At present, GIM communication is limited to the number of saplings and survival rates, which is not enough
The National Mission for a Green India (GIM) was one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. However, the priorities set by states while planning activities under the sub-schemes of the mission is missing the larger goal of adapting and mitigating the climate crisis.
Central government think tank NITI Aayog’s Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office evaluated all the centrally sponsored climate change schemes and looked into GIM and National Afforestation Programme in the forestry sector. It came out with a report Climate change in governance in September 2022.
The evaluation report further drew attention to the action point of the fourth meeting of the National Executive Council for GIM, which were: to undertake a consultative process involving states, to prepare a strategic plan with scheme-specific outputs along with clear targets and timelines and funding requirements to achieve their contribution to the national and international goals.
Though GIM was implemented with a central objective of adapting and mitigating climate change, the quantity of carbon sequestered is not being monitored under the mission by most states. A third-party evaluation of GIM was commissioned to Forest Research Institute in Dehradun.
The methodology and findings of the evaluation of GIM are limited to the number of saplings and survival rates. Its implementation has been reduced to tree planting and monitoring.
Communication about the mission through the counting of surviving saplings dilutes the multi-co-benefits approach laid out in the mission document. It also makes it difficult to account for progress on Nationally Determined Contribution targets outreach accomplished by various states.
Even the basis for tree cover was just number of trees planted, India is falling behind in the targets to increase the quantity and quality of forest set in the GIM.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India (MoEF&CC) approved a target of increasing tree cover by 53,377 hectares from 2015-16 to 2021-22 based on state submissions and demands. However, only 50 per cent of the target has been achieved.
The other two missions on mitigation are based on energy efficiency or renewable energy, where a lot of initiatives with specific outputs and clear targets, new schemes and platforms have emerged.
These have helped to work out the uncharted territories in non-conventional energy and a lot of achievements to showcase over time. Meanwhile, the progress on GIM or NDC-related forestry targets is not visible in the public domain.
Forests are central to NDC commitments at the global level. India committed to creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030 as an NDC commitment.
At this point, GIM needs fresh ideas and imagination to drive the agenda so that within the next eight years, it raises its bar exponentially and eventually becomes a key driver for the Net Zero pledge for India by 2060.
It has to formulate new programmes to inspire various states, including a methodological framework until the implementation level.
The fresh agenda should give flexibility to states and communities on the ground to design it and yet align with multiple targets of ecosystem strengthening, community ownership and governance including livelihoods managing sequestration targets.
It should be in the spirit of local governance, aligned with forest rights and have the spirit of federalism along with a leadership drive at the national level.
The implementation of NDC from the forestry sector is not only limited to public lands or areas under legal forest definition. It also applies to private lands, so a cross-sectoral approach with other ministries is needed at the national and state levels.
Apart from the forestry sector, some relevant schemes under the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture are also relevant to meet NDC targets. These are, Restructured National Bamboo Mission, Sub Mission on Agroforestry and National Mission for Sustainable Habitat.
In other sectors, agendas require technologies and innovations are required with large capital.
However, for GIM, the crux lies in galvanising people’s movement, especially scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and women, to be part of it at the ground level as envisaged in National Forest Policy, 1998; Forest Rights Act, 2006 and also acknowledged by the GIM document.
There are several reasons that position GIM to succeed:
However, complacency and business as usual due to overconfidence in facts like being in control of large forest territories, a long history of established forest management practices, with an existing flow of funds like CAMPA and national afforestation plans, can go against GIM.
A belief also that targets will be covered sooner or later and reflected in the forest survey report can also go against it.
However, the urgency of climate change requires a fresh drive, a structured yet flexible framework and an innovative programme design to engage all the states, including a well-defined monitoring mechanism against established baselines across all the sub-objectives under GIM, including the intervention area related to livelihoods.
An ambition of additional, bio-diverse and continuous forest ecosystems, which include healthy mangroves acting as carbon sinks, need to remind themselves of three things.
Firstly, a forest ecosystem is not synonymous or interchangeable with tree plantations. Secondly, cutting the forest ecosystem in one place and impacting the livelihoods of dependent communities and replacing it with growing trees in another place in a fragmented manner would not serve the purpose in the long run.
Thirdly, we need to acknowledge and further build on community-led forest management and participatory forestry principles.
It needs to have the ambition that the forest-dependent population will eventually have to run with and own the standing stocks of carbon for conservation and management as a marker of the mission's success.
Vanita Suneja is an independent researcher and writer. She has worked with various institutions over a period of three decades on environment, gender, water & sanitation
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.