Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and country’s top-most forest official and director general of forests PJ Dalip Kumar are at loggerheads.
Natarajan on Wednesday rejected Kumar’s proposal to set up two forest research centres in Delhi with Rs 1,000 crore from an afforestation fund monitored by a Supreme Court committee.
Kumar wanted the government to agree for setting up the National Institute of Forestry and Natural Resources and Indian National Forest Documentation Centre for Research in addition to Dehradun-based Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education and Forest Survey of India.
He had also sought Rs 1 crore from the fund to organise the Indian Forest Congress in Bangalore, which was also rejected.
The proposals were discussed at a meeting of ad-hoc committee of Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAMPA) headed by Natarajan recently.
The fund was started on the directions of the Supreme Court, which wanted the amount collected for allowing diversion of forestland for projects by the Central government to be used for rejuvenation of forests. There is about R25,000 crore in CAMPA for the purpose.
According to official sources, the minister was of the view that these proposals were against the “basic spirit” of CAMPA as the money cannot be given only for regeneration of forests.
But that has not happened as state governments have reduced their plan allocation for forestry, claiming that the money would be available for the same from CAMPA.
“CAMPA was supposed to augment state governments’ efforts to protect forests and not as a substitute to plan funds,” a senior ministry official said.
What has apparently irked the minister is that CAMPA funds are being sought for all purposes in the name of forestry, which would dilute the basic purpose of setting up the fund.
However, Natarjan refused to comment on the issue, but the forest division officials said there was no money available with the government to set up these dedicated institutes and, therefore, money was sought from CAMPA.
Earlier, Natarajan had overruled Kumar’s objections for importing cheetahs from Namibia to be released in wild in Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.