Proving the outcry that forests are shrinking due to increased urbanisation, industrialisation and rehabilitation, India has set its record straight with a modest increase in its forest cover.
In a report on the country’s State of Forest Report 2009, based upon the biennial assessment by Forest Survey of India, there is an increase in the forest cover of the country from 690,171 square km in 2005 to 690,899 square km in 2007, Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Jayanthi Natarajan in a written reply to a question by Piyush Goyal in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The ministry of environment said the forest land is diverted mainly for the purpose of defence, health, drinking water, irrigation, railway and roads. But the implementation of a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Afforestation Programme (NAP) Scheme for regeneration of degraded forests and adjoining areas in the country is proving fruitful to stem deforestation, it said.
The scheme is being implemented through a decentralized mechanism of State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) at State level, Forest Development Agency (FDA) at Forest Division level and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at village level. As on Oct. 31, 2011, 800 FDA projects have been approved in 28 States in the country to treat an area of 18.32 lakh hectars since inception of the scheme in 2002, the government said in a statement.
Beside NAP, other plans to increase the forest cover include:
— 13th Finance Commission has recommended Rs. 5000 crore for five years starting from 2010-11 for conservation and development of forests.
— Additional Central assistance of Rs. 81.66 Crore has been released to the States during 2009-10 for Restoration and Regeneration of Forest Cover.
— Tree planting is also an approved activity under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), and other schemes of Central and State Governments.
— The national mission for a Green India has been launched, as on of the eight Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The Mission focuses on enhancing ecosystem services and carbon sink through afforestation and ecorestoration of 10 million ha. of forest and non forest lands over 12th and 13th Plan period.
The minister also said the NAP since its inception to March, 2011 utlized an amount of 25,473 million rupees for afforestation works over an area of 1.74 million ha. across the country.
During 11th Plan (2007-08 to 201011), an amount of 13,667 million rupees has been released to the states under NAP for afforestation. During the current financial year 2011-12, an amount of 1,049 million rupees has been released for taking up afforestation works including new works in an area of 86.648 ha. till Oct. 31, 2011.