- The disclosure in Parliament that the Centre is not ready with the rules to implement the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 demonstrates that the government’s resolve to meet a variety of environmental objectives, including major commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals, remains woefully weak.
- It is, of course, debatable whether the Act, with the disbursal mechanism through national and State funds that it mandates, is a sound remedy for loss of rich forests that continues to occur because of developmental and biotic pressures. The evidence on compensatory afforestation in a big project such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, for instance, is not encouraging. About 13,000 hectares were compensated there, but only with patchy outcomes: healthy monoculture plantations having low biodiversity value came up in some places, while others resulted in unhealthy plantations with few trees. Be that as it may, diversion of forests for non-forest use seems inevitable to some degree, and the accumulation of about ₹40,000 crore in compensatory funds clearly points to significant annexation of important habitats. The task is to make an assessment of suitable lands, preferably contiguous with protected areas that can be turned over for management to a joint apparatus consisting of forest department staff and scientific experts.
- Putting in place a scientific national plan to expand good green cover is essential, since the sequestration of carbon through sustainably managed forests is a key component of the commitment made under the Paris Agreement. There is already a Green India Mission, which is distinct from the framework envisaged for compensatory afforestation. What the Centre needs to do is to enable independent audit of all connected programmes, in order to sensibly deploy the financial resources now available. It must be emphasised, however, that replacing a natural forest with a plantation does not really serve the cause of nature, wildlife, or the forest-dwelling communities who depend on it, because of the sheer loss of biodiversity. Yet, there is immense potential to augment the services of forests through a careful choice of plants and trees under the afforestation programme. All this can make a beginning only with the actualisation of the law passed in 2016. It is worth pointing out that the method used to calculate the net present value of forests, taking into account all ecosystem services they provide, is far from perfect, as many scientists point out. Some of the momentum for compensatory afforestation has come from judicial directives, but now that there is a new law in place, it should be given a foundation of rules that rest on scientific credibility.
Disclosure: the action of making new or secret information known.
Example: A judge ordered the disclosure of the government documents
Synonyms: revelation, declaration, announcement, news, report, leak; publishing
Demonstrate: clearly show the existence or truth of something by giving proof or evidence.
Example: Their shameful silence demonstrates their ineptitude
Synonyms: reveal, bespeak, indicate, signify, signal, denote, show, display
Woeful: characterized by, expressive of, or causing sorrow or misery.
Example: Her face was woeful
Synonyms: tragic, sad, miserable, cheerless, gloomy, sorry, pitiful, pathetic, traumatic
Debatable: open to discussion or argument.
Example: It is debatable whether the country is coming out of recession
Synonyms: arguable, disputable, questionable, open to question, controversial
Remedy: a medicine or treatment for a disease or injury.
Example: Herbal remedies for aches and pains
Synonyms: treatment, cure, medicine, medication, medicament
Compensatory: intended to recompense someone who has experienced loss, suffering, or injury.
Example: $50 million in compensatory damages
Diversion: an instance of turning something aside from its course.
Example: A diversion of resources from defense to civil research
Synonyms: rerouting, redirection, deflection, deviation, divergence
Inevitable: certain to happen; unavoidable.
Example: War was inevitable
Synonyms: unavoidable, inescapable, inexorable, ineluctable, assured
Apparatus: the technical equipment or machinery needed for a particular activity or purpose.
Example: Laboratory apparatus
Synonyms: equipment, gear, rig, tackle, gadgetry, appliance, instrument
Envisage: contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.
Example: The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers
Synonyms: imagine, contemplate, visualize, envision, picture, conceive of, think of
Dwelling: live in or at a specified place.
Example: Groups of gypsies still dwell in these caves
Synonyms: reside, live, be settled, be housed, lodge, stay, put up, abide
Augment: make something greater by adding to it; increase.
Example: He augmented his summer income by painting houses
Synonyms: increase, add to, supplement, build up, enlarge, expand, extend
Credibility: the quality of being trusted and believed in.
Example: The government’s loss of credibility
Synonyms: trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, integrity, reputation, status