The Union Cabinet on 29 April 2015 gave its nod for introduction of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2015 in the Parliament.
The purpose of the legislation is to provide for institutional mechanism, both at the Centre and in each State and Union Territory, to ensure expeditious utilization of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.
Compensatory afforestation means afforestation done in lieu of diversion of forest land for non forest use. For this money is collected from companies to whom forest land is diverted.
Centre proposed CAF bill, 2015 which has following objectives:
- To provide an appropriate institutional mechanism, both at the Centre and in each State and Union Territory
- To provide safety, security and, transparency in utilization of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose
- Ensure expeditious utilization of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)
But recent CAF Bill has many flaws which have been highlighted by environmentalists as:
- The bill promotes breaking of large forest land into smaller patches which disrupts landscape connectivity, affecting dispersal of animals, creates new edges that expose forest to exploitation and severe degradation. Therefore there is no consolidation of OGF (old growth forest) but fragmentation of them.
- The species raised are non native to the areas where they are planted. This causes degradation of indigenous or native species. E.g KIOCL (Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd.) planted trees in Bhadra river basin which has destroyed natural grassland over there
- The compensatory afforestation has only increased tree cover as VDF (very dense forest) and MDF (moderately dense forest) has declined. This was highlighted by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & forest. This shall be taken into account.
- Bill also does not provide for natural restoration and regeneration of degraded forest
The need of the hour is to increase consolidation of OGF, restoring degraded ecology and using funds for non native plantations only in extreme case when forest is extremely degraded with no trace of native species.
Importance of the Bill:
- The proposed legislation would bring the CAF within broader focus of both Parliament and State Legislatures and in greater public view, by transferring them to non-lapsable interest bearing funds, to be created under public accounts of the Union of India and each State.
- It will also ensure expeditious utilization of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which presently is of the order of 38000 crore rupees.
- Further, it would also ensure fresh accrual of compensatory levies and interest on accumulated unspent balance, which will be of the order of approximately 6000 crore rupees per annum, in an efficient and transparent manner.
- Utilization of these amounts will facilitate timely execution of appropriate measures to reduce impact of diversion of forest land, for which these amounts have been realised.
- Apart from mitigating the impact of diversion of forest land, utilisation of these amounts will also result in creation of productive assets and creation of huge employment opportunities in rural areas, especially in backward tribal areas.