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Centre notifies draft rules for use of Rs 50k crore afforestation funds

When forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes like development projects, the developers must deposit funds for not just afforestation of land equal to that being deforested but also compensate for the economic value of services provided by the lost forest area for 50 years.

environment Updated: Feb 18, 2018 20:01 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Afforestation,Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016,Supreme Court
The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act was passed in 2016, creating national and state-level fund. (HT File Photo)

The environment ministry has notified draft rules under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016, that lay down how and for what purposes funds collected in lieu of deforestation are used.

The fund is embroiled in controversy because of a lack of clarity about use of funds and the procedure for its transfer to states. There are fears of fund misuse for purposes other than ecological conservation.

The Supreme Court had directed the Centre to form a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in 2002, but as a stop-gap measure, an ad hoc CAMPA was constituted by the apex court, which has been disbursing the funds to states since 2009. Till date, over Rs 50,000 crore has been collected as part of the fund but less than Rs 15,000 crore has been disbursed.

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act was passed in 2016, creating national and state-level fund. However, a plea filed in the SC has blocked the transfer money from going into the national and state funds till the rules are not framed.

When forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes like development projects, the developers must deposit funds for not just afforestation of land equal to that being deforested but also compensate for the economic value of services provided by the lost forest area for 50 years,called Net Present Value (NPV).

As per the draft rules, 80% of the NPV should be used by the state for activities like assisted natural regeneration and protection of forests. The remaining 20% can be used for developing forest-related infrastructure.

Given that the claims of forest dwellers are not fully settled , any provision for afforestation has the potential to violate rights of communities that rely on forest land for livelihood, environmentalists said. “This draft violates the FRA, the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and will result in further atrocities against tribals and forest dwellers,” Shankar Gopalakrishnan, a researcher with Campaign for Survival and Dignity, said.

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 20:01 IST