With a cover of 23% of Geographical area of the country, forest in India comprise of a number of diverse forest types and reserved areas designated as National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. In India, forest meet the livelihood needs of people living in and adjoining the forests in about 1, 73,000 villages. Forests also act as carbon sinks and regulators of water regime.
Many development and industrial projects such as erection of dams, mining, and construction of industries or roads require diversion of forest land. Any project proponent, government or private must apply for forest clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), before the conversion of land take place. This proposal is to be submitted through the concerned forest department of the state government. If clearance is given, then compensation for the lost forest land is also to be decided by the ministry and the regulators.
Due to certain discrepancies in the implementation of compensatory afforestation, some NGOs had approached The Hon’ble Supreme Court for relief. The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 10th July 2009 issued orders that there will be a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) as National Advisory Council under the chairmanship of the Union Minister of Environment & Forests for monitoring, technical assistance and evaluation of compensatory afforestation activities.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) are meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.
While the principle of compensatory afforestation, and the need for payment of NPV, is fairly straightforward, the implementation is plagued with complications. The main difficulty has been the availability of non-forest land for afforestation. The law says the land selected should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted, so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it. But in case that is not possible, land in any other part of the state can be used for the purpose. If no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation, but in that case, twice the area of diverted forest has to be afforested. Still, there is difficulty in finding land, especially in smaller states, and in heavily forested ones like Chhattisgarh.
The other point of contention has been the purposes for which the money can be used. The fund was envisaged to be used only for “compensatory” afforestation, but the Bill before Parliament has expanded the list of works that this money can be utilised for, and includes the general afforestation programme run through the Green India Mission. Forest protection, forest management, forest and wildlife related infrastructure development, wildlife conservation, even facilitating the relocation of people from protected wildlife areas, are proposed to be made valid expenditure from this account. Critics say this will take the focus away from the prime objective of compensating for the forest cover lost to industrial or infrastructure development.