Ever heard the term “Compensatory Afforestation Fund” (CAF). Well, simply put, its a fund to compensate for the loss of tangible as well as intangible benefits from the forest lands which were diverted for non-forest use.
The idea was to collect all the monies received from the user-agencies towards compensatory afforestation, additional compensatory afforestation, penal compensatory afforestation, net present value of forest land, catchment area treatment plan funds, etc.
During the period 2006 and 2012, the Compensatory Afforestation Funds with Ad-hoc CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority ) grew from 1,200 crore to 23,607.67 crore.
In the process, a total of 467,633 thousand lakhs of levies were collected and out of which 83,340 lakhs was released to the various states.
The monies thus collected in the fund was very important since such funds were to be used for
- natural assisted regeneration
- forest management
- infrastructure development
- wildlife protection and management
- supply of wood
- other forest produce saving devices and other allied activities
The Comptroller Audit General (CAG) India conducted an audit in 2012 to evaluate
- whether the diversion of forest land for non-forest use was permitted as per the laws;
- whether measures taken for conservation, afforestation and preservation of forest lands consequent to diversion of portions of these lands for non-forest use were as per the current rules and legislation
- whether the collection, utilization, monitoring, accounting and the arrangement for safeguarding of compensatory afforestation funds was in compliance with applicable legislation, rules and Supreme Court judgements permitting diversion of forest land for non forest purposes;
- whether proper financial procedures had been followed in investing funds
Diversion of forest land and Compensatory Afforestation
- Serious shortcomings in regulatory issues related to diversion of forest land, the abject failure to promote compensatory afforestation, the unauthorized diversion of forest land in the case of mining and the attendant violation of the environmental regime.
- To be able to undertake compensatory afforestation on equivalent area of non-forest land, such land needs to be received by the Government.
- Between 2000-2012, the ministry revealed that only 27% of non-forest land was received. i.e. out f a total of 1,03,381.91 hectare only 28,086 hectare was received
- The compensatory afforestation done over the non-forest land received was an abysmal 7,280.84 hectare constituting seven per cent of the land which ought to have been received.
- The afforestation over the degraded forest land was done only on 49,733.76 hectare and 49 km out of 1,01,037.35 ha and 54.5 km identified which worked out to 49 per cent (in area)
Other discrepancies with the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF)
While the CAG report highlights the shortcomings of the CAF until 2012, the way the current environment ministry is working towards clearing the projects, it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to overcome these shortcomings. On the contrary, it’s working extra hard to remove the checks and balances in place and establish a single window clearance for projects that need the environment approvals.