- The Supreme Court has barred State governments from diverting money from their CAMPA fund for activities other than afforestation.
- Recently the apex court had found that the Punjab government had utilized about Rs.1 crore from its CAMPA fund to pay its lawyers and other legal expenses.
- In response the apex court ordered the Punjab government to reimburse the money back to CAMPA fund.
- In the recent draft National Forest Policy 2018, the government aims to bring 33% of the total geographical area under forest or tree cover.
- According to India’s commitment to the Paris agreement, India has committed to increase carbon sequestration by about 100 million tonnes CO2 equivalent annually.
- However, given the pace of infrastructure development, a number of forest lands are diverted to infrastructure projects like roads, thermal plants, mining, building townships etc.
- In order to offset this loss of forest land, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 gives a provision from the government to grant permission to divert forest land for non-forest purpose on the condition that the ‘user agency’ will deposit the stipulated amount to undertake compensatory afforestation to mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion.
Issues in implementation
- While there was a provision under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for compensatory afforestation, there have been number of issues how this fund is collected, managed and utilized.
- In some cases states and the Centre disagreed over the utilisation of the amount.
- In many cases states failed to collect the CA funds from the user agencies.
- Further appropriation of such funds for CA also involved delay.
- In this background the Supreme Court in 2000 directed the creation of a ‘Compensatory Afforestation Fund’ under the authority of Ministry of Environment and Forest.
- As a result in 2004 the MoEF constituted Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in exercise of powers conferred under Section 3 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- However this effort did not yield results as there was no legal mechanism to manage the funds by CAMPA.
- To solve this issue the Supreme Court constituted Ad-hoc-CAMPA in 2006.
- Further in 2009 the apex court also established the National Advisory Council for monitoring the activities under CAMPA.
Legal backing: CAMPA Act 2016
- To end the adhocism in managing the compensatory afforestation activities, the parliament enacted the The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.
- It provides for the establishment of Comensatory Afforestation funds under National and state level.
- Major part of the these funds shall be used to restock and improve quality of degraded forests, which constitutes more than 40 % of the total forest cover of the country
- Accordingly CAMPA funds are meant to be spent towards:
- Undertaking artificial regeneration (plantations)
- Assisted natural regeneration
- Protection of forests
- Forest related infrastructure development
- Green India Programme
- Wildlife protection
- It also provided for a constitution of an authority at national level and at each of the State level (state CAMPAs) for administration of the funds.
- The National Advisory Council has given a list of guidelines and activities for use of funds for afforestation, management and development of forests.
How has it worked?
- In its report the CAG of India in 2013 had found that about 17 states had spent nearly Rs 52 crore in contravention of the CAMPA guidelines
- In 2015, about Rs 36,000 crore collected from companies were spent on activities other than those mentioned in the CAMPA guidelines.
- Now with more than 70000 crores in the CAMPA funds the apex court order should ensure CAMPA funds are used for the purposes they are established for.