Our government has always followed a principal process. Gram sabhas will be consulted over the expenditure that falls under this rule. Rules will be necessarily incorporated.
The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015, which seeks to unlock more than R41,000 crore earmarked for afforestation works but is lying unspent since the last four years.
In May this year, the Lok Sabha had passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill which envisages establishment of a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and also a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund. This fund has been accumulated out of money received for diversion of forest land towards industrial use across the states.
In the absence of creation of these authorities at the Centre and states, more than R41,000 crore has been lying unspent with an ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund created under the direction of the Supreme Court in 2004.
The Rajya Sabha could not take up the Bill for discussion and passage during the last couple of days because of the Congress’s insistence on an amendment seeking to grant gram sabhas or village councils the sole authority to use resources allocated under the compensatory afforestation fund.
“The funds under CAMPA should be used after getting the nod from gram sabhas as also mandated under Forest Rights Act, 2006,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had said. However, Ramesh did not press for the amendment following assurance from environment minister Anil Madhav Dave.
“Our government has always followed a principal process. Gram sabhas will be consulted over the expenditure that fall under this rule. Rules will be necessarily incorporated,” Dave said in the Rajya Sabha. He also said the legislation would keep in mind panchayats and Forest Rights Act. “And we expect that the states will fulfil their roles dutifully,” he added.
According to an environment ministry official, apart from facilitating timely execution of appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of diversion of forest land, utilisation of these amounts under CAMPA fund will also result in creation of productive assets and generation of huge employment opportunities in the rural areas, especially the backward tribal areas.
Under the CAMPA fund, 90% of the amount will go to states and the remaining will be with the Central government. As per the environment ministry data, a number of states such as Odisha (R5,940 crore), Jharkhand (R3,099 crore), Madhya Pradesh (R3,469 crore), Rajasthan (R1,425 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (R1,314 crore) will get substantial allocation of funds for carrying out afforestation work.