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According to a Parliamentary committee report, the Green India Mission (GIM), a programme that is aimed at protecting, restoring, and enhancing the country’s diminishing forest cover and at responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures, is “grossly underfunded.”
The report, titled ‘Performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) pertaining to Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change’, says that the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has said that the "budget allocation of ₹47.80 Cr. for FY 2017-18 is grossly insufficient. The committed liability of FY 2015-16 and 2016-17 is ₹89.53 Crore, which is more than the budget allocation of FY 2017-18."
GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the starting of the 12th five-year plan in 2012. However, owing to the financial delays, the mission was finally launched in the fiscal year 2015-16. It is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), on India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Parliamentary committee has also raised concerns about the targets set by GIM. According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-2030. When questioned about this by the panel, the Secretary of MoEF CC said, “Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare, and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests.” The mission document does not mention how this would be arranged.
The committee has noted in the report that though plantation activity is aimed at increasing the green cover, they cannot replace the actual forest cover. The report says, “Afforestation exercises are aimed at increasing tree count, and there is no consideration to existing soil and weather condition. As a result, trees like eucalyptus are planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it.”
It goes on to say, “Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions.” The committee has therefore recommended that adequate consideration be given to the climate and soil while planting trees and increasing forest cover, and only the trees that are native or suitable to a given area be planted there.
The report notes that till 2016-17, the afforestation programme targeted to cover only 51,387 hectare, which is a tiny proportion of what is needed, and therefore, the government should take a holistic approach to increase the green cover and protect the existing trees.
It says, “All aspects of urban and regional planning including architectural and other sciences have to work on the premise that trees are critical to our survival and they have to be protected at all costs.”
It adds, “Protection of trees and forests are also linked to the protection of people who are dependent on forest produces for their livelihood. Unless interests of these people are protected by making appropriate changes in the law/policy, no amount of plantation exercise will succeed,” and recommends that the mission incorporate human as well as physical needs in its programme formulation and implementation.
The committee has recommended that adequate financial allocation be made for the mission so that the activities of the mission can be carried out more efficiently and the targets set by it can be met.