Clean Tech

Time to step up forest cover pace

Preethi Mehra | Updated on: Jan 01, 2020

Where forest cover is concerned, India has set itself a target that needs a much higher rate of afforestation in the coming years than the current one of 35 million tonnes per year carbon dioxide equivalent.

The country has committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that, besides reducing emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030, it will create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest cover and trees.

To achieve this, in August 2018, it unveiled a National REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) Strategy which spelt out the green goals of the government. These included bringing “all actions and activities by all stakeholders on a common platform making it feasible to ensure a comprehensive monitoring and assessment of the performance of forest management and development at different levels of administration.” REDD+ implementation would entail coverage of natural forests as well as trees outside the forests (TOF). The document stated this “synergises well with the socio-economic development of local communities, raw material requirement of wood-based industry, need for conservation of biodiversity including plants and animals, providing a green environment for people, and enhancing the forest carbon sink.”

Currently, the country has about 1,73,000 forest fringe villages (MoEF, 2006) where local tribes and communities are traditionally dependent on forests for all their needs, including food, fodder energy, livestock grazing, housing and traditional medicines. In the nineties, a Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme comprising local communities and State forest departments was conceived. The REDD+ strategy was to take this forward through JFM committees. In 2018, in its Second Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC, India reported that its forest and tree cover had increased, from 24.01 per cent of the total geographical area as reported in India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2013, to 24.39 per cent as reported in ISFR 2017. This, however, is work in progress. In the December Parliament session, the MoEFCC said that under its National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme, it has utilised over 21 lakh hectare sanctioned area. Critics, however, say there have been no significant independent studies to assess achievements in afforestation towards NDC targets.

Published on January 01, 2020
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