A bunch of saps

Will a recent conference help to compensate the victims of jackboot and power-blinded national afforestation policies?

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Kamal Nath at the conference i (Credit: PIB)Forest ministers of the states and union territories of India jointly issued a declaration in Delhi on May 18 at the State Forest Minister's Conference, resolving to clear the backlog of compensatory afforestation by increasing the target for 1995-96 form 56,000 ha to 1 lakh ha. As such, the national average of achievement of compensatory afforestation has been 53 per cent of the target -- an area of 1.65 lakh ha was covered under compensatory afforestation from January 1, 1991 to December 31, 1994.

Inaugurating the conference, the Union minister for environment and forests, Kamal Nath, expressed his dissatisfaction with the compensatory afforestation efforts. "It is a legal requirement to compensate for forest land diverted to non-forest uses, and comes within the purview of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. But against a stipulated area of 4 lakh ha, the compensatory afforestation has been done in about 2 lakh ha," Nath said.

Nath also expressed his alarm at the dismal rate of the afforestation programme. In 1991-92, 1.7 million ha was afforested, but this fell to 1.6 million ha in 1992-93, 1.5 million ha in 1993-94 and 1.4 million ha in 1994-95. Attributing this fall partly to the rise in the labour wage rates, he impressed upon the ministers to persuade their chief ministers to raise forestry allocations, arguing that investment in the forestry sector is actually an investment in rural development.

Subsequently, the state ministers insisted that the plan allocation for forestry be enhanced to at least 2 per cent of the gross public sector plan outlay, which has fallen to an all time low of O.84 per cent.

Proper management of the Indian Forest Service cadre by various states and union territories through timely cadre reviews, timely forwarding of confidential reports to the government of India, nominating suitable officers and ensuring their timely promotions were also among the issues discussed.

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