BENGALURU: With the Centre releasing CAMPA (compensatory afforestation and fund management planning authority) funds to the tune of Rs 1,350 crore to Karnataka, activists have asked the government to utilise it for the voluntary relocation of people from protected areas in the Western Ghats. Till date, hundreds of families in some of the protected areas, who volunteered to move out, are disappointed as the government has cited a lack of funds for relocation programmes, thus affecting their compensation packages.
In the protected areas of Western Ghats like Bhimgad, Dandeli, Anshi, Kudremukh, Sharavathi, MM Hills and Cauvery, thousands of families have given their consent to move out from forests. However, this has not taken place due to the lack of a suitable compensation package, hindering their relocation for decades. Human activities inside forests have led to more and more instances of man-animal conflicts with elephants and tigers being targeted both inside and on the fringes of forest. With people moving out from these areas, activists said the protected areas will regenerate and meet the CAMPA guidelines.
For 15 years, 80 per cent of people living in Kudremukh National Park have favoured moving out and are awaiting a proper compensation package, says G Veeresh, wildlife conservationist. “600-800 families hope to be compensated and move out once for all. After relocation, these forests will regenerate and increase our decreasing forest cover in the hill districts.”
CAMPA is an ‘additional fund’ that is transferred to states by the Centre for only forestry activities, a senior forest official said. “It is used for forest regeneration and therefore, relocation packages too are covered under this. As per a Supreme Court directive, it cannot be utilised for civic or municipal purposes. These funds are not just for afforestation but for a host of activities including catchment area development, wildlife management, natural regeneration, forest fire prevention, soil and moisture conservation.”
Further, as per provisions of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018, not less than 80 per cent of the money shall be utilized for relocation of villages, while the state’s CAMPA guidelines clearly state that this fund should be used for the regeneration of existing forests. In fact, the aims and objectives of these guidelines are: conservation, protection, regeneration and management of existing natural forests.