A Parliamentary panel has sought a policy making it mandatory for banks, major PSUs and firms in public and private sector to invest 50% of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for afforestation, which needs huge financial resources.
"If the government makes it mandatory that 50% of the money being spent towards CSR (will be used) for massive afforestation then millions of hectares of land will be covered by forests.
"At the same time the government will not have to worry about the fund...since the corporate world is already spending by way of CSR towards welfare activities," said the panel in its report tabled in Parliament on Monday.
It stressed on the need for formulation of such a policy to be implemented under the Environment Ministry.
About 23.84% of India's geographical area is under forest as per the India State of Forest Report, 2009. Of this, 21.02% is forest cover and 2.82% tree cover.
The panel headed by MP T Subbarami Reddy also flayed the Environment Ministry for failing to launch a scheme for afforestation involving Panchayati Raj Institutions, which is awaiting nod from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for the last three years.
It asked the ministry to make the Van Panchyat Yojna (social forestry with communities) operational at the earliest and said the obstacles coming in the way must be expeditiously removed. "Such a good programme which has enough scope to add to the forest cover of the country is suffering due to administrative laxity," said the panel.
The scheme was originally conceived in the very first year of the 11th Five-Year Plan period and an outlay of Rs 900 crore was earmarked for the period.