Lok Sabha passes bill to unlock Rs 41,000 cr for afforestation

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New Delhi | Updated: May 3, 2016 10:30:41 PM

Amid rare bonhomie between the opposition and ruling benches, the Lok Sabha today passed a bill which will pave the way for "unlocking" of nearly Rs 41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent for about four years".

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, while replying to debate on the bill, said it is an important legislation because it unlocks the amount which was lying unused since 2012-13. (PTI)Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, while replying to debate on the bill, said it is an important legislation because it unlocks the amount which was lying unused since 2012-13. (PTI)

Amid rare bonhomie between the opposition and ruling benches, the Lok Sabha today passed a bill which will pave the way for “unlocking” of nearly Rs 41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent for about four years.

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill 2015 will ensure expeditious utilisation of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) which is presently around Rs 41,000 crore.

90 per cent of the amount will go to states and the remaining will be there with the central government.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, while replying to debate on the bill, said it is an important legislation because it unlocks the amount which was lying unused since 2012-13.

As the money is going into the public account, he said now the scrutiny can be done both at the central and state level.

This bill is also important on account of the commitment made by India in the Paris climate meet and to achieve the target of increasing the forest cover to 33 per cent from the current level of about 21-22 per cent.

The House witnessed rare bonhomie over the bill which was highlighted by Javadekar and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and appreciated by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Javadekar expressed happiness that all the members, irrespective of party affiliations, supported the bill.

Naidu said he was immensely happy as all the members across party lines participated constructively in the debate.

However, he regretted that much of the media was not present during the debate on such an important issue and hence it would not be highlighted in tomorrow’s newspapers.

Sharing his views, Mahajan too said that for the first time, everybody gave good suggestions on the bill.

Members from various parties were seen thumping the desks at this.

The motive is to approve the funds by December-January, so that they can released to the states by April, the Environment Minister said.

Javadekar expressed hope that the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would accept this bill and implement it. Because of the special status Jammu and Kashmir enjoys, any law passed by Parliament has to be endorsed by the state Assembly.

Talking about capacity-building of states, the Environment Minister said new training centres will be set up to build capacity. The centre would urge the states to fill vacancies.

Citing an instance of using technology in monitoring work, he said the forest personnel were asked to give coordinates of a particular area where afforestation was to take place.

But when the place was viewed through satellite, it was realised that area where afforestation was to take place already had enough forest cover.

“Now action will be taken against the DFO. Everyone will be taken to task,” the minister said.

He said when the forest cover was diminishing in the 1970s, exotic species were used to increase the green cover in a short span time, but now priority will be given to native species.

The minister said the forest departments across the country has 2.5 lakh vacancies, but half of them need to be filled.

Referring to instances of forest fire, he said these are not new but this time due to the heat, the moisture level has reduced, which at times leads to situation like ones in Uttarkhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Members who participated in the debate include Sushmita Deb, Sanjay Jaiswal, Saugata Roy, Pinaki Misra, Asaduddin Owaisi, Vinayak Raut, P Ravindra Babu, K Kavitha, Abhijeet Mukherjee, Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav.

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