More reports on: Government policies

Centre to devolve Rs30,000-crore afforestation funds to states

02 September 2014

Government has formulated a policy for doling out thousands of crores to states under an ambitious afforestation programme, and fund distribution is expected to be done by the end of this month once the Supreme Court gives its final approval.

The centre is in the process of devolution of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds for afforestation initiated, which will ensure transfer of around Rs30,000 crore to states, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said today.

The draft CAMPA Order, 2014, which provides for transfer of 95 per cent of the Rs35,000 crore fund to be created under public accounts of the respective states and union territories has been cleared by the cabinet and is awaiting Supreme Court's approval before it is published in the official gazette.

These are inalienable non-lapsable, interest bearing funds accumulated with the ad-hoc CAMPA funds.

Amounts to be realised in future in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose will also be credited directly to the said fund, an official release said.

The CAMPA order envisages creation of a permanent institutional mechanism, both at centre and the states level, replacing the present body, ie, Adhoc Campa, with a view to ensure effective and expeditious utilisation of the accumulated funds by the states, whom the funds actually belong to, in a transparent and effective manner.

These funds are to be used for the purpose of compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment, assisted natural generation, forest management, protection, infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management, relocation of villages from the protected areas, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation, supply of wood saving devices and allied activities.

Five per cent of the funds will be retained by the National CAMPA for the purposes of monitoring and evaluation of schemes implemented in the states, setting up of institutes, societies, centre of excellence in the field of forest and wildlife, pilot schemes, standardisation of codes/guidelines etc. for the sector.

As a major step to ensure that the proposals seeking grant of forest clearance are processed in time-bound and transparent manner, a web portal for online filing and monitoring the forest clearance proposal applications has been launched.

The portal will enable real time monitoring of the forest clearance proposals so as to ensure that time-lines stipulated for processing of these proposals by various authorities in the centre and state governments are adhered to. The portal also has inbuilt features to ensure that proposals complete in all respect only are accepted. This will help save time lost in seeking and obtaining additional information, once a proposal seeking forest clearance has already been accepted by concerned authority in the state government.

So far 34 applications have been received online for forest clearance, according to a government release.

On-line submission of applications for terms of reference (ToRs) and environment clearance (EC) has been mandated from 1 July 2014 with a view to increasing transparency in the system and facilitating early decision making. Till now, the ministry has received 219 applications for ToRs and 46 applications for ECs for project proposals in different sectors.

Rules eased for road projects
To expedite creation of road infrastructure in the left wing extremism (LWE) affected districts to facilitate the security forces to effectively combat left wing extremism, the ministry has extended general approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest lands for construction of all categories of public roads, except those falling in the protected areas, irrespective of the area of forest land involved, by government departments in 117 LWE affected districts.

Further, relaxation of general approval under the FC Act has been extended from for diversion of forest land from the present 1 hectare to 5 hectares for execution of public utility projects of 15 specified categories by government departments in left wing extremism (LWE) affected districts.

These include schools, dispensaries/hospitals, medical colleges, electrical and telecommunication lines, drinking water, water/rain water harvesting structures, minor irrigation canal, non-conventional sources of energy, skill upgradation/vocational training center, power sub-stations, all categories of public roads, communication posts, police establishments like police stations / outposts / border outposts / watch towers in sensitive area (identified by ministry of home affairs), underground laying of optical fiber cables, telephone lines and drinking water supply lines, and quarrying of materials for construction of public roads.

This initiative will help in faster construction of the public utilities and help in winning over the confidence of people, the release said.

The process of granting permission for forest diversion up to 40 hectares for developmental projects has been decentralized so that 90 per cent of files for this purpose won't come to the environment ministry.

The ministry has decided to delegate powers to the Regional Empowered Committees (REC) to be constituted at each regional office of the ministry to finally dispose of all forest clearance proposals seeking diversion of forest land up to 40 hectares, except the proposals relating to mining, regularisation of encroachments and hydel projects.

Draft Forest (Conservation) Second Amendment Rules, 2014 provides for inter-alia constitution of the RECs at each regional office of the ministry under the chairmanship of the concerned additional principal chief conservator of forests (central) and having inter-alia three non-official experts in forestry and allied disciplines and two representative of the state/ UT concerned have been formulated and sent to the ministry of law and justice for vetting before its publication in the official gazette.

More than 90 per cent of proposals seeking forest clearance will now be finally disposed off by the regional office. Mere 10 per cent of the proposals for forest clearance will come to the ministry for decision.

The process of granting permission for forest diversion for all linear projects like road, rail, canals, transmission and pipelines have been decentralised.

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