India is looking at drastically increasing its forest cover with a bill that would make the government spend a massive Rs.41,000 crore on reaching a target of 33 per cent forest cover. Passed in the Lok Sabha on May 3, the bill called Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015, aims at significantly raising the green cover from its existing 21.34 percent.
India has been fast losing forest cover to rapid urbanization and fires – whether deliberate or not. Another reason behind loss of forests is the government itself.
It was the government – the environment ministry – that allowed the use of forest land for non-forestry purposes such as human habitation and building of factories.
This 1986 photograph shows the effect of deforestation in Sikkim. BameDuniya
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) pointed out that since 1980, around 1.29 million hectares of forest land has been lost to the urbanization.
According to experts, it will be very difficult for the government to achieve its ambitious target because it would require the reversal of a decades old system it has itself encouraged.
Some are of the opinion that people cannot be just thrown out of the land they acquired due to the government’s policy of allowing them to use forest land.
Though India’s forest cover is slowly rising, this exponential rise would require drastic measures from the government. The funds to be used for the project would require constant monitoring. But Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is upbeat that once the bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha, the government will be able to reach its intended goal under the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – the country’s climate plan.
The government is looking at creating a larger carbon sink with more forests. A carbon sink is created when trees naturally bring down carbon dioxide by absorbing it.
So if the forest cover goes up, carbon dioxide will go down helping in environment preservation.
Where will the money come from?
The money has been accumulated for over 12 years as fees from private companies that were allowed to use forest land for their projects. Ninety per cent of this money will be given to the states for the afforestation drive.