New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) Lok Sabha has passed the much talked about Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill, 2015 that seeks to establish setting up of a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and also a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
Thanking the members for their cooperation in passing the bill, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday evening said it will be a historical legislation and will go a long way in ensuring countrywide afforestation programme.
Members cutting across party lines supported the bill.
The bill paves the way for unlocking of nearly Rs.41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent, Javadekar said.
The salient features of the afforestation programme will be people’s participation, social audit and there will not be any displacement, the minister said while replying to specific queries from Asaduddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
“Besides the exotic plants, emphasis will be on native species,” Javadekar said.
The bill also ensures that the funds encourage compensatory afforestation. The national fund will receive 10 percent of it, and the states will receive the remaining 90 percent of the fund.
“These funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development,” he said.
However, Javadekar said the funds under the new law under the provisions of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill should not be the only forest budget for the states.
“The states must give their regular budget to forest (department). But this will be only an additional funding,” he said.
Stressing the importance of people’s participation in the afforestation programme, he said: “Wherever people’s participation is there, and wherever people’s livelihood is connected to the forest, they just don’t allow illegal destruction of forest.”
Among others, Pinaki Mishra of Biju Janata Dal also lauded the bill.
“Odisha is already doing very good in afforestation programme under the personal supervision of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. This bill only gives the efforts further boost,” Mishra said.
The bill was passed by voice vote and at the end of the process even the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan appreciated the draft legislation passed unanimously with members from different parties making their positive contribution by way of suggestions to improve the system.