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Now, afforestation gets separate dedicated fund

Our Bureau

The Government may take a re-look at allowing private sector to use wastelands for tree plantations.

New Delhi , Aug 5

THE Ministry of Environment and Forests has created a separate pool, called the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), to ensure that the funds received for afforestation are used for purposes intended.

At present, the funds paid by various users for complying with the Ministry's rules, which include afforestation and catchment area treatment plan, are put in a common pool and can be used for other purposes too.

Henceforth, the funds collected under CAF will be invested in the Reserve Bank of India schemes, nationalised banks, post offices and other government securities. To manage the fund, the Ministry proposes to set up a separate body called the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

"The CAF will receive all monies from user agencies towards compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment plan, or for compliance of any other conditions stipulated by the Central Government," said the Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr A. Raja, at the State Forest Ministers conference here on Thursday.

"The CAMPA will release funds to the States and Union territories concerned in pre-determined instalments through the State Management Committees for specified purposes. This is in accordance to the directives of the Supreme Court," he said.

The Minister also indicated that the Government would take a re-look at allowing the private sector to use wastelands for tree plantations. Various industries like the paper industry, which source their raw materials from wood pulp, have sought access to wastelands owned by the Government as well as private individuals.

"At present, the private sector is constrained due to certain regulatory measures in the form of non-accessibility to Government wasteland for tree plantations, felling and transit regulations. The time has come to simplify the felling and transit regulations, particularly for the species which are attractive to the farm forestry/agro-forestry sectors," Mr Raja said.

The Central Government is also open to discussion on the Forest Ministry's recent notification which made environmental clearance by the Ministry mandatory for all projects exceeding Rs 50 crore, or buildings housing more than 1,000 people or discharging more than 50,000 litres of sewage daily.

"Although it is not on the agenda of the September 8 conference, the Ministry is ready to discuss the notification if the State Governments raise the issue," Mr Raja said.

The Ministry is also working out a framework for public-private partnership to attract additional investment for degraded forestlands. The Government needs to plant trees covering around five million hectares per annum to achieve the goal of 33 per cent of forest coverage by 2012.

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