The panel also points out that green cover is being increased just to meet targets and without considering soil, weather conditions
The Green India Mission, aimed at “protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change”, is grossly underfunded, according to a Parliamentary committee report.
“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,” says the report titled ‘Performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) pertaining to Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change’.
The panel also raises concerns about the targets set by GIM, one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), on India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. “Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests.
The mission document does not mention from where will this land be arranged. As noted before, till 2016-17, afforestation programme was targeted to cover only 51,387 hectare, which is a tiny proportion of what is needed,” the report says.
GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the starting of the 12th five-year plan in 2012. But, owing to financial delays the mission was finally launched in 2015.
The objective of the mission is to increase green cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha, improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces (NTFPs). It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about 3 million households.
The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the GIM missed its targets by 34 per cent. Instead of the targeted 67,956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.
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 it. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions,” the report says.
The report also makes a distinction between plantations and forests and how the former cannot replace the latter. “Though plantation activity is aimed at increasing green cover, they cannot replace actual forest cover. Forest has plants and trees of numerous varieties and sizes and shapes. Forests grow naturally and according to climate conditions existing in the area,” it says.
“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,” says Raza Kazmi, a Jharkhand-based conservationist.
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