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India’s disputed compensatory afforestation policy at odds with new IPCC report

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

 

Source: TH

 Context: India’s compensatory afforestation policy that allows forests in one part to be cut down and replaced with those elsewhere is contested on many grounds.

 

Background:

  • Afforestation is part of India’s climate pledges – adding a carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • According to the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, the project proponent that wishes to divert the land must identify land elsewhere to afforest and pay for the afforestation exercise.
  • Afforestation is also codified in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) – a body created on the SC’s orders in 2002 and chaired by the Union Environment Minister.
  • CAMPA is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses (dam or mine).
  • It was made a legal requirement through the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act 2016.

 

Why is afforestation contested?

  • According to the Synthesis Report of the IPCC, the preservation of natural ecosystems rather than restoring the destroyed ones is being recognised as an important means to mitigate climate change.
  • According to the CAG report (2013), most of the money (~Rs 47,000 crore in 2019) in the CAMPA fund had been unspent.
  • CAMPA has also come under fire for facilitating the destruction of natural ecosystems → adversely impacting livelihood, biodiversity, hydrology and the climate.
  • Planting non-native species or artificial plantations wouldn’t compensate for the ecosystem loss as well be hazardous to the existing ecosystem.
  • For example, the Haryana govt is planning to develop the world’s largest curated safari using CAMPA funds received from deforestation in Great Nicobar.

 

Significance of the natural ecosystems: Provides biodiversity, local livelihoods, hydrological services and sequester carbon.

 

Recommendations: Renewable energy projects like wind and solar plants must be promoted to mitigate the adverse impacts of natural ecosystem diversion.

 

Challenges for India:

  • Many solar parks in India have triggered conflicts with people living nearby.
  • Wind farms in the Western Ghats had reduced the abundance and activity of predatory birds, which consequently increased the density of lizards.

 

Conclusion:

  • Climate actions, such as technologies to combat climate change, renewable energy farms, etc. should not come at the cost of natural ecosystems.
  • Not degrading existing ecosystems in the first place will do more to lower the impact of the climate crisis than restoring ecosystems that have been destroyed.

Related news: DTE

 

Context: CSE-DTE releases 2023 State of India’s Environment report.

 

Findings of the report:

●       The year 2022-2023 saw two huge trends in terms of the environment: The reversal of gains for the energy transition and the overwhelming impact of climate change.

●       In 2022, India witnessed extreme weather events on 271 days out of 304 days, which claimed over 2,900 lives.

●       Over 30,000 water bodies have been encroached on in the country.

●       India is generating 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste every day – more than half of which is either dumped in landfills or remains unattended.

●       Four years and 11 months is the average duration of life lost to air pollution in India and rural India is losing more years.

●       Environmental crimes continue unabated and courts need to decide on 245 cases every day to clear the backlog.

●       India’s overall global rank in meeting the UN-mandated SDGs has slipped to 121/163 in 2022.

 

Insta Links:

The problems with Compensatory Afforestation in India