K'taka to get Rs 900 cr more for afforestation, conservation of forests

K'taka to get Rs 900 cr more for afforestation, conservation of forests

K'taka to get Rs 900 cr more for afforestation, conservation of forests

 With Parliament passing the Compensatory Afforestation Bill, Karnataka is set to receive more than Rs 900 crore from the Union government to create and conserve forests and ecology.

Karnataka's share (Rs 917 crore) is more than Tamil Nadu’s (106 crore) and Kerala’s (Rs 76 crore), but less than that of Andhra Pradesh (Rs 2,223 crore) and Maharashtra (Rs 2,435 crore) which had diverted large tracts of forest land over the years for infrastructure and industrial projects.

The biggest beneficiaries of the new green fund would be Odisha, Chhattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, all of whom would receive more than Rs 3,000 crore. Odisha would be the biggest gainer with close to Rs 6,000 crore flowing into its kitty.

The bill would pave the way for creating a Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority at the national and state levels.

The fund would receive money from project proponents, who would use forest land for their projects. The coffers already have Rs 42,000 crore under the supervision of the Supreme Court and may receive Rs 6,000 crore every year.

As the Rajya Sabha cleared the legislation late Friday evening, several members wondered whether the bill would protect the rights of the forest dwellers or trample them while favouring industrialists and big corporates.

Non-governmental organisations too raised concerns. “For 150 years, forest dwellers fought a criminal and oppressive colonial system for their rights. The (CFA) bill now essentially gives carte blanche to forest officials to spend gigantic amounts of money without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed by their activities,” said Campaign for Survival and Dignity, an NGO.

Environment minister Anil Dave, however, assured the House that necessary safeguards would be put in place through the rules to empower the Gram Sabhas.

“If there are concerns on the rules, we will review them after one year,” he said, before the legislation was passed through voice vote. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in May, 2016.

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