India is Pledging $6.2 Billion to Cover a Third of the Country in Forests

India’s government plans to spend $6.2 billion on reforestation. 

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house, this week and is awaiting approval from India’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha.

According to Quartz, the goal of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to increase India’s forest cover from 21.34% of the total land to 33%. India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, released the following statement earlier this week:

“Our forest cover will dramatically increase and it will result in achieving our target 33% of tree cover and most importantly 2.5 billion tonne of carbon sink as we have indicated in our intended nationally determined contributions (INDC).”

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The funds come from fees paid by private companies to the Indian government since 2006 and will finance projects for forest land. The bill was introduced last year and proposes that 90% of the accumulated funds will be allotted to state governments and 10% for the central government.

However, some are skeptical that the project will be carried out as effectively off paper. Sreedhar Ramamurthi, an earth scientist and management trustee at NGO Environs Trust, said:

“I have my reservations about this project. There should be a mechanism to monitor that the funds are used correctly. Many a times, forest officials themselves burn down forests when they are pressed for target completion and complain that their work was lost in fires.”

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Other experts believe that the damage to forest land is irreversible and are concerned about how the government will develop forests on alternate land. The environment ministry approved the allotment of 1.29 million hectares of forestlands for non-forestry purposes in 1980, according to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Ramamurthi said:

“There is no clarity on how the government will develop these new forests,” added Ramamurthi. “Are you going to throw away people from their land to develop new forests? If so, why did you allow forests to be depleted in the first case? This is a kind of double whammy.”

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