RS: CAF bill postponed to monsoon session
The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill listed for business in the current session of Rajya Sabha has been postponed to the monsoon session. The Congress, CPI (Marxist), the Janata Dal (United) and the Trinamool Congress have called for amendments to the bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha last week. The amendments seeks greater participation of gram panchayats in implementing the bill.
The Central government while granting approvals for projects which involve diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes, asks the project proponents to deposit a certain amount of money for conservation activities. This money is used for undertaking compensatory afforestation, and for conservation and development of forests. It helps in mitigating the impact of diversion of forest land.
1.3 million hectares of forest land has been diverted for non-forest purposes since 1980. This is equivalent to 3.5 times the area of Goa.
The Union Cabinet cleared the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 which would enable distribution of Rs.40,000 crores among all the states to plant forests. The bill provides for an institutional mechanism at central and state level in the form of the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund. This will ensure quick, efficient and transparent utilisation of money collected in the fund.
According to a Supreme Court order, the compensatory afforestation funds have to be deposited in the state-wise accounts operated by an ad-hoc body- Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority(CAMPA). A total of Rs.40,000 crores has accumulated in the fund. To provide for the establishment of a permanent institutional mechanism for utilisation of the fund, the government introduced the CAF Bill in the Parliament.
The CAF Bill, 2015 was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests on 13th May'15. The committee submitted its report on 26th Feb'16. The committee gave various recommendations- including tribal affairs experts and officials from ministry of earth sciences in the national and state authority, a time-bound approval of state/UTs annual plans by the national authority, etc.
The Union Cabinet has approved the amendments to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2015. The bill, aimed at ensuring expeditious utilisation of the Rs.40,000 crores CAF corpus for increasing forest cover in the country, was undergoing scrutiny by the Parliamentary standing committee. The cabinet, after examining the report of the committee, plans to move amendments in the bill which was tabled last year.
The diversion of pristine forests for developmental activities leads to fragmentation of forests into small vulnerable patches. Fragmentation affects biodiversity conservation by inhibiting landscape connectivity and causing forest degradation. The non-native species planted under compensatory afforestation have negligible biodiversity value and adversely impacts the natural vegetation of the region. Afforestation has a high failure rate as seen in Maharashtra, where 75% plantation attempts failed.
The Lok Sabha has passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill, 2015 that seeks to set up a National and State level Compensatory Afforestation Fund. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said it will be a historical legislation and will go a long way in ensuring implementation of a countrywide afforestation programme. Javedekar added that special emphasis would be given to native species of plants.