.
Nearly 50,000 crores had been collected by the Centre over decades, but the funds were lying unspent because States were not spending the money on regrowing forests.
The Supreme Court intervened; a new law came about with rules for how this fund was to be administered. About 47,000 crores had been disbursed to States until August 2019, but it has barely led to any rejuvenation of forests.
In 2015, a ‘Green Credit Scheme’ for degraded forest land with public-private participation was recommended, but it was not approved by the Union Environment Minister, the final authority.
Green Credit Scheme:
The proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme’, allows agencies — they could be private companies, village forest communities — to identify land and begin growing plantations. After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land if they meet the Forest Department’s criteria. An industry needing forest land could then approach the agency and pay it for parcels of such forested land, and this would then be transferred to the Forest Department and be recorded as forest land.
The participating agency will be free to trade its asset, that is plantation, in parcels, with project proponents who need forest land.
Benefits of the scheme:
One of India’s prongs to combat climate change is the Green India Mission that aims to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30, and this involves adding 30 million hectares in addition to existing forest.
If implemented, the new scheme allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.
The FAC believes that such a scheme will encourage plantation by individuals outside the traditional forest area and will help in meeting international commitments such as sustainable development goals and nationally determined contributions.
Arguments against the scheme:
A few experts opine that it does not solve the core problems of compensatory afforestation.
It is believed that it would create problems of privatising multi-use forest areas as monoculture plantation plots.
It is also argued that forests would be treated as a mere commodity without any social or ecological character.