Plantations to be taken up on open, scrub forests to generate green credits | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Plantations to be taken up on open, scrub forests to generate green credits

ByJayashree Nandi
Feb 27, 2024 04:46 PM IST

These lands will be made available for tree plantation to promote activities for increasing the green cover across the country

New Delhi: Corporations, other private entities can take up plantations on degraded land, including open forest and scrub land, wasteland and catchment areas, under the administrative control of states that have been identified by forest departments, a new notification by union environment ministry has said. These plantations will help generate green credits which can be traded and used as a leadership indicator under corporate social responsibility, the notification dated February 22 added.

The notification has raised serious concerns about change of land use especially in open forests, scrub land, common land which often harbour rich biodiversity. (Representative photo)
The notification has raised serious concerns about change of land use especially in open forests, scrub land, common land which often harbour rich biodiversity. (Representative photo)

The notification has raised serious concerns about change of land use especially in open forests, scrub land, common land which often harbour rich biodiversity.

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These lands will be made available for tree plantation to promote activities for increasing the green cover across the country for the purposes of generation of Green Credits which can then be traded by corporations or other entities.

The union environment ministry had issued a draft notification on trading in green credits in June last year. Apart from incentivising environment-sensitive behaviour among individuals and communities, the draft Green Credit Programme Implementation Rules 2023 stated that the government will also encourage private sector industries and companies to meet their existing obligations, stemming from other legal frameworks. They can do this by generating or buying green credits according to the draft notification. The Green Credit Rules, 2023 were then notified under section 3,6, 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 on October 12, 2023. In pursuance with those rules, the Centre on February 26 notified the methodology for calculation of green credits against tree plantations.

The notification states that the land parcel identified for plantation must be free from all encumbrances and must have size of five hectares or above. Any person or entity desirous of undertaking tree plantation for the purposes of generation of Green Credit may apply to the administrator who is overseeing the Green Credit programme.

The administrator will assign land (identified by forest department) to the applicant and require him to submit a proposal for undertaking tree plantation for generating green credits. The administrator will then issue a demand note on the cost of plantation and other costs to the applicant. Once paid for by the applicant, the forest department will carry out tree plantation in line with the management plan or working plan which shall be completed within a period of two years from the date of payment.

Also Read: COP28: Govt working on regulations to implement Green Credits

Once the plantation is ready, the applicant will issue green credits to the applicant under the said Rules, based on the total number of trees planted in assigned land parcel and on the report and certification of completion of tree plantation activity.

“The green credit shall be calculated at the rate of one Green Credit per tree grown through the tree plantation on such land parcel, subject to minimum density of 1100 trees per hectare, based on the local silvi-climatic and soil conditions, on the certification of completion of tree plantation provided by the Forest Department concerned,” the notification states.

The green credits generated for plantations, may be exchanged for meeting the compliance of the compensatory afforestation in case of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes under the Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, 1980, the notification states. These credits may be also used for reporting under environmental, social and governance leadership indicator or under corporate social responsibility.

“This rule is unscientific and completely ignores the ecological aspects of forests. Referring to open forests, scrub-land, and catchment areas as ‘degraded’ land parcels are vague and incentivising industrial-scale plantations in such areas will irreversibly alter soil quality, replace local biodiversity, and might be disastrous for local ecosystem services,” said Debadityo Sinha, Lead- Climate & Ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

“A forest consists of many layers- forest floor (soil and small herbs), understory (shrubs and middle height plants) and canopy (tall trees), with the most important being the forest floor and understory, which provide resilience from surface runoff, maintain soil moisture, preserve seeds for regeneration of forests, and provide habitats for many animals including insects, reptiles, birds, herbivores, and carnivores,” Sinha said.

“In fact the grasslands which are part of the forest floor play the most important role in carbon sequestration by storing one-third of terrestrial carbon stock with more than 90% of it in root and soil organic carbon. Why can’t the Ministry identify degraded grasslands and scrub forests and undertake ecological restoration instead of focussing purely on tree plantations which can actually be alien to the local ecosystem?” he added.

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