IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
The country needs to invest in its forests. The question again is where will this money come from. The target is challenging: large parts of the existing forest land, which constitutes roughly 21 per cent of the land area, are degraded and need investment to plant trees. In addition, as per this target (which has been set for some not-so-clear reason), the country has to bring an additional 12 per cent land under forests.
The report, commissioned by moef under the national forestry action plan, states that the target for afforestation will have to be 60 million ha and to do this over 20 years, the annual target for afforestation will have to be increased from 1.2 million ha to 3 million ha. It has calculated that Rs 39,148 crore is needed to achieve this goal over the next 20 years, or about Rs 1,957 crore annually. In addition, it has calculated that between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,425 crore will be needed annually to plant in lands outside forests. It needs Rs 5,000 crore each year against which it has only Rs 1,600 crore. Therefore, there is a gap.
But these estimates are highly erroneous. Firstly, they do not take into account the substantial money that is available under Bharat Nirman -- the government's ambitious programme for rural regeneration -- as well as the employment guarantee schemes that have been formulated. The forest areas and the areas where the poorest live are the same and, therefore, a substantial proportion of these funds can and must be allocated to forests.
Secondly, they assume that industry will bring private sources of funds. This is never the case. Even in the mid-1990s, when the scheme for land to industry gained momentum, the programme was to be underwritten with funds from the Asian Development Bank, channelised through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Thirdly, they assume that money is all that is needed to plant trees. It is clear that survival of saplings require protection and the experience of afforestation has made it clear that people's involvement is critical. Otherwise, trees planted remain paper trees. This programme, which will marginalise local people's interest in forests further, will result in an enormous amount of damage in the efforts to build forests through community participation.
Fourthly, and most fatally, to bridge the notional gap they end up destroying the expenditure of today. If the market for wood collapses, then the investment made in planting trees through the 84,000 joint forest management committees in 64,000-odd villages of the country will also collapse. This is because the products grown on these lands will become valueless or certainly fetch much lower values than what people and foresters expect. It will also be fatal for government forests and government earnings.
The 'gap' does not account for the substantial money paid by industry to farmers to grow trees. It does not even account for those trees growing outside its lands, adding to the 33 per cent target.
Some money and provisions for fuel and fodder needs of the people are provided for in the multi-stakeholder partnership. They also have the right to first employment on requisitioned lands. But for people crucially dependent on these lands, this movement of enclosure will be devastating. More and more it will lead to tensions between the richer in the village -- less dependent on the commons for survival -- who can afford to 'agree' to private control and those who are landless and marginalised and have no alternative but to use these lands.
The contempt of industry towards poor people is an indication of things to come. The cii report on re-greening India makes telling (and chilling) comments in its reply to the contention that this scheme will make the poor more destitute as it will deny access to minor forest products and other biomass that they gather. It says, "It is time to realise that the access, if any, enjoyed by these millions to forest products is simply by default, as the forest department is not in a position to enforce the rights conferred on them by the Forest Act 1927." In other words, people are illegal users and continue to get away because the forest department can't beat the life out of them.
In addition, industry says that the recent Supreme Court judgements banning felling in reserve forests and collection of any material from inside protected areas have already ensured that access to minor forest produce and other biomass by the 'millions of voiceless forest dwellers' shrinks considerably. In any case, these decisions are taken because government is clear that it needs protection and conservation and that is why industry is willing to be part of this re-greening effort, it says. The callousness towards the poorest in the country is evident and indeed shocking. Whatever compensatory safeguards are included in the scheme, this "partnership" is cleared doomed.
The paper industry says it needs 1.2 million ha. Seen in the perspective of the total forest land - over 66 million ha in the country -- this is small. But firstly, government does not even know how much land it will put under this multi-stakeholder partnership or under de facto corporate control. The paper industry has already said that it will need an additional 1 million ha for its export ambitions. It wants large, contiguous areas so that it can achieve economies of scale.
There are many others who are waiting in line. Once the scheme is formulated, the floodgates will open. For instance, the emerging biodiesel industry is desperately scouting for large areas to grow its oil plants. Again, economics teaches it that the cheapest option is to grow captive plantations and that is what it wants. Already big players -- Reliance, uk-based D1 Oil as well as British Petroleum -- are lobbying hard to change laws, which will allow captive plantations on forest lands.
At the same time, the Union minister for panchayati raj (who was till recently also the minister for petroleum and natural gas), Mani Shankar Aiyer, has been advocating the need to involve local communities in this greening effort.
Different states are working to incorporate the 'jatropha model' in rural development programmes. But with cheap land at its disposal through this partnership, this market will go for a toss. How much land is needed to grow oil crops that can fuel the growing numbers of vehicles on our roads? Take a guess.