Forest Advisory Committee, an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends, has approved a scheme that could allow “forests” to be traded as a commodity.M
Issues in this mechanism
- Industries have often complained that they find it hard to acquire appropriate non-forest land, which must be contiguous to existing forest.
- Nearly Rs. 50,000 crores had been collected by the Centre over decades, but the funds were lying unspent because States were not spending the money on regrowing forests.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF)-Forest Rights act (FRA) land conflicts – The established legal principle in forest diversions is that it requires the informed consent of the gram sabha, and the prior settlement of all forest rights,but CFA does not provide for the same leading top legal and procedural anomaly.
- In November 2017, the environment ministry issued a direction asking states to “create landbanks for compensatory afforestation projects for the speedy disposal of forest clearance proposals.”
- On May 22, 2019, the ministry further said that in states with over 70% forest cover, compensatory afforestation projects against forest permits need not take place in the same state, but can be housed anywhere in the country, using land banks.
- In Jharkhand, over 20 lakh acres have been listed in land banks, including common lands, sacred groves and forest lands. People have no clue, and they suddenly find their land and forests being fenced away, cutting off life-giving access for them and their livestock.”
New mechanism approved
- The proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme’ allows agencies — they could be private companies, village forest communities — to identify land and begin growing plantations.
- After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land if they met the Department’s criteria.
Significance of the move
India has committed to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)1 to the Paris Agreement2. The achievement of this target will entail conservation of existing forests and acquisition of land for creating additional forests.