Tuesday, May 3, 2016, the Lok Sabha, one of the two houses of Indian Congress, unanimously passed a bill to unlock over $6 billion dollars in accumulated funds that would go toward increasing the forest coverage in India. The bill, called the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), aims to utilize a large sum of funds that have accumulated over the past ten years in a central, governmental body.
The bill will go to the other house of congress, Rajya Sabha, in the coming weeks and is expected to pass there as well.
Encouraged by the recent Paris meetings on climate change, the creation of this historic legislation will lead to necessary reforestation across the country and has the potential to create many jobs in the rural and tribal areas of India. As part of the Paris Agreement, India committed to creating 2.5 billion tons of additional carbon sink, i.e. creating more forest.
Over the past 10 years, people who have "diverted" forest land for "non-forest" use have had to pay a fee to an ad-hoc central body called the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). This money has accumulated over ten years to over $6 billion dollars and remains unspent. The bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha, and hopefully by the Rajya Sabha, will ensure that those funds will be spent in the coming years by local governmental bodies to reforest different parts of the country.
Furthermore, the bill aims to:
- provide transparency for how the funds will be spent.
- create a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund in the central government and the State Compensatory Afforestation Fund in respective states.
- ensure the states will spend the funds for reforestation and related works, such as, forest regeneration and wildlife protection.
- set up a national and state-level authority to monitor the utilization of the funds.
Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, May 10, 2016