NEW DELHI: Over 70 per cent of compensatory afforestation across 10 states has been done on forest land instead of non-forest land in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act. This was done on community forest land without the consent of gram sabhas, said an analysis released on Tuesday.
The analysis was based on 2,479 compensatory afforestation plantations done in 10 states, of which three-fourths was against the law. The Forest (Conservation) Act states that compensatory afforestation must be undertaken on non-forest land in the same district as the diverted forest.
Secondary data for the compensatory afforestation, available on the Ministry of Environment and Forests, covering an area of 63,628 hectare was done at a cost of Rs 195 crore during 2007-2017. No data is available for the performance and survival of the trees planted.
The study by Indian School of Business also revealed that in a sample of 52 compensatory afforestation plantations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, all the plantations were done on community forest lands vested in the gram sabhas by the Forest Rights Act, without the permission of the gram sabhas.
Out of the 52 villages, the Forest Department sought the consent of the gram sabhas in only two villages, completely violating the Forest Rights Act.
Since its enactment in 2016, the Compensatory Afforestation Act has seen protests by tribals and forest dwellers, civil society organisations and citizens’ groups. About 3,000 gram sabhas have passed resolutions opposing its implementation.
There are other major concerns regarding the institutional and funding mechanism proposed in the Compensatory Afforestation Act. The Rs 42,000 crore collected from diversion of customary forests of adivasis and forest dwellers without their consent is being handed over to a forest bureaucracy which has used compensatory afforestation funds for plantations over land and forests used by forest dwellers. This led to violation of forest rights, loss of livelihoods and destruction of biodiversity and ecology.
Government reports had also pointed to the sheer inefficiency and incompetence of the forest department to implement the projects. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report 2013 brings out glaring inefficiency in the utilisation of funds and state that the survival rate of plantations in the states is a meagre 7 per cent.