Forests

Economic Survey 2019-20: Afforestation under GIM over 126,916 ha

Data for afforestation undertaken under GIM from Parliamentary questions paint different picture though

 
By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Friday 31 January 2020
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A sum of Rs 343.08 crore has been released under the Green India Mission (GIM) for undertaking afforestation activities over an area of 126,916.32 hectare (ha) in 13 states, according to the Economic Survey 2019-20 released on January 2020.

The objective of the GIM, a government scheme, is to increase green cover in India to the extent of five million hectares (mha) and improve the quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha.

It also aims to improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces. It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about three million households.

GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the start of the 12th Five Year Plan in 2012. But owing to financial delays, the mission was finally launched in 2015.

But latest figures for allocation and afforestation undertaken under GIM from various Parliamentary questions paint a different picture. In fact, for afforestation to be achieved over an area of 126,916.32 ha in 2019-20, as the Economic Survey states, plantation activity under GIM would have to increase by around 45 per cent of where it stood in July 2019.

Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, the area brought under afforestation by GIM plantation activities stood at 87,113.86 ha, according to the data presented by Union Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Babul Supriyo, in response to a Lok Sabha question on July 19, 2019.

In the same answer, Supriyo also told Parliament that so far, Rs. 237.07 crore had been released for GIM.

Moreover, the Lok Sabha Committee on Estimates’ 30th report, ‘Performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change’ pertaining to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, released in December 2018 found fund shortage, leading to GIM missing its targets.  

“The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated,” the report said.

The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions. “Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving them. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions,” the report said.

“Plantations only have value in terms of timber. The other ecological services provided by a forest like prevention of soil erosion, promoting biodiversity, providing livelihood etc are not there at all. In fact, we have observed here in Jharkhand that in plantations, there is no resident wildlife. They are practically like vacant plots when it comes to wildlife and biodiversity,” Raza Kazmi, a Jharkhand-based conservationist, said.

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