A bill that may help Uttarakhand restore its forest

A fund under consideration in parliament will compensate for loss of forest cover

GN Bureau | May 3, 2016


#Environment   #Forests   #Uttarakhand Fire   #Fire   #Uttarakhand  

(Photo Courtesy: www.indiawaterportal.org)

The forest fire which has been raging in Uttarakhand for the past few days has caused widespread destruction and has left environmentalists worried. The fire has undoubtedly caused extensive damage and the impact on wildlife is still being gauged.

In such a situation, a bill in parliament can provide some succour. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 will establish funds that will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 8, 2015. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests on May 21, 2015. The committee is scheduled to submit its report on the first day of the winter session of Rajya Sabha.
Here are the highlights of the bill
, courtesy PRS Legislative Research.


Satellite image of areas affected by Uttarakhand forest fire (image courtesy: Bhuvan)

Satellite image of areas affected by Uttarakhand forest fire (image courtesy: Bhuvan)


Highlights of the bill


•    The bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.

•    These funds will receive payments for: (i) compensatory afforestation, (ii) net present value of forest (NPV), and (iii) other project specific payments. The national fund will receive 10% of these funds, and the state funds will receive the remaining 90%.

•    These funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.

•    The bill also establishes the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and planning authorities to manage the national and state funds.

Key issues and analysis
 

  • The Bill establishes the Funds for compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. However, there are several factors (other than administration of funds) which affect compensatory afforestation and forest conservation.

 

  • A 2013 CAG report noted that state forest departments lack the planning and implementation capacity to carry out compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. With the share of funds transferred to states increasing from 10% to 90%, effective utilisation of these funds will depend on the capacity of state forest departments.

 

  • Procuring land for compensatory afforestation is difficult as land is a limited resource, and is required for multiple purposes, such as agriculture, industry, etc. This is compounded by unclear land titles, and difficulties in complying with procedures for land use.

 

  • A High Level Committee on Environment Laws observed that quality of forest cover has declined between 1951 and 2014, with poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations being one of the reasons behind the decline.

 

  • The Bill delegates the determination of NPV (value of loss of forest ecosystem) to an expert committee constituted by the central government. As NPV constitutes about half of the total funds collected, its computation methodology would be important.


The committee report’s summary, prepared by PRS Legislative Research, can be read here 

Read summary of the bill


Read text of the bill

 

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