India’s new compensatory afforestation rules dilute rights of Forest dwellers
11, Aug 2018
Prelims level : Mains level : Paper – II Government Policy & Intervention for Development in Various Sector and Issues arising out of their design & Implementation
- India’s environment ministry has notified the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules 2018 to ensure proper utilisation of Rs 660 billion for plantation of trees across India.
- The Rules had been pending since the government passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act on July 28, 2016.
- They govern the utilisation of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
- The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules, 2018 in which the Gram Sabha no longer plays a key role and control of over Rs. 660 billion, to be spent on afforestation, is given in the hands of the forest bureaucracy.
- It states that at least 80 percent of the fund shall be used for activities like “assisted natural regeneration, artificial regeneration, silvicultural operations in forests, protection of plantations and forests, pest and disease control in forest, forest fire prevention and control operations, soil and moisture conservation work in the forest, voluntary relocation of villages from protected areas and improvement of wildlife habitat.
- The remaining 20 percent will be used for strengthening of the forest and wildlife-related infrastructure and capacity building of the personnel.
- The rules also specified a list of activities that can be undertaken or are not allowed from the fund.
- The rules also said that these activities will be taken up in consultation with the Gram Sabha or the Village Forest Management Committee (VFMC), as the case may be, and shall be in consonance with the FRA 2006.
- Rules don’t have provision for getting consent of the Gram Sabhas (only mention consultation) and provision for transferring funds to the Gram Sabha.
- There is a difference between consultation and consent. Moreover, VFCs aren’t statutory bodies. The Forest Rights Act (FRA) gives rights to the Gram Sabha and this is in violation of that law.
- The rules ignore the rights of forest dwellers and tribal. They also said that the new CAF rules are against existing laws ensuring forest rights and self-governance for communities living in Scheduled Areas.
- The Rules do not take The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) into consideration.
- The rules are clearly a deliberate attempt to bypass the FRA(Forest Right Act) entirely.
- There is no reference to consent, no reference to what forms of proof will be required that it has been done, and no reference to completion of recognition of rights.
- The rules do not talk about compensation when diversion is done on CFR area. In these areas, the CAF should be given to the Gram Sabha’s because they have the right over the area’s resources under FRA.
- The Rules should be implemented through the Gram Sabha and not the Van Sanrakshan Samiti under Joint Forest Management.
- There should be Gram Sabha auditing. Transparency and accountability should be mandatory and the forest department should be answerable to the Gram Sabha. Local species should be planted in compensatory afforestation process. Artificial regeneration must not be allowed and provisions should be made by Gram Sabha’s to select species.